US Job-Search Tips for International Students Who are Introverts

I recently attended a webinar by Dan Beaudry, author of Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States. Baruch College of The City University of New York (CUNY) hosted it to benefit its student population, many of whom are from outside the United States. Beaudry, who used to head campus recruiting at Monster.com, offers international students provocative advice that includes: “Stop searching the Internet for job listings. Stop working on your resume. Stop writing cover letters. Stop studying so much!”

Having workshops and advised graduate business students over the years at Baruch and as a longtime adjunct instructor at New York University, I’m always interested in learning more to help the graduate students I work with navigate the U.S. job and internship markets. Throwing introversion into the mix, I asked Beaudry what strategies he recommends for international students who are introverts seeking professional opportunities in the United States.

NA: What are the most common misimpressions that international college and graduate students believe about getting a job or internship in the United States?

DB: There are two big misconceptions. One is that the best way to find a job is through applying online. The second is that qualifications—like good grades—will be enough to make the students stand out to employers. The reality is that lots of people apply online and have good qualifications, and standing out depends on being different.

NA: Introverts often excel at skills such as conducting research, listening, and building one-on-one relationships. How can international students who are introverts—as well as those from reserved cultures—use those skills to their advantage when seeking internships and jobs?

DB: Those one-on-one relationships are what drive employment opportunity in the U.S. This is because managers would rather hire people they know, or are known by people they trust, than strangers online. Most international students—and most Americans, for that matter—are intimidated by “networking.” My advice is to take small bites with your relationship building, one person at a time. It’s less about being the “life of the party” and more about the depth and quality of relationships you build.

StockUnlimited, used with permission

NA: You say, “Sales is about opening doors that are shut. International students have had the H1-B visa door slammed in their face for years, and it takes a little sales work to get the door open.” What are the secrets to that, especially for introverts?

DB: Anyone selling anything needs to have a deep understanding of their customers’ needs, wants, and interests. Prospects have no reason to “open the door” to salespeople otherwise. International student job seekers should develop an understanding of their own value to an employer. Ask yourself: Why should an employer be willing to bear your costs—like a visa sponsorship? And what’s in it for them?

To a large extent, you can gain this understanding through a little research, something introverts excel in. Find out what pressures managers in your field are facing. And learn why they hire people to alleviate those pressures.

The second part of opening the door is bringing the solution to employers—instead of waiting for them to find you. This is where the relationship building I mentioned fits in. You don’t necessarily have to physically knock on doors, but you do need to initiate contact with people to give them a chance to know who you are.

NA: We’re on the same page about all of this. Also, I discovered that we are kindred spirits in our passion for encouraging our clients and students to pursue informational interviews, or “coffee chats”—in person or online—to broaden their networks and uncover the hidden job market. Why are they so vital?

DB: I’ve loved informational interviews ever since I read a book called The Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore. I call them the secret weapon of the U.S. job search because they demystify networking, and make relationship building accessible for introverts. It still takes a little courage to reach out to someone you don’t know to arrange a meeting; but once arranged, the conversations are one-on-one and a great path to building relationships and showcasing your value.

NA: Why do you contend that it’s a waste of time to ask employers if they sponsor international students?

DB: While I understand the temptation international students feel to figure out who ‘sponsors,’ it’s a mistake to ask this for several reasons. The first and most important is that an H-1B is the student’s need, not the managers—salespeople must never lead with their costs. Also, the answer to the question isn’t particularly relevant. There are many employers who have sponsored visas, even while having a policy against it. But employers only sponsor when they are hooked on a candidate’s value. International students who ask about sponsorship don’t often get a chance to speak about their potential value because they inadvertently screen themselves out of consideration by asking the question!

NA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

StockUnlimited, used with permission

DB: U.S. employers want to hire based on relationships, and they incentivize their employees to do that. Use your skills at relationship building to stand out and take advantage of that opportunity!

NA: Thank you for the crisp and clear guidance you provide to international students who are introverts to accelerate their job searches. You’re right that it’s all about building relationships so that the employers see the value the candidates can bring. So research, research, research—and then reach out, and one by one, seek out those relationships to bring solutions to employers.

Copyright © 2020 Nancy Ancowitz

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