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4 Networking Tips for International Students After Graduation

Asian college student drawing networking icon graphics on virtual board

It’s never been a better time to learn, grow, and seek employment internationally. In the last few decades, American universities have seen a spike in international students seeking an education and career in the American workforce. Universities have several international programs in place to facilitate the transition and educational gaps for international students. A growing number of businesses also recognize the importance of organizational diversity, which international students can use to their advantage when looking for work after graduation.

To find a job in your field, however, you’re going to need more than a fantastic resume. Employment is all about your connections, and it’s crucial to start building your network before you leave school and start looking for work. Here are 4 tips for building the strong network you need to find a great entry-level position in the United States.

1. There Are Networking Opportunities Everywhere

Don’t think that you have to focus on going to as many networking events as possible to build strong connections. While networking events can be great and sometimes the most obvious networking choice, they’re not always going to help you build the quality connections you need.

Instead, think about the networking opportunities all around you. Think about the people you already know, like your professors, Career Services at your school, friends and family friends. If you’re an international student seeking employment in the US, your base is likely elsewhere.

If you do have a few contacts living and working in the US, it could be helpful to reach out to them and tap into their network as well. As people who have been in the US for a while, they likely have old or current coworkers with potential connections. When someone already has an established connection with you or your family member, they’re more likely to help you out.

2. It’s Time to Get Professional

If you haven’t already, it’s time to up your game and get professional, even if you don’t have much work experience. Your LinkedIn profile matters and it’s often the first place a recruiter is going to go to get more information about you. Successfully reaching out through the LinkedIn messaging feature can also sometimes lead to a job. So definitely, don’t ignore the potential that LinkedIn has as a networking platform.

Get a professional-looking headshot, and update your LinkedIn profile with all of the relevant information you have. Include the education and work experience that you have from another country and provide clear explanations of what skills you gained from the position.

Remember, potential employers will be typing your name into Google. Make sure your social media profiles won’t embarrass you. Show that you’re serious by crafting a professional presence online. With 2020 fast approaching, you need to prove that you’re tech-savvy and proactive in order to compete.

3. Think of the Big Picture

When you’re networking, you need to focus on building relationships. You can’t go into it only thinking about what other people can do for you, and you’ll need to remember that growing a strong network takes some effort. You need to check in on your network from time to time and keep your connections at the top of your mind.

To do this, you’ll need to stay organized. Whether you use a paper address book or a Trello board, it’s important to keep track of the people in your network and to reach out to them from time to time. It’s like watering a garden—if you don’t follow up, the connections will fizzle out.

4. Understand the Cultural Norms of Networking and Interview

Every country and culture comes with its own set of norms and nuances. In some cultures, for example, women and men wouldn’t shake hands out of respect for each other; however, in the US, handshaking is commonplace across ages and genders.

Spend some time researching and practicing colloquial phrases. While you bring your own set of valuable experiences to any job, it’s important to speak the same “work language” as your future employer. Let your job experiences shine while highlighting the many facets of your multicultural personality.

Don’t Be Shy—Embrace Networking!

Networking can feel a bit uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re not comfortable putting yourself out there. Be patient and keep going! Don’t think about selling yourself, just have a casual conversation and things will start to feel more natural. You just need to keep doing it over and over again to get the hang of it!

International female students especially should seize networking opportunities at women-focused events. In 2017, 22.2% of Fortune 500 board members were women and 22.7% of partners in the U.S. legal field were women. Additionally, in 2018, women held 19.3% of applications and systems development positions.

Women often face paradoxes in the workplace and are expected to be both professional and approachable, authoritative and authentic, and goal-oriented yet selfless. In order to combat these challenges, international female students should focus on first building collaborative relationships and trust with recruiters and showcase examples of authoritative behavior that came from a place of compassion.

Remember to give more than you receive when it comes to networking. Be as helpful as you can and people will be happy to help you out in return. It’s a give-and-take process that gets easier over time and the more you do it.

International students have an advantage when it comes to networking and finding employment. More business leaders are leveraging technologies such as data analytics to make sure that they hit the mark when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

Without getting to know people, though, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities. Think about networking as a habit—something that you need to do for your professional success. After you’ve learned to flex your networking muscles, it’ll become second nature—and you may even start to enjoy it.

To land a job, you need to put yourself out there. Networking is the very first step to the career of your dreams!

For more great college and career tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.