On-campus recruiting at U.S. universities is typically slower this time of the year versus the fall. For international students in particular, opportunities to interview with firms that sponsor might be scarce between now and graduation. So what’s a student to do? The answer is smart outreach. And to do that, all you have to do is follow the below three steps, which will quickly increase your networking results and could uncover job leads your competition might not know about.
1. Look around you.
Why email strangers and cold contacts on LinkedIn to ask for job search help when there might already be great help around? Schedule a meeting with a professor you know, regroup with someone from career services, or be brave and ask for a meeting with the dean of your school. Get in front of people who may already know you, like you, and have a connection with you. These individuals will be much more likely to help you secure a job offer. Remember, it's your responsibility as a job seeker to take initiative and ask for help. Be appropriately assertive (even though that’s a little hard to do at times for some international students) and try to secure meetings, preferably face-to-face. In general, most people will appreciate your drive and willingness to seek help.
2. Think impact.
Folks you'll be meeting with will ask you to explain the types of projects or job opportunities that would best fit you. Focus your answers on the unique value you bring to firms. Often, international students will unconsciously focus on the gaps between their skills and experiences, particularly barriers in communication when English is not their first language. While it’s good to be aware of our weaknesses, it’s even more crucial to focus on what you do best. What makes you a top candidate for a specific internship or job? Give your audience a clear sense of what you want and the kind of impact you can have so they can best assist you. Generic answers won’t cut it. Be specific, but don’t sell yourself. Simply provide a picture of where you fit best so people can immediately say, “I think I know someone who could use someone like you on their team.”
3. Be results driven.
Between now and the end of the school year, it’s realistic for driven international students to secure a minimum of two conversations a week with contacts who might be able to help them get hired. Create a habit: treat this exercise as a game, and don’t stop until you meet your goal. Don’t let finals or term papers stop you! With a little bit of practice, you’ll learn how much outreach effort is required for you to meet your weekly networking targets.
Marcelo Barros is the founder of The International Advantage, a firm specialized in providing job search training for international students who seek U.S jobs. He is also the author of The International Advantage Get Noticed. Get Hired! Barros partners with universities to help their international students get noticed and hired and secure an H-1B visa.