Brian Sanchez is a bilingual career services professional. He is originally from Venezuela, and works as a Career Education Specialist within Texas Career Engagement, focusing on providing career coaching with an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. Read his advice to international students on finding internships during the pandemic, the job search after graduation and more.
When should students start looking for internships?
I want to emphasize other possible ways of gaining experience, such as undergraduate research, shadowing, part-time jobs, micro-internships, volunteering, university involvement, etc. The overall goal is to gain strategic experiences throughout the undergraduate experience in order to be marketable upon graduation.
If a student feels disoriented in finding a career path that matches them, then I would highly recommend the student to visit the career center within their discipline or us, Texas Career Engagement. We offer a Career & Major Exploration appointment where students can meet with a career counselor/career education specialist to discuss possible majors and/or careers that might fit with a student’s values, interests, personality, and skills.
Students will not be in college forever. Each internship should be intentional and part of a trajectory plan that assists students in approaching their desired career path(s).
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Where and how do you look for internships?
Due to COVID-19, employers have increased their online presence in every possible aspect. I highly recommend using verified resources available to students, such as Handshake and Interstride. These two resources are exclusive to UT-Austin students. Before embarking in the search for internships, students should check they have completed the following:
- Choose industries of interest
- Review application documents (i.e. resume and cover letter) with a career education specialist/counselor from a career center
- Research organizations that are most favorable to international students
- Find a potential listing and schedule a mock interview using that job description as reference
- Conduct information interviews by researching alumni in HookedIn who work at organizations of interest
Students can also access different job boards, such as Indeed.com, Internships.com, and LinkedIn.com. Parker Dewey is another platform available to UT-Austin students where they can apply to micro-internships. Micro-internships are virtual short-term assignments and project-based work that may last over the course of one week to three months depending on the type and complexity of the project. Lastly, do be aware of job scams circulating on large job boards. These scams sound quite tempting by promising unusually high earnings, no experience, and the ability to set your own hours. Research the position and the employer to prove their legitimacy.
With COVID -19 many employers are not hiring or not hiring as much. How can students get experience in this employment downturn?
University involvement is an accessible possibility for international students. UT-Austin has a variety of organizations and clubs students can join to develop desired soft skills and even establish leadership positions.
Due to COVID-19, there has been an increase in remote volunteering positions that may suit students that are at risk and/or simply feel safer being remote. Other ways to gain experience are independent projects that highlight the skills and knowledge students have gained throughout their experience at UT-Austin and shadowing a professional within a field of interest to gain industry knowledge and familiarity with tasks. Lastly, micro-credentials are online certificates that can supplement the student’s degree, which can be obtained through different organizations, such as LinkedIn Learning (a free resource for UT-Austin students).
A lot of employers do not hire international students. What can students do to overcome this?
The best way to overcome this is to research which employers are most favorable to international students. The resource I would recommend is Interstride. This platform supports international students’ personal growth, education goals, and career endeavors by providing access to data-driven resources, insights, and networks through one platform.
How do I present experience from my home country on a resume and make it look relevant to a U.S. employer?
Please include experience from your home country! That is the biggest piece of advice that I can provide to international students. International experiences are as valuable as U.S. ones and I would even argue that they provide even more value.
Due to an increase in applicant tracking systems, I would highly recommend any international student not include any over-expressive templates nor photographs. Additionally, the resume should not exceed 1-page and the accomplishments/duties for each job should be written as a bullet point.
Generally speaking, education should be the first sub-heading, then the next one depends on what the student might want to highlight. For example, a student might have more experience with university involvement compared to part-time employment, so they might make university involvement the second sub-heading since it highlights their skills and experiences. Overall, I would recommend international students to visit the career center within their academic discipline or us, Texas Career Engagement, in order to work together on their resume.
When and how should students start looking for post-graduation jobs?
According to the University of Washington, it can take college graduates an average of three to 6 months to obtain a job after graduation. However, this time estimate changes based on the location, industry, experience, and economic conditions. While conducting the search for employment in the United States, I would recommend international students to conduct a parallel search in their home country. There are no guarantees since the H-1B visa is based on a lottery system, so I always want to establish realistic expectations/goals.
The post-graduation job search is extremely similar to the internship search. Searching for full-time employment might feel discouraging if employers inform the student that they do not hire international students, but continue the search while targeting employers that hire international students and employers that might benefit from the unique skillset and perspective international students can bring.
How and when should students discuss visa sponsorship with employers?
This may sound counterintuitive, but it is advised for international students to inform employers of their need for eventual full-time sponsorship within the first round or second round of interviewing. Even if employers do not ask about the possibility of a student eventually needing sponsorship, it is recommended to disclose since many U.S. employers are not aware of the sponsorship process for international students and they do not like being surprised with this crucial piece of information late in the hiring process. See below for disclosure example (this would be used after disclosing status as an international student):
“Thank you for the opportunity to interview and I am excited for the upcoming second-round interview. I am glad to have learned even more about the company during our first-round interview and I am extremely interested in working with the company. In order to maintain transparency, I would like to inform you of the following:
- If interning – There are no additional steps to take to hire me as an intern. If my role here would transition to a full-time opportunity at the company, you would need to follow the necessary steps to sponsor me a work visa after X months of work”.
- If working full-time – I am able to work for you full-time for X months without requiring any additional efforts on your part, but after those months have passed, you would need to sponsor a work visa for me in order to continue contributing to the company.”