The current political climate in the US will have led many international students to question what they need to do to remain competitive and achieve their post-MBA job search goals. With this in mind, here are five innovative job search strategies that will get international students closer to the 'holy grail'.
1. Sell global mobility
A US firm that is trying to grab a piece of China’s profitable luxury consumer market, for example, may be highly interested in hiring a Chinese national who can help them navigate the complexities of that region. Similarly, if this firm is thinking of entering into contractual obligations with manufacturing facilities in China, it might be valuable for them to hire someone who can spend some time in the region developing new partners, for example.
International students can shine when they sell their global mobility and ability to work, travel and successfully live in regions or countries other than the US. But here’s the trick; don’t expect HR or even your future hiring manager to imagine all of these possibilities. Proactively position yourself as the kind of hire that can hop on a plane and spend six months in Shanghai or Bangalore, if needed. Give your future hiring manager options that he or she may have not considered when the job you are applying for was posted. This is an opportunity for international students to differentiate themselves and separate themselves from domestic hires.
2. Attend an industry trade show
It is very possible that traditional job fairs, for example, could become harsher environments if companies are not considering international students. Consider continuing to attend traditional job fairs but definitely attend a trade show in your field of interest and where no one cares if you need a visa or not. This is not only a great opportunity to identify companies you might want to target but also to talk with industry professionals who are doing what you want to do professionally.
We all know that the best time to look for a job is when we are not in need of one. Approach these firms with enthusiasm, a desire to learn about their products and solutions, and don't shy away from showcasing your intelligence and a global understanding of the industry they are in. Introduce yourself to these firms as a student who is about to graduate and don’t be surprised if someone tells you, “you should consider working for us after graduation.”
3. ‘Non-cap jobs’ and the H-1B visa
Remember that there are some employers out there that have not been that worried about the lack of H-1B visas because they know that they can technically get you an H-1B visa at any time of the year. Universities and even some hospitals, for example, have hired international students in the past for a variety of different roles. More so than ever, it may make some sense to explore job opportunities with these kinds of employers, known as ‘non-cap employers’ [because they are exempt from regulations which limit the number of H-1B visas that can be approved each year]. I know of one MBA graduate and former international student from China, for example, who landed a job as a project analyst at Johns Hopkins Hospital [rated as one of the US’s very best] and is now a happy employee and holder of an H-1B visa.
4. Connect with those who like you
Everything in life becomes easier when people like us, including being able to convince someone to take gamble on you as a foreign hire. Continue to be enthusiastic, positive and polite and reach out aggressively to faculty, alumni and even strangers you meet on LinkedIn. Have honest conversations with as many people as possible about your job search goals and difficulties; double-down on your outreach efforts. The government’s recent travel ban has placed a spotlight on immigrants in the US and many of you will have heard stories about international students being impacted by the travel ban. However, many professionals and hiring managers in corporate America are progressive and they tell me that they want international students to feel good about their experience in the US. Despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, one could say there has never been a better moment for international students to reach out and ask for help.
5. Be a salesman
If you are lucky to go far in an interview process and you feel that you would be a great hire for a firm but then in the end you hear the infamous line; “sorry, we don't sponsor,” don’t take ‘no’ for an answer – at least not straight away. Push back, overcome cultural barriers, be appropriately assertive and try to convince firms of the value you will bring to them and how you feel it is a mistake for them not to hire you.
You could try role-playing this conversation with a mentor or someone from your university. If HR or a hiring manager shuts you down, reach out to the company CEO and describe your story. Convince someone to reverse a decision due to your enthusiasm, professionalism, smarts, tenacity and charm. Companies want to hire people who are determined to work them, and Americans tend to respond well to the, “I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” style. The odds may be against you but you have nothing to lose.
- Check out the follow-up article in which we look at five further job search strategies for career-driven international students looking to work in the US after they graduate.