The international student population is a vastly growing group on our campuses, with unique backgrounds, experiences, and challenges. We need to ask ourselves, as career service professionals, what can we do to help them develop the professional skills needed to succeed in the professional world. Based on the experiences we have had on our campus, I would suggest these five tips.
Make sure they are ready for job searching in the United States. Their experience should look no different than domestic students. It is as simple as encouraging them to research companies they are interested in, get in the habit of visiting job search sites, keep their resume and professional social media up to date, and work on gaining professional experiences.
Make sure they know where to find you. Career services is, typically, the centralized office on any given campus for working on professional development. Advertise your services as often as possible and go to them by hosting workshops and presenting on relevant information. Our workshops are often focused on resume and cover letters, interviewing, networking, and professional etiquette. We also have a comprehensive job search handbook that was put together in collaboration with our Office of International Education. They need to know what we mean by professional skills and international students often want concrete evidence that our services have value to them. They are looking for any help they can get to compete in this totally new environment.
Encourage them to get involved. The co-curricular opportunities higher education has to offer sometimes seem endless. International students learn just as much from these experiences as any other student and it also helps bolster their resumes. International students are uniquely placed, as well, to educate their peers on their culture. There is likely to be an existing cultural club on campus or a group of students could start one.
Teach them the differences in professional etiquette. Every culture has differing professional expectations and norms. Students need to learn that the way business is done is unique in the United States, compared to how it is done overseas. It is our job to show international students what the similarities and differences are, so they are on a level playing field with their peers if they intend to stay and work in the United States. One good way is to encourage them to attend events hosted by your office.
Encourage networking with professors and other staff. International students typically are used to professors being the knowledge authority. Professors in the United states are more collaborative and open to discussing the students’ views. Whether they are undergraduate or graduate level students, it is always beneficial for them to personally connect with professors. Sometimes our international students will experience an adjustment period with this concept, therefore it is important we encourage them to do so and reiterate its importance in their long-term professional success.
Overall, international students come here for the quality of education and amount of opportunity available to them. Career services is a vital resource to maximize their professional success.