How to Get A Job After Graduation

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Editorial note: Many international students who pursue their undergraduate degrees in United States aspire to find a job after finishing their studies. Before the job hunt could commence, however, it is wise to know what kind of preparation is necessary in ensuring everything goes smoothly. Our columnist Della shares practical advice on not only how to secure a job but also what to do while looking for one.

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Hi! I’m Della – the columnist for North & Latin America at Indonesia Mengglobal. I just graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Economics at Duke University. Throughout my four years at Duke, I completed several summer internships in finance, tech, and venture capital, and I worked part-time jobs on campus during the semester. Later this year, I will be starting my career as a financial markets analyst in New York. Getting a job as an international student in the US was not an easy process, but with proper research and preparation, I believe that anyone can do it. 

Many international students come to the US to study with the goal of securing a job and starting a new life overseas. The reality is not so simple – there are restrictions by US immigration regulations that international students have to watch out for. In addition, not all US companies are willing to hire international students due to these restrictions. Thus, it is important to do your research beforehand and come into the process prepared.

Understanding the Rules

As a student (on an F-1 visa), there are two types of work authorization that you can use:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – CPT allows students to do internships that are part of the program’s curriculum, and the internship must take place during the academic term. The job must be related to the student’s field of study.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) – OPT allows students to work for up to 12 months, and can be used either during the degree or up to a year after graduation. Students with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree can apply for a 2-year extension. The job must be related to the student’s field of study.

I used CPT for my summer internships and will be using OPT for my full-time job. I have 3 years of OPT, meaning I can work in the US for up to 3 years after graduation.

International students can convert their F-1 visa status to a work (H-1B) visa, which allows them to work in the US for up to 6 years. To get an H-1B visa, you need to find a job with a US employer and ask the employer to file for an H-1B petition. Getting the H-1B visa is difficult because it is a lottery-based process and winners are selected randomly. 

Preparing for the Job Hunt

The first part of the job application that employers will see is the resume. Employers will only spend 30 seconds scanning your resume, so make sure that every bullet point is clear and concise. To write a good resume, you need to do research on the job description and tailor your resume to what the job description is looking for. In addition, quantify your achievements to help the reader understand how successful you are (e.g. “increased sales by 20%” is a more powerful statement than “increased sales”).

Most jobs these days will also require a cover letter. Scan the company’s website, read their mission statement, and look over the company’s social media accounts. This will help you better understand the organization’s needs, values, and interests. Think about how you can contribute to these areas and how you fit uniquely into that role. Afterward, meet with your university’s career center to get their feedback on your resume and cover letter.

Finding A Job

Not all employers will hire international students, so it’s important to narrow your job search to those that do. I made a list of employers in industries I was interested in and that have hired international students in the past. You can find which companies hire international students on the ICE website and MyVisaJobs. At the end, I narrowed it down to about 50 companies.

Then, I leveraged my network to find contacts at those companies. I started with Duke alumni in student organizations I’m part of. Then, I began sending cold emails to people in the Duke alumni directory and people with mutual connections on LinkedIn. I scheduled calls to learn more about their job, their company, and any advice they had for me. These calls helped me better understand what the job is actually like, and which helped me prepare more personalized answers for behavioral interviews.

The Interview

If you made it to the interview round, congrats! Before the interview, prepare talking points for common interview questions, such as “tell me about yourself”, “why this job”, and “why this company”. Reach out to your contacts at the company and ask what the interview experience was like for them. Websites like Glassdoor often have past interview questions for your company. During recruiting season, my friends and I would ask each other behavioral questions to help each other prepare. Practice makes perfect!

Prepare questions for the interviewer to ask at the end of the interview. Asking good questions about the role and the company shows them that you are genuinely interested. Finally, don’t forget to send a thank you email to the interviewer afterwards, thanking them for their time and generosity.

I hope this guide was helpful for you in getting started with the job hunting process in the US. Don’t let the rules and regulations scare you, enjoy the process of self-discovery, and give it your best shot.

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