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Job Searching as an International Student

As an International Student you might have specific questions or concerns about your job/internship preparation and exploration journey. This guide will help clear any doubts or myths about job-seeking in the US as a student on an F-1 visa.

Handshake is your starting point. Be sure to claim your account and complete your profile.

This tool allows you to look for curated jobs, internships, and on-campus jobs. You can also filter for jobs that accept CPT/OPT, by location, or by your specific interest. Additionally you can register for career fairs, and much more.

U.S. Employer’s Perspective on Hiring International Students

Why wouldn’t a U.S. employer simply fill available jobs with U.S. candidates? There are a number of jobs that require specific skillsets of abilities, a higher-level degrees or a different perspective to it. In many cases, international students possess the desired skills and experience levels for these jobs and bring several other unique skills, including global perspectives, multilingual language abilities, and much more. These reasons make international students a great fit for many organizations. Although you might be intimidated by an accent or some grammar mistakes, most of the times people can still understand you. Being confident in what you are saying, and making sure you are understood, is important when applying for a job.

COMMON U.S.A. WORK AUTHORIZATION OPTIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

Definition: Temporary employment authorization directly related to student’s academic program
Authorized By: Designated School Official (DSO).
Duration: Employment dependent but is granted on a semester basis
Who is eligible? F-1 visa students who have completed at least one academic year full-time
When to Apply: When applicable but after first year of full-time status
Start Date: Employment dependent but must have an offer first before applying
Permitted Work Hours: Part-time CPT; no more than 20 hours a week during fall and spring semester

Definition: Temporary employment authorization directly related to the field of study.
Authorized By: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Duration: 12 Months
Who is eligible? Fulltime F-1 visa students who will be completing degree requirements this semester
When to Apply: 90 days prior to program end date and up to 60 days after Start Date Decided by student, last date to start is 60 days after degree completion.
Permitted Work Hours: Minimum of 20 hours a week

On-campus employment is work that F-1 students whose status is Active in SEVIS status may apply for. On-campus employment is specific to work that takes place on campus or at an off-campus location that is educationally affiliated with the school. Examples of on-campus employment include working at a university bookstore or cafeteria.

Active F-1 students may apply for on-campus employment up to 30 days before the start of classes. In order to apply, talk to your DSO. If approved, your DSO will provide you with a letter of approval. Take this letter from your DSO and a letter of approval from your employer to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). All students who wish to work must apply for a Social Security Number.  

If you participate in on-campus employment, you may not work more than 20 hours per week when school is in session. 

Preparing for a successful future upon graduation

Job searching and preparing starts with a solid foundation. Plan accordingly, meet with our advisors and use the resources we offer to be ready once you graduate.

 

Get to know the Office of International Student Services (ISS) and the Advising and Career Center (ACC). They have resources that can be helpful, and you can create a connection with an advisor early in your journey.

Claim your handshake account and complete your profile as much as possible, as this will further your opportunities to match a potential employer. Also, the platform will suggest jobs based on your profile information.

Learn about the aspects of job searching, resumes interviewing and how they differ from what you are used to.

Research the companies that you would like to work for. Review what they actively look for and plan accordingly.

 

Attend recruiting events, such as career fairs and company events, to learn about companies and to gain experience speaking with U.S. employers.

Gain practice with mock interviews and talking about your skills and experiences.

Get familiar with CPT (Curricular Practical Program) and apply for it if it is on your interest. It can give you that valuable hands-on experience.

Connect with an advisor and start building your resume

 

 

Follow up with previously established connections, including career fair contacts, networking contacts, or former internship supervisors to learn about potential opportunities.

Apply for post-graduate work experiences in your areas of interest.

Apply for OPT 90 days (about 3 months) prior to the date you intend to start working in the U.S., due to the processing time.

 

 

Resumes in the U.S

As you apply for U.S. job opportunities, it is important to convert your resume to a U.S. format.

The RESUME GUIDE provides information on how to structure your U.S. resume. As you review the guide, consider these additional tips to market yourself and your unique experiences:

  •  Include your legal and preferred name so employers know how to address you. For example: Qianhui (Michael) Chen.
  • Highlight any languages you speak other than English. Employers value multilingual abilities.
  • Exclude personal data to prevent bias and discrimination during the hiring process. Personal data includes: date of birth, age, gender, ethnicity, social security number, visa status, political or religious affiliation, photographs.
  • Exclude TOEFL scores, they are not necessary.
  • If you believe it necessary you could include your GPA (Grades) If you attended an institution within another country, list your GPA given by the school while also providing a U.S. equivalent GPA so employers can better gauge your academic performance. Grades are not necessarily included, however, merits, distinctions, and academic engagement can be a plus.

Interviewing for U.S. Companies.

It is important to be familiar with U.S. cultural norms that shape the interview exchange.

  • Be punctual. Arrive 10-15 minutes early
  •  Confidence is KEY. You should sound confident when discussing career goals, long-term plans, accomplishments, and skills. Companies want to know what you can provide them, how hiring you will be a benefit for them.
  • Expect to receive questions about your experience and skills. Be comfortable speaking directly about individual contributions you have made at work or in past projects.
  • Eye contact with your interviewer conveys confidence and interest.
  •  It is customary to shake hands as you introduce yourself. Keep in mind that if this is contrary to your religious beliefs, you can decline shaking hands.
  • Research the company beforehand to show interest and a clear reason why you want to work there.
  • Be prepared for varying interview styles. The interviewer may decide to start with small talk or may start with direct questions. Also, they may do most of the talking or expect you to do most of the talking. • At the end of the interview, ask the employer where they are in the interview process and when you should expect to hear back. Additionally, you can inquire about the status of an application after your interview.
  • It is illegal in the U.S. for employers to ask candidates questions regarding age, race, sex, and marital status
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, grow opportunities, what’s a typical day like in this position, etc.

Cover Letters

Another element to job searching is a cover letter. It should go along with your resume.

Cover letters are generally more informal, with fewer polite formal phrases, and will be directed more specifically to each employer. Create a new letter for each job or internship you are applying for and include only information that is relevant to what the employer is seeking in a candidate.

Networking

The process of building and maintaining relationships is called networking. The ability to network in diverse business cultures is a critical skill for succeeding in the U.S. job search and American workplace.

Managing your Digital Identity

Your online or digital identity is any online information that exists about you, whether you created it or it’s been created dynamically by other sites . Social networking sites, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok are part of your public image. The material you post and the things you write will influence an employer’s or graduate schools’ impression of you, for better or for worse. Employers, graduate schools, and other programs use social media sites in their recruitment and selection processes. It is important to know what is out there with your name on it. If you can search for it, so can someone else.

Check Your Current Online Identity. Go to your favorite search engine can search for your name.

If there is anything you find inappropriate, or that you would not like employers to see, make sure to take action and start cleaning up your online persona.

Action Steps:

  1. Review your public email address(es): Is each address professional? For each social networking site (Facebook, Twitter, etc): Would you be comfortable if someone else were to see your profile, photos, groups and comments? Are you tagged in any photos online?
  2. If you’ve posted your resume online: Are you comfortable with the privacy policy where your resume is posted? You may want to omit your street address and phone number for safety and privacy. Some online crawlers dynamically parse for resumes online, so be aware that your information could end in a database without your permission.
  3. If you have your own website: Are you comfortable with an employer or graduate school seeing what you have written, posted and/or compiled?

Other Common Questions

How do I answer when I am asked by an employer if I can legally work in the U.S? (F-1 Student) Start by explaining that you are legally able to apply for your own work authorization through your university while you are on an F-1 visa at no cost to them (using either Curricular or Optional Practical Training). If employers are not aware of these programs, the ISS/SA can provide you with a letter that explains these options. Utilizing this practical training may allow you to work in your field of study from 12 to 36 months (or more if you combine CPT and OPT together), depending on your major.

Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for employment (e.g., H-1B visa)? Yes! Many employers will ask this because they need to know whether a petition for H-1B will be needed. Following the question above, explain that you will require an H-1B petition to work for up to six years after you have exhausted your F visa options.

IMPORTANT: Be mindful of the travel regulations governing F1 students on OPT. If you leave the country after completion of your degree, but before receiving your EAD and obtaining a job, you might not be readmitted. You can leave the country after completion of your degree if you have your EAD and a job, but make sure you bring everything that you’ll need to get back in (including valid passport, valid EAD card, valid (unexpired) F1 visa, all your I-20s with page 3 endorsed for travel by your international student advisor within the past 6 months, and a letter of employment, including dates of employment and salary).

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