Each year about 1.09 million international students come to the United States to study. Studying the United States as an international student can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Some students who come to the US focus the majority of their time focusing on their studies, but there is so much more international students can do!
Contrary to popular belief, international students have a variety of options to intern in the United States. Students can select from occupational practical training (OPT) or curricular practical training (CPT) or on-campus employment. Before beginning your job search, it is recommended to speak with the International Student Office at your university to discuss which option is best for you.
After you have consulted with your International Student Office, it is time to begin your job search. Job searches in the United States can be very intimidating and a much more competitive process than in your home country. However, it is important to remain resilient and develop a strategic approach to the process.
Luckily, we have gathered a few resources and tips for navigating the process.
It is important to be intentional about your job search. Find a specific area of interest in which you would like to gain experience, then research companies that match your interests. For example, if you are majoring in business, but also have interest arts, you can look for business-related positions in arts companies. Being an international student it is important to think creatively about your internships. Also, think about what you want to get out of your internship. Do you want to work in a big Fortune 500 company? How important is a mentor relationship to you? While working at a large company may be exciting, it is important to consider mid-size or small business internships as well, because they may provide more opportunity for one-on-one mentorships and more responsibilities for you to gain valuable work experience. You might also want to compose a list of companies that have a past history of hiring international students.
Plan ahead and manage your time…
International students may have stricter deadlines and restrictions on when they can start their internships. It is best to begin your process early. If you are thinking about interning while in the US it is important to check in with the International Student Office at your university throughout your internship search process. The International Student Office can provide you with deadlines and help you file the proper paperwork (like an SSN!) to begin work. Delays sending in the correct documentation may delay your start day.
Network Network Network…
Most jobs and internships come through networking and word of mouth. This may be a new idea to many international students and challenging for students who do not know many people in the US, but the best network is your university! Talk to peers or upper-classmen who have had internships before and ask them about their experiences and recommendations for finding an internship. Form relationships with your advisors and professors, they are often a good source who know about possible internship opportunities. It is important not to be intimidated by your professors and advisors, most are friendly and would be happy to connect with professional opportunities. Make a LinkedIn account and connect with your university’s alumni network. You can send messages to alumni from your program asking them to chat for an informational interview. From there you can build a relationship with them and ask them about potential internship opportunities.
Attend recruitment events…
Most universities will have recruitment fairs or career fairs, where companies come to the campus from a variety of industries to recruit students to join their companies. Oftentimes universities will hold multiple career fairs a year, sometimes they are tailored to a specific industry or student population. The university will provide a list of companies who will be attending the career fairs, so it is best to do your research and speak with companies who meet your interests. You can also use this opportunity to ask the recruiter questions about what they are looking for in an intern. Be sure to bring a pen and paper to take notes! Check in with your university to see when/where the career fairs are offered and see if there are any specifically for international students.
Utilize your University’s Career Services Office
Most universities have a Career Services Office where students can get guidance on their career planning. Often universities have an online job search platform where companies post jobs specifically for university students. It’s best to search your university’s Career Services Office for potential opportunities.
Stay tuned for the next article on how to highlight your International Student experience in your application!
Job Tips For International Students (with link to international talent-friendly employers databases)
Author: Lauren Ratto
Lauren is a graduate student studying International Education at New York University. She is a graduate assistant for the International Student Team at NYU’s College of Arts and Science, where she helps run the International Student Mentor program. Most recently, Lauren has been awarded the International Student Ally award from NYU’s Office of Global Services.