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If you are an international student getting ready to graduate from a college or university in the US, you already have a lot on your mind. Chances are, one of the most pressing worries is the prospect of finding a job after college. Whether you intend to go back to your home country or stay in the US and pursue a career, finding a job after graduation takes a lot of hard work.
You have to keep on top of the rules and regulations around visas - which can be complex and confusing, you might find that many companies are reluctant to sponsor international students because the process can be expensive and take a long time, and there is a greater risk that if the new hire doesn’t work out, all that time and money will have been wasted.
So, with that in mind, here are our top 7 tips on how international students can get a job after college.
Don’t wait until you graduate before you begin the job search. As you near the end of your degree, start your job search well in advance of graduation. Talk to the career center advisors at your college and find out what resources and assistance are available to international students.
See if you can do an internship with an organization that will sponsor work visas. Not only does this allow you to get your foot in the door and gain experience, but you have more time to establish relationships and improve the chance of getting sponsorship after graduation.
Important: We recommend that you start preparations at least a year in advance.
Bear in mind that employers are looking for more than just good grades in an applicant; in addition to the job search itself, you should make sure that you are prepared in other ways, too. Employers are looking for experience and transferable skills, even as a graduate with no formal work experience.
While you are studying there are things that you can do to demonstrate non-academic skills such as the leadership of a club or organization, hosting or organizing an event or conference, and teaching/tutoring other students.
The more you know about the visa process, your different possibilities, deadlines, and costs, the more prepared and confident you will feel when applying for jobs. Try to research which companies sponsor visas, what you need to do to get authorization, and how long the process takes.
Note: The requirements for obtaining a work visa may vary from time to time, so be sure to check official government sources for the latest requirements.
The best place to start your planning is at your school’s International Students Office and Career Development Center. These resources can provide you with more general information on what to do after graduation and inform you about your specific opportunities.
Your school’s career services likely have a lot of experience in dealing with international students and will be able to help you. You might try setting up a meeting with a career coach to discuss your specific situation and goals. Attend career fairs and talk to recruiters, build relationships and follow up with them for potential interviews.
You can also do your research - start making a list of companies that interest you and find out if they are open to hiring international students - there are resources online that provide information on companies that have previously sponsored international workers, and are more likely to do so again.
In general, as an international student, you will have 60 days after graduation to either enroll in another college program for further studies or enroll in an OPT (Optional Practical Training) program to gain employment after you graduate from college on an F-1 visa. If this does not take place within 60 days you will have to leave the US.
The OPT program allows you to extend your F-1 visa status for a year while you work, train, or intern in your area of study. Applying for an OPT program can take several months, so you should apply several months before graduation.
If you want to stay in the US for a longer period, you will need a company to sponsor you for an H-1b non-immigrant visa. This visa will allow you to remain employed at that company for three years.
Finding a company that will sponsor you for an H-1b visa can be challenging, so the best advice is to start this process early and do as much research as possible.
The best way to find your future employer is to begin networking early. Around 70% of jobs are filled through solid connections. Take advantage of your college community and talk to alumni groups who have gone through the same processes. Build relationships with your professors or even with the parents of your friends at school.
When appropriate, talk to people about your professional interests, plans, and aspirations along with their advice and information on any known job openings.
Attending career fairs and doing CPT (Curricular Practical Training) internships is another great way to get you ahead of the game. CPT is a form of temporary employment authorization for F-1 visa non-immigrant foreign students in the United States while they are enrolled in a college-level degree program.
Permission for CPT is given by your school or college’s International Students Office by the regulations established by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Make sure you have an up-to-date resume that lists all your achievements and experiences. When talking to potential employers, be positive and try to stand out by focusing on your unique strengths. Don’t submit a generic resume to each position you apply for - spend the extra time researching the company and role and tailor your application to each one.
Nowadays it’s important to remember that your resume isn’t just a piece of paper or an attachment to an email. Don’t forget that you can build out your profile on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, or even on your website.
Try to craft a compelling story that goes along with your resume when you meet people at networking events and interviews that can engage and interest people you meet and demonstrate your passion and professionalism.
Spending a lot of time in the job search process without getting results can be extremely frustrating. Make sure you don’t give up. Smiling and being positive about your abilities will show confidence and will inspire employers to want to invest in you.
Remember that getting accepted to your dream college was no easy task but you achieved it. For all the hard work and research, all the unanswered applications and rejections received, if and when you are successful in getting a job after college in the USA, it will all be worth it!
So lastly, another great way to get ahead of the game is to keep an eye on the companies that hire international students actively. A few great websites for job hunting that you can check out:
Even if you don’t find a company that suits you make sure not to wait for too long. Start freelancing or doing some short-term consulting to keep your skills sharp and remain marketable. This way you will be able to get some experience in your field and also show potential employers that you are proactive and take your career seriously.