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International Students and the Job Search, Part I

Anyone searching for an internship/co-op or job in today’s market faces tough competition and being an international student can add an extra level of difficulty.

Although the job hunt can be frustrating, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many international students who have secured internships or full-time positions while hosting career related events on campus. Based on my experience, I’d like to share a few common themes I’ve found to be true in student success stories:

Develop a well-written resume:

The resume will determine how successful you are in attracting potential employers – focus on your strengths and achievements! Check out the ECS resume template for international students.

Don’t put your eggs all in one basket:

In other words, do not place ALL your time, energy, and effort into studying and getting that 4.0 GPA. Take some time outside of classes to speak with people who are working in the same career you want for yourself. Take advantage of every networking opportunity you can possibly fit into your schedule! Work a part-time job if you can fit it into your schedule. I’ve met international students who have lined up interviews by chatting with employers at conferences, job shadows, information sessions, LinkedIn, and alumni events on campus.

Be prepared to educate employers:

It is crucial to learn as much as possible about your visa status and all the regulations that are associated with that status. Do not assume that employers know what’s involved in hiring an international student. After listening to many success stories, I’ve found that quite a few students actually informed their prospective employer about their status and the particular steps needed to be taken in order to get hired.

For example: most international students on F-1 student visas are eligible for 12 months of “practical training” upon completion of their studies without any job offer or letter from an employer. Students who graduate with a STEM degree are eligible to remain in the US for an additional 17 months on an (OPT) STEM extension. Therefore, as an engineering student, you can start by explaining to your potential employer that you have employment authorization for 29 months that requires absolutely no work on their part.*

If you are not familiar with the terms “curricular practical training” or “optional practical training,” visit the OIA website to learn more! The Office of International Affairs offers excellent workshops that will provide you with complete and accurate information regarding your work options. After attending these workshops, you will be able to communicate this information in a more clear and confident manner.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part II of this topic.

"We should not only use the brains we have, but all that we can borrow."
-Woodrow Wilson

About the author

Kaitlin Schafer

Kaitlin Schafer is a Career Counselor at Engineering Career Services.