How to Create an Effective Job Search Strategy for International Students
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How to Create an Effective Job Search Strategy for International Students

Getting a job after you graduate is challenging in itself. For the international student, there is the additional hurdle of securing permission to work in the United States. This permission takes the form of an H1 B Visa (also called a work permit). Each year the US government issues 65,000 H1B Visas. Ensuring that your name is on one of them requires forethought, planning and strategic action. Below are some tips on how to increase your chances of success in gaining employment in America.

Before You Graduate

If you know you would like to gain employment on an H1B visa when you graduate, here are some issues to consider:
  • More H1B visas were granted in the area of Systems Analysis and Programming than any other area from 1999 -2000. This trend has continued up to today.
  • For international students with no relevant work experience, internships can play an important part in securing H1B visa sponsorship and employment.

Understand the Issues

It is important that you familiarize yourself with the various factors that affect your employment opportunities. These include:
  • Complex Employment Process: Employers must sponsor international students for H1 visas, if they are to work in America. However, many employers are unfamiliar with this process, or unwilling to undertake the added responsibilities of hiring an international student. In the short-run, it is often simpler and cheaper to hire a US citizen or permanent resident.
  • Suspected Lack of Job Loyalty: Employers may be concerned that after they invest in training an international applicant, he will leave after a short period to return to his home country.
  • Communication: In cases where English is not the international applicant's first language, employers are concerned that communication skills may not be of an acceptable standard. Ability to communicate across cultures is also an issue.
  • Stereotypes: There are those employers who see giving jobs to international students as taking jobs away from Americans. Also, post '9-11' hysteria sometimes manifests itself as a prejudice against international students, and as concern that they pose a security risk. You must be prepared to address each of these issues to your prospective employer's satisfaction.

Research

"Knowledge is power" might be clichéd but it is true, nevertheless. Researching career opportunities in your chosen field, the companies in that industry and the various portals of entry will lend insight into how best to achieve your employment goals.

Identify employers who hire in your field, and have an international presence: Multi-national organizations often have a more liberal policy regarding hiring international students. There is the chance of working at one of the firm’s foreign locations and then transferring back to the US at a later date. Also, identify companies who have previously hired international students, and explore their employment opportunities.

Determine visa requirements for working in countries you wish to visit: Many countries like United Kingdom and Australia have Working Holidaymaker schemes which provide a way of living and working there. It is well worth one’s time to thoroughly explore all avenues to employment.

Set up informational interviews: Informational interviews are an excellent opportunity to learn more about your chosen career as well as to make valuable contacts. Learn more about informational interviews at http://www.quintcareers.com/informational_interviewing.html.

Educate Yourself

Become an expert in the H1B visa sponsorship process. Prepare yourself to answer any and all questions your prospective employer may have about the process, and to take on as much responsibility for the process as possible. This knowledge base will make you more confident and make your employer more confident about the process of hiring you.

For a list of FAQs on H1B visas, visit http://uscis.gov/graphics/howdoi/h1b.htm

Networking

Networking can be described as the process of building and maintaining relationships with an ever-increasing (hopefully) group of contacts from various fields. When nurtured properly, your network represents those whom you can call on in a time of need, such as a job search, and who can call on you.

Professors, HUCSO information sessions, alumni, students, staff, Career Services Resource Library all provide valuable contacts and links to employment opportunities, and are valuable additions to your network.

An important networking tool is the business card. An internet search will reveal various sites where you can obtain them for free, paying only for shipping and handling. You should also invest in a Rolodex or other means of keeping business cards organized. Never throw them away because one never knows when that contact may become useful.

A good tip for maintaining networking relationships is to forward articles to your contacts that may be of interest to them. That way, the lines of communication are kept open in a meaningful way. For more networking tips, check out http://www.rileyguide.com/nettips.html#tips.

Apply, Apply, Apply!

The most effective job search strategy is of no use if it does not end with submitting an application. After you have identified a job opportunity or vacancy, remember to:
1. Research the organization that is offering the opportunity
2. Tailor your resume and cover letter to the particular job
3. And follow-up on your application, and interview.

Final Note on Internships

An internship does more than enhance your resume. It is an opportunity to demonstrate to a potential employer your suitability as a permanent employee. As an international student, it may be prudent to choose companies that have a history of sponsoring H1B visas for an internship, when possible. For most companies, the internship program acts as a feeder to their full-time hires. It represents getting your foot in the door, an invaluable benefit for the international student on a job hunt.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on how to make this article better, please email so-brien@howard.edu. Happy Hunting!
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