Strategies for Seeking Employment in the U.S.

UVA Career Center – July 8th, 2015

This information is designed to assist you, the international student, with the job search process. This guide is particularly targeted towards students in F-1 or J-1 visa status.  However, other foreign nationals or those with newly acquired American citizenship may find some of the information included to be both relevant and useful.  

In addition to this content, international students should also contact the International Studies Office (ISO) before seeking any form of employment (paid or unpaid) whether as a student or in preparation for graduation so that you are aware of all applicable restrictions, requirements and deadlines.  Remember it is your responsibility to connect with ISO to obtain the most current information as the rules are constantly changing. 

While challenges and misconceptions exist, there are strategies for overcoming many of these barriers as you conduct your job search.

Be Informed

Recognizing that employers may have misconceptions about hiring international students can provide you the opportunity to best articulate why you are the right fit for an employer in a manner that helps alleviate potential misconceptions.  For example, if you know that employers may be hesitant to hire international students because they perceive the process to petition for a visa as too complex, during an interview you can take the opportunity to educate an employer on the steps it takes to file a petition helping them to see that it is not as difficult of a process as they may think.  If you know that employers may be concerned about an international student applicant’s commitment to the job, you can emphasize in your interview your intention for wanting to learn and grow over time with that particular company. 

Perfect Your English Skills

If you have concerns about your ability to effectively communicate (both oral and written) in English with employers, take steps to practice and increase your English language abilities.  Look for organizations and resources at UVA where you can continue to hone your speaking and writing skills.  Consider participating in the Volunteers with International Students and Scholars, and Staff Program (VISAS). 

Also consider ways you can incorporate practice into your everyday life:

  • joining a student organization
  • speaking during class discussions
  • joining a study group
  • volunteering in the community

Employers with an International Focus or Presence

Strong employment prospects may be with organizations that have an international focus (for example: World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, or World Bank).  You may also find success with U.S. companies that have an international presence/office in other countries.  Keep in mind that U.S. institutions of higher education may be an option.  Your international experience, language and cultural fluency make you very attractive to these organizations.  In addition, if your U.S. work authorization is delayed, you may be able to continue to work at one of their branches outside of the U.S.  

Seek Exposure to Industries in Demand

As an international student you may find the job search process less difficult if you study or gain exposure to subjects in demand.  

Currently firms in the U.S. desire skilled workers, particularly in the areas of:

  • Systems Analysis and Programming
  • Engineering, Accounting
  • Computer Science
  • Hospitality
  • Business
  • Finance
  • some Healthcare Fields

If you are not majoring in one of these areas, at least consider developing computer skills (programming, word processing and spreadsheet design), quantitative skills (accounting, statistics and economics) and/or scientific skills (lab research) through elective classes, independent studies or extracurricular activities to make yourself more marketable. 

Articulate the Unique Benefits of Hiring an International Student

Because you are searching for employment in the United States, you may feel that in order to be successful in your job search you will need to assimilate to be more like U.S. applicants. While there are some customs and cultural barriers that you will need to consider, your experience as an international student is just as important in articulating your fit to an employer.  Consider how you might convey to an employer the unique advantages you can bring to a company as an international student.  For example: discuss your language skills as well as your ability to adapt to new cultures and environments as you have done in attending a university in another country in a resume, cover letter or in an interview.