In a previous post, Christopher Connor, Assistant Dean of Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, shared with some of the resources many U.S. colleges offer their students to prepare them for work. This week we continue our interview, in which he gives us more information on the topic.
Q: When students finish their studies, what is legally available to students who wish to work?
A: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than three months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to work for one year.
Q: What is STEM OPT and how can international students qualify for it?
A: STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization available to F-1 students who graduated with U.S. degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. It is important for students to double check with programs they are applying to whether their program is eligible for STEM OPT as it may not always be clear.
Q: Talk about the importance of a resume and cover letter in the job/internship search for international students?
A: Having a well thought out, clear concise resume and cover letter that appropriately showcases and quantifies their abilities is extremely important. The goal is to be recognized with a combination of translatable skills that will differentiate from other students you are in competition with.
Q: When there are jobs/internship fairs on campus, what tips would you suggest students take on board to improve their chances of finding a position?
A: It is important for students to keep in mind that the job search is many cases a relationship building process. Let the company representative talk (but listen) and pick pieces of “common ground” knowledge out of the conversation.. Use the “common ground” to your advantage. Listening is a key ingredient to these interactions.
Q: In your experience, how can international students make themselves standout most when beginning the job search?
A: International students should leverage any resources or events that are made available to them to help promote professional and personal growth. Students should attend job fairs and networking events well before they are ready to actively begin their job search.
Q: Do you feel that prospective employers value what international students can offer their companies?
A: Employers are looking to hire the best qualified candidates for potions and there is a known skills gap for countless positions in the US. Given the gap, International students help bridge that gap by offering many benefits to companies.
Q: Interviews can make or break an international student’s chances of securing their dream job. What advice would you give them as they prepare for this important step?
A: Practice, practice, practice. Make sure to leverage free services such as mock interviews. The more practice you have, the better you will do when it matters most.
Q: If students who are looking to develop a plan B for work after graduation (if not in the U.S.), what would you suggest would be good first step?
A: Keep your options opened. This includes looking not only in the US but in other countries for opportunities including your home country. Starting your career somewhere can help you obtain valuable experience to increase your future career mobility.