Hear the journeys of three international job candidates who overcame barriers and landed their dream jobs in the US.
By Amanda Rosenberg
There is a clear disparity that international students and immigrants in the US face when finding jobs. From lacking knowledge on the US job system to work permits (CPT/OPT/H-1B) to not having professional connections, international job candidates often find that these barriers prevent them from getting jobs in the US.
We are looking to bridge that disparity for international students by providing them with the tools and job search skill training they need to land a job in the US.
Here are just a few stories of students who used ICAway to achieve their dreams.
Trang Vu - “I was uncertain about my post-graduation outcome”
Dr. Trang Vu studied chemistry at Pennsylvania State University before receiving her PHD of cosmetic science at University of Cincinnati. Vu is a self proclaimed “skin care junkie” and has always dreamed of working with cosmetics. She is now the R&D scientist at Unilever.
Naisargi Dave - “I wanted to change my job while I was on OPT”
Dave received a civil engineering degree in India from the Gujarat Technical University, then received a masters in environmental engineering from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Now, she works as an Environmental Scientist with a private company called EA Engineering.
Mario Aguilar Méndez - “I didn’t have a degree and connections in the US”
After graduating from Private University of Bolivia in electromechanical engineering, Aguilar Méndez received a Masters in automation and robotics in Spain at Universitat Ramon Llull. Aguilar Méndez now works at Deloitte as an Oracle Business Analyst.
Challenges and Barriers
Finding a job is always challenging, but there are unique barriers that many international students have to overcome. Our three students each struggled to overcome one specific barrier in applying for jobs.
Vu’s biggest barrier was ensuring a job post-graduation. According to Vu, “Finding a job as an international student has always been a challenge. So, I started my job search early on” Despite her early start, Vu “continued to apply for jobs for months and only received rejections for a very long time”. Vu’s challenge would be to ensure a job after graduation.
Dave struggled with her career future when she decided to change jobs. She recalls, “when I graduated, this research job came along, however a few years into the job, I realized that it’s not where my heart is at. I still like my work in environmental engineering and science. I made the decision to change jobs right on my OPT.” Keeping this in mind, Dave said, “I had to convince my employer that this was a work permit that would expire at some point.” Dave’s challenge was to find an opportunity to switch jobs without it affecting her OPT and future H-1B.
Lacking connections in your new country can be really influential on job searches as well. Aguilar Méndez said, “I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted…I was trying to apply everywhere. I didn’t know how to sell myself in the network of the United States.” Aguilar Méndez’s challenge was a lack of knowledge on the US job market.
No challenge is overcome without some difficulties along the way. All three of our students experienced this for themselves, when issues arose that affected their job searches.
Vu recounted her roadblock, saying “When I got a job offer and I told them I would need a sponsorship, they took back the offer.” Although Vu had the qualifications to work the jobs she wanted, she got rejected due to her immigration status.
Dave struggled with selling herself to employers, causing networking connections to falter. She said, “After I joined ICAway, my outlook completely changed. I started looking at it as a two-way-street and tried to make networking a lot more meaningful. Then I was really confident when I was giving my answers in interviews.”
Not having knowledge of the US job market makes it difficult to decipher the correct job-achieving strategies. Aguilar Méndez recalled, “I only connected with one or two people, but that was it. I had no clue how to get an interview or make connections.” By overcoming this barrier, Aguilar Méndez says his “transformation has been huge…I got different skills and approaches to networking…and achieved a job offer with your gameplan and your coaching.”
Becoming Success Stories
Vu excitedly remembers, “Eventually I landed the job of my dreams…I got connected to people who are very high ranking on Linkedin, like the CEO and VP of R&D…I got connected to Unilever, a week after I talked with them, I received a job offer.” Having had set up connections for herself, Vu was able to find a job that she loved.
Dave was able to change jobs as she had hoped. She explained, “Everything worked out, I joined ICAway, I met a lot of people going through the same thing, and I thought ‘oh, it’s no big deal,’ it sort of gave me the strength to go through that process…I definitely network a lot more after joining ICAway.”
Dave also gained perspective since her journey. She said, “By being from a different culture, by being from a different country, having studied in this country, graduating in the middle of a pandemic, you already bring a lot more to the team and to the work than usual. Even though you feel like you have no experience, you have really good resilience, which is very much needed in the workforce.”
Although he was able to land his dream job, Aguilar Méndez recalls how difficult it was. He said, “It’s really hard for people from outside the US to get a job…It was not easy. We did this during the pandemic, and I’m really proud to have made this great achievement.” Because of ICAway, Aguilar Méndez came away from an incredibly difficult journey with a sense of both pride and success.
It’s clear that the job training and coaching students receive from ICAway has made a huge impact on their careers. All three students recall distinctive takeaways and positive outlooks on their experiences with ICAway.
What Vu came away from ICAway valuing the most was the direct coaching. She attests, “It’s great because I can always ask you questions. Those kinds of things give me a lot of feedback, which is very valuable.”
Dave left ICAway with a whole new group of people with a shared perspective. Dave explains, “One of the very great things about ICAway is the community of students you have.” She recalls the feeling of finding this community, saying “All of a sudden, there was just somebody who understood what I was talking about.”
The career goals and planning were most impactful on Aguilar Méndez, He explained how beneficial it was that there was a “gameplan and I just had to follow it. I didn’t have to create something new, just follow.”
Aguilar Méndez concluded, with ICAway, “If you are disciplined and a person who gives his best of what he’s doing, you will achieve.”
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