International students - please read this.
Updated: Sep 29
Create more opportunities for yourself before it’s too late.
Either due to the recent political situation or any other number of factors, many international students feel that they have less job opportunities as many employers are not willing to sponsor H1B visas. I have interacted with enough colleagues and few students in different universities, to say that it takes more than a good resume, good grades, technical skills and basic networking to get interview calls.
Most of the international students’ post-graduation plans fall in these categories:
1. Get a job at a company which sponsors visa — STEM degree holders have 3 chances (because of OPT extension) at the visa lottery but non-STEM grads (e.g. MBA) have only one shot.
2. Go back to home country and take care of parent’s business or work for another company (If they don’t get a good job or find an employer who is willing to sponsor visa or if they are just not interested in staying here).
3. Get another degree — probably an advanced degree like STEM Masters or a Ph.D either for education reasons or to give themselves more time to get a good job and a work visa.
A good proportion of the students take huge education loans which has to be paid back as per the loan agreements otherwise their parents/guarantors will be in trouble. This seems to be one of the main concerns that scares a lot of students who are not able to land a job offer before the end of their studies or during the first 90 days of OPT period. I agree this is a pretty scary situation to be in.
I am sharing few tips below, which can hopefully help avoid such a situation:
To prepare well for the future (which you cannot control), it's best to know all the possible routes you can take to get the desired result (in this case a good job). Instead of waiting till the point where you have almost no choice to change your situation, its better to plan ahead (at least 1 year) and create more opportunities for yourself so you can manage the risks properly. For example:
To get three job offers before you graduate, you will probably require 15 interview calls (assuming a 20% probability 0f success). This means you should have applied to at least 75 companies where you were eligible for the job. To know 75 companies where you can apply, you should have interacted with / learned about hundreds of companies.These companies need not be the ones that every one knows i.e. management consultants or any Fortune 1000 companies. You could have increased your chance of getting interviews by reaching out to companies where the demand is less — startups, small and medium businesses, etc.
You might think that they don’t sponsor visas (since the companies’ HR department or your classmates said so) but the fact is when you have not even tried to talk to them and never showed them your talent, you do not stand any chance to get a internship/part-time or full-time job/visa sponsorship from them.
Then there are these organizations (actually a lot of them), in which if you get a job you don’t have to go thru the lottery for H1B, like universities, many non-profit organizations, research organizations, etc. You can find the list in myvisajobs.com and many other sites.
Even after excellent networking and interviewing if you could not find an employer who is interested in sponsoring visa, you can at least negotiate for a part-time job or internship during OPT period. This way you can utilize your valuable OPT time to get experience, make connections and earn some money. You can always switch to a different company if you find a better opportunity. FYI, OPT allows students to do multiple jobs and for more than 40 hours a week.
New visa programs like Global EIR have been started by visionary people to help international students who plan to work for startups or start a startup themselves to stay in the US.
Last but not the least, if you have to go back to your home country, plan and prepare properly so you can have a good number of employers willing to talk to you when you land there. Network with them online, do interviews over Skype and connect with them on LinkedIn. Also, your past employers might be very happy to welcome you back.
Ultimately what counts is your happiness. You have probably made few life-long friendships and had fun in a foreign country. Your international experience is very valuable and many local companies who plan to expand to western countries would be very excited to have you in their team.
This article was first published in Medium.com in 2017