JOB SEARCH FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Job searching is difficult no matter your connections or credentials. International students, though, face a unique set of obstacles that can further complicate things: confusion over work authorization, employers hesitant to do extra paperwork, concerns about non-native English-speaking abilities, and so on. These certainly aren’t always fair, but it’s important that international job seekers anticipate the challenges and prepare accordingly.
Challenge: The (assumed) complexity and resulting confusion of hiring international students
Many employers lack experience with hiring international applicants and, as a result, make incorrect assumptions — that the process is too time consuming, costly, etc. To counteract this, we recommend becoming informal experts on work visas. Attend F-1, Optional Practice Training (OPT), and Curricular Practice Training (CPT) workshops put on by UW International Student Services. You may also want to research the H-1B visa program. Practice explaining these topics in just a few sentences.
Here’s how you might approach the subject at a networking event (it probably fits most naturally after you’ve given your elevator pitch):
“Does your company hire international applicants on student visas?”
“Are you familiar with hiring students for CPT or OPT? I’m an international student interested in applying for a position with your company.”
The former option is a little more open-ended while the latter is direct. If the recruiter’s initial response is to mention the complexity or costs associated with international hires, politely suggest the process might be more straightforward than they assume:
“The process for international hires is actually easier than a lot of people think. There isn’t any additional financial cost to the employer, and securing a student visa only takes about two weeks. There is some extra paperwork involved, but completing that is the student’s responsibility.”
The conversation could go in a variety of directions from there and it’s good to be well-versed in a few key areas. For internships, you should know the rules on getting credit (they vary by program), start dates (you must have been at the UW for at least three quarters before starting and can’t start mid-quarter), and transitioning from an internship to full-time position.
When discussing full-time employment, you might get into more specifics on OPT and H-1B visas. Be aware that MLIS graduates can only work one year of OPT, while INFO, MSIM, and PhD graduates can do up to three — again, at no additional cost to the company.
Be careful to not come across aggressively during these conversations but know that some level of assertiveness is both necessary and acceptable.
Read more about student visas here.
Challenge: Some companies just won’t budge
Despite your best efforts, some employers will still be resistant to hiring an international student. Fortunately, there are companies that are on the record as being open to international hires. Where you can find them:
- GoinGlobal. Provided by the UW Career & Internship Center, GoingGlobal helps job and internship seekers find opportunities both at home and abroad. From the homepage, click on the “H1B Visas” link at the top of the page. You’ll then be able to search a database of employers that hire international students by specific occupation, company, and location. For the best results, try first narrowing your search by metro area, then sort by company.
- MyVisaJobs.com. Despite what the rather rudimentary design might suggest, this site is a great resource. Founded by immigrants, it bills itself as “the largest and most trusted employment website for foreign workers seeking opportunities in the United States.” You can search jobs, create a profile viewable by employers, and get detailed on different types of work authorization.
- LinkedIn. If you know international students that have graduated from the iSchool — or anywhere, really — check LinkedIn to see where they’re working now.
Additional Tips and Resources
- Continue to network. Personal and professional connections are estimated to lead to between 70 and 80 percent of job offers. Continue reaching out to classmates, attending career fairs, participating in student and community organizations, and setting up informational interviews.
- Watch this recording of our OPT Information Session. The workshop was hosted by Kathy Wong from the ISS office.
- Check on this handout covering on-campus student employment.
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