Let’s face it—finding a job is hard work! But for international students and alumni, navigating the job search in the United States can be even more difficult. For example, cultural differences such as looking directly at a person when speaking is natural and expected behavior in a job interview. However, in some cultures, eye contact can be perceived as disrespect.
The Career Center can be a valuable resource to international Redbirds when navigating the job search and identifying successful strategies for employment in the U.S. The following are a few tips that may help.
While seeking employment
- Be patient: The job search process can be lengthy for anyone. However, with various legal issues international candidates face, finding employment in the United States could take up to a year. Start the process early by making note of your values, interests, financial needs, and goals, and visit the Career Center for help with developing your strategy.
- Be aware of cultural barriers: Something such as being direct when answering questions may seem rude to some, but in the United States you should answer questions directly to display your competency and confidence. The Career Center’s International Students Guide has a complete list of common cultural barriers. Be sure to review them and with your career advisor who can help you be effective in situations that may seem uncomfortable.
- Perfect your English skills: Try to be as fluent as possible in the English language, both oral and written. The best way to achieve this is to practice. Consider ways to incorporate English into your everyday life, such as incorporating into discussions, participating in a study group, or volunteering in the community.
- Identify companies with an international focus: Your experience as an international student can be useful to a company with a strong presence across the globe. Your cultural fluency and ability to adapt in new places could give you a leg up over other candidates when it comes to positions requiring international travel. Some of these companies include the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, World Bank, and colleges and universities.
- Apply to positions high in demand: Computer science, engineering, accounting, finance, business, hospitality, and programming are a number of industries where employers today are seeking candidates, often from all majors.
- Show employers you are the right fit: Market skills you possess that American candidates might not have. This can include global fluency such as being able to speak more than one language, having traveled, or lived abroad, even your ability to adapt to new environments and people, and adjusting to change.
- Network: Like any graduate looking to begin their career, the key to success today is to connect with others. Expand your network by developing relationships with professors, alumni, professionals, and other students. Be open to their input and give back when the opportunity arises in the future.
You’re not alone
International students make up a fast-growing community at Illinois State. In the 2017 State of the University address, Illinois State President Larry Dietz revealed that the school has entered an agreement that corresponds with a goal to have international students make up 5 percent of total enrollment. Hetal Dhirawani is an international student and the Programming and Events intern at the Career Center. “My fear when I first arrived at Illinois State was that I would have a hard time finding a like-minded community who believes in helping others and sharing resources. I must say I found that, and feel at home with the wonderful people here, and I am glad I chose ISU for my education endeavors,” said Dhirawani.
Illinois State offers a number of resources to all students and alumni. The Career Center’s Cultural Career Network (CCN) hosts a number of programs and events each semester specifically for those of diverse backgrounds. “Our office collaborates with the Office of International Studies and Programs to bring unique programs to campus such as the International Student Career Series. It covers topics such as Optional Practical Training (OPT) and career fairs, interview tips, and sessions with an immigration attorney who provides input on the employment process in the United States. CCN also connects students with employers seeking diverse candidates at the Diversity Employer Expo,” stated Career Center Senior Assistant Director for Programing and Events Maureen Roach. The International Career Series will continue this spring with OPT and Career Fair Prep on January 26, Interview Tips on February 23, and Life After OPT on March 21.
Redbird alum Ruisha Zhang (’14 MS, ’15 MBA) shared her challenges from when she was as an international student seeking employment in the U.S., “International students have extra hoops to jump through when getting hired. With English being a second language, I didn’t always feel comfortable.” Zhang, who now works as a data analyst at Illinois State University, shared her career experience with students at a Career Center program last semester. “I want students to know that their paths may or may not be different from their friends and classmates. This does not mean that either one is better or worse. But because of their interest and willingness to learn, the hope is that they may be better prepared for the realities of the next chapter.”
International students overcome many obstacles along their educational journey. By using these job search tips and accessing many other university resources, they will be more empowered as international Redbirds and more likely to find career success.
Support the rising trajectory of career success for all students by participating in Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State. Consider making your gift to the Career Center to assist all students with developing, evaluating, and implementing career decisions.