International students face unique challenges in the job hunt. Armed with the right resources, however, your international background can also be an asset to your personal branding, networking, and innovation. To help international students in our community maximize their strengths and navigate the challenges, we spoke with community member Runyu Xia to get his insights on how to crush both and launch a successful career as an international student, or recent grad.
Runyu (second from the left) at a FindSpark event
What are the job hunt and networking tips you’ve found more useful as an international student?
A big challenge for international students is finding sponsorship. We need an employer to sponsor us, but many employers don't want to sponsor candidates who they hardly know.
Use your school resources to navigate the paperwork. Go to the career center at your school and ask them to check your resume and cover letter, and any concerns on the job hunt. If your school has an international student hub or resource center, visit them two semesters before you need to land your job so you can start preparing early.
As an international student, English may be your second language. If you’re anxious about making spelling or grammar mistakes, get your friends or the folks at your career center to look over your application materials. You can also add Grammarly to your chrome extensions for easy, hassle-free spell checking built into your computer.
My advice is that, when asked, "Do you need sponsorship?" you can answer no if you are in OPT period. Since you don't need sponsorship currently, which is true. Whenever it's in a job application system or an interview, it might make your job hunt smoother. If asked, "Do you need sponsorship in the future?”, however, you do need to answer yes and be honest.
It’s important for everyone, but especially for international students to find a company that's a great fit. For example, you have a range of companies you want to work with. How do you know that a company has sponsorship experience, like applying H1B for employees? You can find out if a company meets these qualifications at myvisajobs.com. It will save you time and help you narrow your search.
Timing is also vital for international students. Since you’re job hunt may take longer than other job seekers’, I suggest starting your search two semesters before you need to be accepted. So, if you’re looking for a summer internship, or need a job by the time you graduate in May, you should start looking in the fall.
After applying for a job, contact everyone you can who works at the company. Getting their attention is a good start to get the job. Even if you don't land the position this time around, they might contact you later if there is an open position. In addition, you can be super ambitious by visiting the company you really want to work with, and trying to speak with the hiring manager or another professional.
How has being a FindSpark member helped you build your job hunt and networking skills?
FindSpark workshops, articles and networking events have really helped me find and land new opportunities.
Each event I've attended has helped me move forward with new tips and new connections. I got my first freelance project from a connection I made at a FindSpark event. He introduced me to his client and everything fell into place after that! That's the power of networking, especially with the FindSpark community.
Another awesome networking advantage that FindSpark events have given me is the ability to connect with dozens of speakers from top companies in competitive industries. As a result of learning form and connecting with speakers, I learned how to build my personal site, which has been super critical to thrive as a designer.
Everyone needs a personal brand today, and a website is the easiest way to tell your story and hone your brand online. I use and recommend Wix to build a cool-looking website easily.
However, networking and career workshops are only one part of my career development hustle. I also spend time reading up on best practices to network within my industry and to stay updated on how the digital space can help me move my career forward and reach new clients.
One important lesson I learned from researching on the FindSpark blog was to always have questions prepared for your interviewer. If you don’t, you’re missing an opportunity to show your interest in the company and decide if it’s a place where you grow and thrive. Some questions I like to ask are “What kinds of problems will I solve in this role?” and “What kind of growth track does this role offer?”
Have international friends or coworkers in need of some career guidance? Share this article with them! Have more tips to help international students crush their career dreams? Share in the comments!