As a former international student, finding a job after graduating from Northeastern University was not easy, but definitely possible! Due to the US economy and the limit placed on visas available to foreigners, my job search required a lot of extra time and effort. I was able to find a solution to a number of challenging situations that I encountered along the way. It was undoubtedly a significant time commitment alongside my coursework; nevertheless, I learned that the more prepared you are, the higher your chances of reaching your goals!
Cultural and Language Skill Building
Tap into the knowledge of American classmates, learn from career counselors and advisors, make the most out of your co-ops, and be on top of your game when it comes to the job search, networking, preparing cover letters and resumes.
I can relate to the disadvantage many international students have of speaking English as a second language. The comfortable thing is to just hang out with other international students who share your language. Working hard to improve your English and find a fellow classmate or tutor that can help you focus on communicating orally can be key to communicating well to an interviewer in English.
Know Your Visa Status
I am a Bolivian/Chilean citizen and do not have US citizenship. However, under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Chile is eligible for more H1B visas than citizens of other countries. This was something I mentioned to my employer. Many countries have agreements with the USA that might work in your favor. For example, if you are Canadian, you are eligible for a renewable work authorization in the US without costly processing. Also, www.myvisajobs.com, Going Global, and Glassdoor.com can help you learn which companies have issued H-1B’s in the past, how many people were sponsored, post interview reviews, and provide job search information across states. If a company has sponsored in the past, chances are they may continue to do this. You must be proactive and do your research. Be sure to attend OPT sessions, plan ahead, and be able to explain your work authorization situation clearly. These are key things to be aware of.
Market Your Language Skills
Something that worked in my favor is my language skills. In applying to ANY job, I made them realize how valuable speaking 3 languages fluently is and am learning a 4th. Make employers view this as an asset that they can benefit from!
Something else that can work to your advantage is check and see if a company does business with your home country. This will make it even more likely for them to hire you, especially if you have had previous work experience in that country.
Starting the Job Search
Don’t leave things for the last minute and find the time to practice interview. I made a list of everyone I knew to reach out to and I didn’t realize how important LinkedIn was until my senior year at NU was almost over! LinkedIn can help you land information interviews that can give you the info you need to thrive during your job search. Also be sure to google yourself and see what comes up- your employer will likely look you up on LinkedIn at the very least.
Know what you’re interested in and know how realistic and possible it is for you to do this. It’s better to have two-three options that seem like great fits than to have 20 other options that are not as feasible. Additionally, I would suggest making your last semester as a senior less busy with other commitments so that you can dedicate large chunks of time for job searching and preparation. What worked well for me was attending ALL or almost all of the Career Development events dedicated to international students, especially those dedicated to job search and interview preparation. Also, Northeastern is constantly organizing forums with employers and career fairs that you should attend. Networking is huge!
As you apply for any job opportunity, make sure to highlight that you intend on staying at the job long-term because it is not worth it for them to invest in your staying for a short period of time and then have you go back home.
Sell your International Experience in Interviews
Always have a story of an international experience to talk about in your memory. Find a story about yourself that will highlight why your international experience will be an asset to any potential employer. Show them how you used your language abilities to help others. For example, I found my opportunity with Aperian Global, by attending a Global Career forum after having met two associate employees of the company I work for during a study abroad trip in Switzerland. I emailed all of these contacts and I believe that having met these people was key in getting me to understand the way the company works and next steps to take to be successful.
Truly, the only major barrier for international students looking for a job after graduating is a lack of authorization to work. Other than that, everything else is in your hands. The most important part of it all is refining your skills so that you can impress any prospective employer and present yourself as a candidate that will create a mutually beneficial relationship between you and the employer. If I did it than you can too!
Diana Zalaquett is currently Program Manager at Aperian Global in Boston since June 2012 where she serves as the main client contact for program coordination, coordinates cross-cultural training and consulting programs, and works with Aperian Global’s Global Mobility Service. She works collaboratively with client strategy consultants and global account teams to grow client relationships. Diana has worked at Eduventures (contract/temporary associate) and as a Junior Programme Officer, Implementation Support Unit at GICHD in Switzerland, a Teaching Assistant at the Honors Department and as a Research and Administrative Assistant at The Institute for International Urban Development. She’s a Certified Zumba Instructor and a Certified Spinning Instructor and cares about Animal Welfare, economic empowerment, and a variety of other causes. Diana graduated from Northeastern University May 2012 and speaks English, Spanish, and some French, Chinese, and Portuguese.