Coming to the U.S as an international student is filled with challenges: from the stress of getting international student loans and applying for scholarships, to the anxiety of all the new sights, sounds, and experiences.
On top of all that, many international students need to find employment during their stay in the U.S. Thankfully, there are a number of tools and resources out there to help make the job hunt easier for our international friends.
University career centers, local student/ex-pat organizations, and online job sites are the first options for help on the job hunt, but if these don’t work out international students may be forced to go to a career fair.
Career fairs are recruiting events designed to help employers and recruiters meet with potential employees. If you are planning on attending a career fair as an international student here are a few tips to get you started:
Ask For Advice
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice prior to attending a career fair. Finding resources at your University is always the first option for international students who need help. However, you can also find assistance where you got your student loans. Many loans and scholarship organizations offer advice, even on topics like career fairs, to help their clients transition to life in the U.S.
Find the Fair
After you’ve decided to attend a career fair, it’s time to find which one is right for you. The following resources can help you see local career fair options and which employers will be attending.
You’ve found the fair, you’ve gotten advice from your peers, mentors, and community, now it’s time to prepare for the event.
- Dress appropriately.
- Bring at least 20 copies of your newly revised and polished resume/CV.
- Review the online directory of employers and their job opportunities.
- Prioritize employers you want to work for.
- Prepare focused, specific questions.
- Bring something that can set you apart from others. You need to make an impression on everyone, so even something simple like a business card (which you can get printed from places like LanyardsFactory) can be enough to make an impression on potential employers.
If you can do all of the above, you should feel pretty prepared for your career fair.
Also, don’t forget to come early and leave late, it leaves a good impression on potential employers.
Brush Up On Your Language Skills
As an international student, not only are you faced with the difficulties that come with a job hunt while studying, you also have to combat language differences in a country not known for its bilingualism.
So, before your career fair, brush up on your language skills, practice the relevant vocabulary and take your time when speaking with employers. It’s better to go slow and be heard then rush through your time without the employers fully understanding.
Employers in the U.S will have the patience for your language difficulties, especially if you can show you have something to offer as an asset to their company.
Prepare A ‘Career Pitch’
Sometimes called the elevator pitch, a ‘career pitch’ can help answer some of the most commonly asked questions during a career fair.
“Tell me about yourself?”
Preparing a little description of yourself currently, followed by a description of where you want to be and how you are going to get there can help you avoid getting stuck in those long ‘uhs’ during your career fair interviews.
A career pitch should emphasize four major things:
- The essentials (your background story and current skills)
- The Past and Present (what you have been up to lately and your work experience)
- The Future (longer-term career goals, honesty is key here)
- The Company fit (Why are you interested in this job? Do you fit company culture?)
Don’t Be Shy, Show Them Why
Perhaps the most vital part of the career fair process is making connections. That means you can’t be shy. Career fairs are an opportunity to show you are willing to put yourself out there and take on new challenges—just like you will at your new job.
So, take notes, respect employers’ time and materials, speak clearly but also don’t be afraid to be direct and show why you will be a great candidate, even if that means being more direct and extroverted.
Shyness, at a career fair, is the worst possible trait to have. Even if you are an introvert, it’s time to fake it until you make it here.
And Don’t Forget The Goodbyes
After you’ve done your homework, prepared, arrived, and finished your interviews, you can go home and rest right? Wrong.
It pays to come back around to your favorite employers and say goodbye, express your interest, and connect via LinkedIn and business cards. Career fair employers will see hundreds of candidates in a day, you can come back to their booths multiple times, it may help you stick in their minds.
Remember, your work is just beginning after your first interaction with your desired employer.
Finally, you should always follow up with your favorite employers following a career fair. Sending out thank you notes is a great first step, but even after that staying connected can mean the difference between landing the job or just an interview.
Network, connect via LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to reach out via email. A proper ‘follow up’ can be a game-changer.
Life as an international student is tough, but the job hunt doesn’t have to be. Use all your resources (including career fairs), don’t be shy and don’t forget the goodbyes and you should find employment in the U.S in no time.