Essential Job Search Strategies for International Students

Read the original article written by FirstHand and Marcelo Barros and posted on The International Advantage.

Covid is still very much a reality and continues to impact our lives in a variety of ways. What do you see happening now and next year from a hiring perspective that international students need to know about?

Large firms will continue to hire international students aggressively to fuel their growth. Smaller and mid-size firms are more reluctant to hire students who need sponsorship. The International Advantage strives to connect some of these more hesitant companies with students.

So, should students only target larger, established companies?

International students should spent 80% of their time targeting larger companies and 20% targeting smaller companies where a possibility of sponsorship exists. In general, it’s a job seeker’s job market right now, even for candidates who need sponsorship and may not possess much work experience (as is often the case with our recent college grads) but have in-demand skills that set them apart.

International students should also be asking themselves: ‘Is the field that I’m trying to break into in high demand or not?’ Students might have more success obtaining sponsorship from a smaller company if it is in a high growth or high demand field (e.g. Healthcare).

What do you recommend to international students who are about to graduate and don’t have many, if any, job prospects?

Look for an internship post-graduation—ideally paid, but unpaid should be considered as well. From the employer’s perspective, hiring someone as an intern is a low-risk investment that doesn’t typically require complicated immigration paperwork if the international student can secure an Employment Authorization Card. From an international student perspective, it’s a way to get your foot in the door and show your value.

International students have a limited amount of unemployed time in the U.S. after graduation, so they need to be careful and stay in touch with their university international student office as graduation approaches.

Any final job-search tips for international students? What else can international students do to improve their chances of securing great jobs in the U.S. in their fields of study after graduation?

As F-1 visa holders, international students are often eligible to work on campus. On-campus jobs are great ways for international students to gain U.S. work experience during their studies and start acquiring the soft skills U.S. employers look for. Unlike off-campus jobs, on-campus jobs don’t need to be in one’s field of study. In general, international students can work on-campus up to 20 hours a week during the academic year. Apply for on-campus jobs if your ultimate goal is to work in the U.S. after graduation.

If all international students do is to go class, then they’re greatly minimizing the quality of their experience in the U.S.—and perhaps also reducing their chances of securing U.S. employment after graduation. Campus involvement is a critical aspect of the U.S. college experience. It’s something U.S. hiring managers and recruiters tend to value when making hiring decisions.

Finally, another training program available to some international students who hold F-1 visas is the ability to work in their field of study off-campus by levering Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Not every university or degree program offers it, but if an international student has access to CPT, they should leverage this perk as well.

Marcelo Barros is the founder of The International Advantage, a firm specializing in providing job search training for international students who seek U.S. jobs. Barros partners with over 50 U.S. universities to help their international students get noticed and hired. Barros encourages International students who seek U.S. jobs or internships to enroll in The International Advantage Get Hired Video Course, designed to help foreign students beat visa odds and secure U.S. employment, including internships.

By Erin Lee (She/Her)
Erin Lee (She/Her) Career Coach