Employment Tips for International Students

In addition to the tailored resources and advice below, international students should also refer to the “Make It Happen Checklist” designed for all students.

Start your resume

  1. Start your U.S. resume
    1. Why?
      1. Resume vs CV: In the U.S. you will generally need a one-page resume. Elsewhere around the world this might be referred to as a CV, and it would look different in different countries. A CV in the U.S. is used for positions in academia and research, and is different from a resume in the U.S.
    2. How?
      1. Refer to US Resume resources
      2. Refer to US CV resources
      3. Visit Career Center drop-in hours for assistance
      4. Resume and CV resources for other countries can be found in GoinGlobal

  1. Seek on-campus employment
    1. Why?
      1. On-campus employment is a great way to build skills and learn about US work environment. It can make you more competitive for internships.
      2. There are fewer barriers to employment for international students seeking on-campus employment.
    2. How?
      1. First, review the on-campus employment information for international students on the ISSS website
      2. Next, review the information on University of Iowa Student Employment
      3. Then, go search on Handshake:
        • Log in and click on “Jobs” tab at top of page
        • Click on “On-Campus”
        • All on-campus positions will display
        • If you would like to narrow results further, click on “Filter”
        • Select any additional filters relevant to you, then click on "See Jobs"
        • Click on a job to view the requirements and to apply, or click on the star in the upper right corner to save the job to your favorites and return to it later.
      4. Attend the student job fair when it is held. 
      5. For assistance, visit the Career Center during drop-in hours

  1. Get involved in student organizations on campus, volunteer in the community, and develop transferrable skills.
    1. Why?
      1. Build skills, improve US-style English, make friends and have fun. Explore your interests and gain experience.
    2. How?
      1. Refer to the resources in the “Experience” section of the Make it Happen Checklist
      2. You may find it beneficial to enroll in one or more of the Career, Leadership, and Professional Development courses offered by the Pomerantz Career Center.

  1. Seek informational interviews
    1. Why?
      1. The informational interview is an opportunity to learn about a career which interests you by meeting or talking with someone who is working professionally or who has completed an internship in that field. It is an essential form of networking in the U.S. and can lead to better employment prospects.
    2. How?
      1. Read “Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States,” which focuses on informational interviews. Available via the UI Library.
      2. Read “The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster,” which offers clear steps and advice on informational interviewing. Available via the Iowa City Public Library. 
        • The author of The 2-Hour Job Search also has some great how-to videos on YouTube
      3. Review the Career Center website for a quick overview of informational interviewing.
      4. Create/update your LinkedIn profile using these resources as a guide.

  1. Seek internships
    1. Why?
      1. Gain experience in a field directly related to your major. Explore careers, build skills, and network.
      2. Why are some employers unwilling to hire international students for internships? Some employers use internships to lead to full-time employment offers. If they are unwilling to hire international students for full-time post-graduation employment, they may choose not to hire them for internships.
    2. How?
      1. In US – First, review CPT or Academic Training requirements as appropriate.
      2. In US – use Handshake
        • When logging in to Handshake for the first time (and/or before proceeding to search for internships), be sure to complete the following:
          • Under your name in the upper right corner, select the drop down and choose “Settings & Privacy.” From that page, scroll down to Work Authorization and select YES for “Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?” and select YES for “Will you now or in the future require visa sponsorship?” These are the same settings we recommended in the previous version of  they system (HireaHawk)
        • Log in and click on “Jobs” tab at top of page
        • Click on “Filters”
        • Select Job Type: "Internship"
        • Under Work Authorization, there are two checkboxes: "Will sponsor or doesn't require US work visa" and "Accepts OPT/CPT"
          • Checking both boxes would show positions where the employer is both willing to hire students on OPT/CPT and willing to sponsor a work visa. As an international student these positions should be open to you.
          • Checking only the box for “Accepts OPT/CPT” should show positions focused on hiring students using F-1 work authorization only (the employer would not sponsor a work visa). As an international student these positions should be open to you, but they would be time-limited by your OPT or CPT duration. Still a good search strategy, especially for internships.
          • Checking only the box for “Will sponsor or doesn't require US work visa” should show positions where the employer would sponsor a work visa but for some reason would not hire on OPT/CPT.  Do not check only this box when searching for internships in the US.
          • More information can be found in this Handshake Help Article.
        • Select any other filters relevant to you, then click "See Jobs" in the lower right corner. 
      3. In US – use GoinGlobal's database 
        • Research which companies have been willing to sponsor for an H-1B work visa in the past for full-time positions similar to your internship interests.
        • Build a list and then visit those employers’ websites to apply for current openings. Conduct informational interviews with relevant individuals at those companies (see point #4 above).
        • You do not need an H-1B to do an internship, but a list of these employers can help you focus your search on those who have shown a willingness to hire international candidates.
      4. In US -- review list of Top 200 CPT Employers for 2017 and direct your search toward positions with those companies.
      5. In home country:
        • Use your network and search strategies appropriate for your home country to seek opportunities there over summer break. This is relevant work experience and it belongs on your resume.
      6. Elsewhere abroad:
        • Use GoinGlobal's Country Career Guides to familiarize yourself with search strategies for many countries around the world. 
      7. Search on your own (strategies above) or use a program such as IES or The Washington Center
        • Fee-based programs such as IES (via Study Abroad) and The Washington Center (via the Pomerantz Career Center) guarantee placement and offer academic credit, excellent support and professional development throughout the internship program.

  1. Why?
    1. After completing your studies, you may wish to remain in the U.S. for a limited period of time to gain relevant employment experience.
    2. Why are some employers unwilling to hire international students for post-graduation employment? Some employers may be unwilling or unable to sponsor for an H-1B work visa, and therefore may choose not to hire international students, even on CPT or OPT.
    3. Employers are allowed to ask of all applicants:
      • Are you authorized to work in the United States?
      • Will you now or in the future require employment visa sponsorship such as H-1B?
      • Your answer to both questions could be “yes,” -- “yes”you are authorized to work using OPT or academic training, and “yes” you would now or in the future require employment visa sponsorship (OPT and academic training are tied to your student visa and are limited in duration). You must answer truthfully.
    4. The search for post-graduation employment as an international student can be very competitive and time consuming in the United States. You should plan for and pursue multiple options (example: a job in the U.S., a job in your home country, graduate school, etc.)
  2. How?
    1. In US
      • Review the requirements for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Academic Training
      • Attend Work Visa Options After Graduation presentation offered annually each fall by visiting immigration attorneys. Watch for the date/time announced by the Pomerantz Career Center and ISSS—usually it is near the fall Job & Internship Fair.
      • Review "Easy Guide to Hiring Foreign Graduates" and share it with employers when you interview
      • Use the steps/strategies for Handshake listed above in the Internships section (5.b.ii and iii). Adjust your Handshake search to include both Full-Time and Internship Position Types. You may be eligible for some internships post-graduation.
      • Search GoinGlobal’s exclusive H1B Plus database. It provides millions of visa application listings for American employers seeking to hire international talent in the United States. 
      • Return to Seek Informational Interviews section (#4), above. Networking is one of the main ways to uncover opportunities. Read the two books recommended in step 4.b.i and ii above.
      • Use the strategies suggested in the Achieve section of the Make It Happen Checklist.
      • Review lists of Top 200 OPT Employers for 2017 and the Top 200 STEM OPT Employers for 2017 and direct your search toward positions with those companies.
    2. In home country
      • Use your network and search strategies appropriate for your home country to seek opportunities there. The timing of hiring season for new graduates differs in various countries—make sure you plan ahead. 
    3. Elsewhere abroad
      • Use GoinGlobal to search 16 million+ worldwide opportunities in the local language, as well as English.
      • For China-specific opportunities, explore Lockin U / GUCCU.
    4. Tell us what you’re doing post-graduation (whatever and wherever that may be!). Fill out the survey here.

Final tips:

Remain cautious of potentially fraudulent employers and postings, especially those targeting international students (refer to information specific to international students toward the bottom of the page).

For personalized assistance, meet with your career coach.

For questions about CPT, OPT, and Academic Training, visit with an ISSS advisor during their drop-in hours.