Navigating the Job Search as an International Student

The job search season is up and running, and as always, seniors and all who are graduating are busy working hard to make their last semester in school count. In addition to finishing your academic work, there is also the job search, which no doubt, can be stressful on new graduates and especially on new graduates who happen to be international students.

As a former international student in the US, my personal experience with the daunting immigration process to file and maintain my visa status, while trying to find a job as a new graduate is still palpable. As an international student, the playing field is not leveled and chances are that you could be one of the last people to find jobs in your graduating class. While landing a job that would support your Optional Practical Training (OPT) and subsequently, an H1B work visa or green card isn’t guaranteed, here are a few steps to enable you stay on the path to landing a job:

  • Start your job search ahead of time and work with your international student advisor to understand the timeline to apply for OPT. As an international student who is earning a degree, this could be your only “passport” to being able to work in the United States. I remember losing a job opportunity because my OPT did not arrive on time and my job offer being rescinded. It was the most heartbreaking experience for me. So please be in touch with your advisors to ensure that you don’t experience this.
  • It is nice to have a list of places you would prefer to work at, especially big name organizations (those are the ones that usually understand the work visa process and are more likely to provide sponsorship), and an employer who pays well above the average. However, remember that you are limited in the number of employers who would sponsor your work visa. So keep an open mind. Yes, having a perfect list is wonderful but sometimes it is good to sit back and think through which other employers exist and would be willing to sponsor your visa.
  • Utilize the resources that the Career Center provides such as types of resumes and cover letter writing, interviewing tips and alumni workshops and panels. These events give you insight into the job search process. Also, be sure to work internships during the school year; ask your international student advisor about how to ensure that you are not in violation of your student visa. 
  • Consider graduate school as an option. It is okay to consider graduate school just in case your job search proves futile. Once you are positive about a chosen career path, receiving additional training allows you to bump your salary potential according to this article from Harvard Business Review.

No matter the outcome of your job search, remember that you are not in the same situation as your classmates who are US citizens, hold green cards or have other immigration statuses. You have to do more work to land you that dream job. The path may not be linear, but know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Ama Agumeh
Assistant Director, Career Education

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