International Students: Here are your Essential Resources for your Job/Internship Search

Career Administrator

Our annual International Student Series is designed for international students to prepare for opportunities in the U.S. and in your home region. Our first event was hosted by Ms. Heather Palmer, Assistant Director and Career Counselor in the UVA Center for Engineering Career Development about critical resources for your job/internship search. If you missed this session, but are curious about how to maximize your use of our resources, below is a brief overview.

What does the recruiting landscape look like?

It is difficult. You likely know that employers have to consider many hiring regulations and US-based companies are increasingly less willing to sponsor H1B Visas because only a third of applicants are lucky enough to obtain an H1B visa. Despite all the support provided by recruiting companies, odds are the majority of students may have to leave the country. Learn more about it here.

What are the differences in cultural norms between the U.S. and your home country?

  1. Emphasizing individual contributions and accomplishments. In some cultures, talking about yourself can seem like bolstering, but it is a critical part during an interview or a pitch to make yourself stand out. Don't be afraid to show who you are when interacting with recruiters. 
  2. Reliance on networking. Did you know 80% of the jobs in the market never get published? They get filled by connections. Some cultures would not rely on networking to fill a job but in the U.S., getting to know new people can land you a great opportunity. 
  3. Directness in communication and relative informality. These are substantial values withing American culture, though considered inappropriate in formal encounters in different cultures. Directness means trustworthiness, so expect to be open and honest when interacting with recruiters.

What are common mistakes of job seekers?

  1. Underestimating how much time the search takes. It can take weeks to familiarize yourself with the industry and possible companies, not to mention the time in between several rounds of your interviews. So start early to avoid last minute panic. 
  2. Being too open/flexible. The job search is a lengthy process to begin with, and remaining open to too many opportunities can exhaust your time and energy. When interacting with the recruiters, you can appear unfocused or not interested enough in the company if you are not sure how you can contribute to the company and vice versa. Be strategic and get to know yourself and your best options for career fit. 
  3. Believing “academic success = job offer.” GPA is not the only thing that gets you hired. The top attributes that employers seek include the ability to work in a team and problem-solving skills, which can be showcased through your extracurricular activities and internships.
  4. Misunderstanding of the role of career advisors. Counselors cannot find the jobs or connections for you, but they can coach you on a strategy to do it on your own. They will expect you to reach out to alumni or other organizations on your own, but encourage you to ask for help as needed. 
  5. State inaccurate information about status/work authorization. Many companies do not know about CPT/OPT or H1B visas, but you can assure them that you can work for them up to 1 year (or 3 years for STEM majors).

Given these common mistakes, how can the UVA Career Center support me?

With these insights to international students' job search process, the UVA Career Center offers multiple ways to help you be strategic and prepared. The new Exploration Community at the UVA Career Center can help you discover the connection between your personal interests and skills with potential majors and career paths. Make sure to come to one of the Career Center satellite offices to meet with a counselor for individual advising and discuss your job/internship search interests. In addition, each department or school at UVA may have its own career advising services such as the Center for Engineering Career Development or the Economics Career Office. We are here to help you explore options, gain experience and make connections.

Also, don't miss an opportunity to network with alumni for semester-long mentoring and gain in-depth knowledge about a specific career. The Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program connects students with UVA alumni who have volunteered to provide insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their specific field. Another great mentoring program is naisA, which aims to connect young Asian professionals to become great leaders. You are free to register as a “Protégé” and ask for advice from Global Mentors.

What if I find it difficult to express myself fluently in English. Are there any resources?

You are not alone. It is common for people whose first language is not English to feel uncomfortable with expressing themselves. If Americans come and study in your home country, they will have the same problem here. Practicing your English is the key! The Center for American English Language and Culture offers ESL Courses for UVa students. You will need to take a placement test earlier in the fall or the spring to get acquainted with the suitable class level. Another fun program to practice conversational English weekly with an American is through VISAS. Check out the website here

In terms of academic supports, the UVA Writing Center also offers ESL Tutoring in 50-minute appointments. There is a writing class ENWR 1507/1508 taught by Ms. Jane Boatner for multilingual students that received positive feedback from international students to make progress on their writing level. When writing this article, I remembered myself in Ms. Boatner's class in the spring and regretted that I had not taken it sooner. I have learned to express myself more clearly since then. In addition, from my own experiences, I find a mobile app called ELSA that is really helpful for my English pronunciation. I received instant feedback from the app to improve my speaking ability and practice a 5-minute lesson everyday with ELSA.

Alright, now to the job/internship search; how do I find companies open to hiring international students?

As an international student, you likely have fewer options for companies that more open to hiring you. Handshake has an option to search for organizations that do not require a US Work Authorization; click here to find out how. In addition, you can access through Handshake a paid web platform called Going Global. It has approximately 500,000 records of companies that have applied for H1B visas. Another resource is MyVisaJobs, which allows you to find the top employers who have filled the most applications for visa sponsorship. You can look up these companies by industry, job title or location.

At times, you will find it helpful to create a sample list of companies with locations around the world who may be more likely to hire a more global workforce. Then if you must leave the U.S., those company can allocate you to a different location. Given the recruiting landscape in the U.S., it is prudent to conduct a dual search, not only here but also in your home country.

While there may seem to be a lot of information coming at you right now, your job search is a process that spans all of your years in college. Don't be intimidated and start the first step by exploring your interests. Come to Career Center office hours or make an individual appoiontment with a career counselor today. We are happy to assist you!