Career Tips for International Students

Pandemic Jobs: How to Prepare and Find Jobs during the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID 19 Impacts on job searches 8

This world pandemic is an important topic that is on everyone’s mind. My heart goes out to all of the International Students who are far away from home and your families. Many International Students plan to secure employment after graduation and feel very nervous about the current situation. ICAway hosted a webinar on COVID-19’s impact on job searching on March 19, 2020, with a goal of supporting International Students who feel anxious about the current situation.

In this webinar, I discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the job market and the opportunities that have emerged during this time of crisis. I also invited Dr. Terah Henderson, an expert in Mental Health, as mental health is one of the top priorities that our community really needs support with.

Check out the webinar recording HERE

Around 100 international students submitted their questions in advance. Many of them shared their concerns about future job openings and the effect of COVID-19 on the job market. I incorporated most frequently asked questions from the students and answered them in my presentation last week. Here’s the summary of our discussion:

Disruptions & Impacts

Changes in the Hiring Process

I still see companies hiring but an immediate change that has happened to the hiring process is how employers are handling job interviews. Everything will be virtual! If you’re actively looking for jobs at this time, you will need to practice video calls diligently. Make sure that you look and sound confident, use body language, posture, and put on the right wardrobe to make a powerful impression.

If you don’t feel completely confident speaking English, please make sure that you can deliver clear and concise dialogue. Do practice pronunciation of words that you may not feel comfortable. And make sure you sound friendly – the tone of your voice and your pace matter a lot and it is okay to speak slowly.

Finally, make sure that your computer is charged and mute your phone. Turn off all applications and close all browsers on the computer as you don’t want to have any notifications pop up to distract you or your interviewers during the call. It is highly recommended that you do a test call with your friends or with your coach before the actual interviews.

My final tip is that students should prepare to share their stories and present their ability to work remotely by demonstrating time management skills and a proactive mindset.

Disruptions and impacts on each industry that will affect the number of future job openings

The supply chain problems, the reduction of social spending, school closures, the travel ban, the oil price war and the drop of the interest rates have all impacted multiple industries:

  1. The first problem concerns the supply chain. The manufacturing and construction industries are the first to be affected as a result of factory closures in China and delayed inputs for companies in these sectors.
  2. The disruption from the reduction in social spending affected all store-based retail. Hospitality companies were also hit hard by this pandemic.
  3. Giant hotel chains have removed thousands of job postings from their plans in the past weeks.
  4. School closures have a major impact on the economy.
  5. Health services will need to provide healthcare to all who need it.
  6. For the airline- all the bookings plunged, and that eliminated future job openings.
  7. As oil prices fell, Oil and gas companies are cutting production. And all the services that are related to these two industries will be affected as well.
  8. Lastly, According to S&P Global, Lower interest rates will impact banks’ profitability in the future.

What does this all mean? If you’ve been looking for jobs with the companies in these industries, you need to have a back-up plan. You should also target the business that is not negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Source: Economic Policy Institute “What to watch on jobs day”, March 5, 2020; S&P Global “COVID-19 And Falling Rates Cloud The Outlook For U.S. Financial Institutions”, March 10, 2020; Forbes “Coronavirus Pandemic Hits The Job Market”, March 12, 2020; Univision News “Perfect storm: coronavirus and an oil price war lead US towards recession”, March 11, 2020

Jobless Claims Jump

The US Department of Labor reported 281,000 unemployment claims during the week of March 14. Currently, all travel-related jobs are the main affected group. The unemployment rate in the US will continue to increase. This pandemic certainly makes job searching more challenging in the future whether you’re a domestic or an international student.

However, many companies are still looking for skilled workers. Our student members at ICAway are still receiving job interviews. For many of you who do not have a career coach, you need to adapt to the change as quickly as possible. And here’s good news. The growing spread of coronavirus has increased a demand for certain jobs. Let’s find out what these jobs are and what companies are still looking for employees.


According to Glassdoor Economic Research, there is an increase in job postings for researchers, communications specialists, data analysts, and more. When I read the job descriptions, it reconfirms me even more that ideal workers for most employers at this time are multilingual and culturally competent. The reason is that this pandemic is a global issue. In my opinion, this is the perfect timing for International students to look for ways to apply your skills and knowledge for jobs that emerged due to the coronavirus.

Companies will start hiring when the business is doing well. As this pandemic requires all companies to implement a telecommunications policy, certain software companies that provide the ability to work remotely are already seeing increased demand. So this is one of the industries that I’d like you to keep monitoring for future job openings.

Another interesting fact is that millions of people are now staying home. This will increase revenue for streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and many more. Therefore, it would be a great idea to stay tuned with their job openings this year.

Are there Networking Opportunities?

Events are canceled. Professionals are busy with Emergency and Crisis Management Plans. Will this stop you from networking with US professionals? It won’t. There are so many virtual networking approaches.

You can attend a webinar where you can listen to a speaker who is working in the field you want to get into. After the webinar, you can send out a personalized message to thank them and ask to connect via LinkedIn and eventually on the phone.

Some professional affiliations have also started networking platforms. For example, Ascend, the largest Pan-Asian professional community in North America. Ascend has launched Ascend Café. This is the platform where you’ll be able to network with people who work in the MNC or in one of the Big 4 consulting firms. Maybe you’ll be able to find your future mentor who will help you grow your career in the field you love! Check out how to maintain relationships with potential mentors in our previous blog.

My recommendations

If your OPT has already started/is about to start

If your OPT has already started but you haven’t been so successful with job interviews, you can also look for opportunities to volunteer your skills. Doing so will stop the 90-day unemployment allowance clock, so you can maintain your F-1 status. Contact your DSO at the International Student Services Office at your university to confirm what volunteering opportunities you can pursue.

Whether your OPT has already started or is about to start soon, you will need to practice video calls until you feel comfortable with it. Check out our latest Podcast about job interview tips with Angela Jiang, a professional services director at a Big 4 Accounting firm.

If you still have time

If you are still in school and have some time (6 months or more), this is a perfect time for you to evaluate your skills for job searching. Which job search skills do you need improvement on the most:

  • Is it the interviewing skill? Did you get lots of interviews but didn’t get an offer?
  • Is it your resume? Do you apply for jobs online a lot but hardly get any interviews?
  • Is it your networking skills? Did you try to reach out to people and ask for referrals but none of them worked out?
  • Or something else?

Once you figure out what it is, it’s time to take action! Find an opportunity to acquire the right skills to successfully look for jobs. So, instead of worrying about things that are out of our control, I’d recommend that you spend your time on your personal growth and building your muscle for the job searching. And when everything comes back to normal, you can bounce back quickly and grab the opportunities that come in front of you faster than the other candidates.

Take care of yourself

Many of you may say “Coach Kwan, that’s easier said than done! All this bad news around me really makes me worried and I can’t concentrate on any personal growth activities at all!”

Dr. Henderson has shared in the webinar that it’s pretty common that during this time of certainty some of us may worry. We may experience problems with sleep or short temper, as well as many other symptoms.
Once we are aware that these things may occur, the next step is to ask ourselves, “What do I need to do to take care of myself?’’

Dr. Henderson recommends that you take breaks from absorbing stressed-related information and take good care of yourself. You can set a limit on how much time you spend on your phone. Then, adjust your self-care routine. Talk to your loved one. Focus on your goals. Reframe your thinking from “I am stuck at home” to “I finally have time for some self-development that I kept postponing!”

It’s a great time to connect with others. Choose to connect with those people who build you up and not bring you down. Finally, seek mental health professionals in your area if you need additional help with this adjustment. At ICAway, we have a Facebook Group “ICAway Dream Team” , where former and current International Students meet and share inspirations, challenges, and tips on job opportunities in the US.

My message to you is: do not give up. Instead, focus on possibilities while staying relevant to the demand and needs in the market. Remember that ideal candidates for employers at this time are those who are multilingual and culturally competent.

So, think of yourself as a problem solver and find what YOU can offer them. For example, if you earned a degree in Educational Technology, sell your skills as an online course creator. Show the world how to transfer all in-person learning to online learning in the most effective way.


As promised, here are my answers to the rest of the questions that students asked during the live session, but we ran out of time to cover all of them:

1. I was going to start my internship this Monday but it got canceled because of the coronavirus. Do you think that I can talk to them and ask if I can work in the future? As I am graduating and they told me they won’t know if the program will happen.

Some internships may be canceled due to different reasons, including disruptions from the coronavirus. For instance, a company might experience a supply chain issue or the like. Or the internship program doesn’t allow for people to work remotely. Our recommendation is that you find a new internship with another company. You can definitely maintain a connection with this employer as part of a networking strategy. Make sure that they remember you. Once the social distancing protocol is over, you can also ask to reconnect over a cup of coffee. Try to shift your focus from “Give me a job” to “How are you? How is your business? Here’s how I can help…”

2. Do you think Healthcare and Fresh Produce will be increasing their hiring efforts? It depends. From what we see on the news and with the general consumer demand at this time, there will obviously be an increased need for health products and services in fresh food delivery. However, the impact of the pandemic on these sectors will be a mix of potentially positive and negative economic effects due to supply chain issues.
An Update as of April 10, 2020 !!! For Fresh Produce, read this regarding the impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture.

3. Would journalism increase in demand? For journalists who work in the media and entertainment sector, please note that the sector has been hit hard by the pandemic. Major sports leagues such as the NBA are either suspending the rest of their seasons or delaying the start of their seasons. I found this article discussing career trends for journalists very informative.

4. Do you think it is a good idea to go back to my home country this summer with everything that has been going on? If you plan to travel, please make sure that you keep updated with the CDC updates and regulations. Check out COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country.

5. What do you think the likelihood is of the US government extending the number of unemployment days for students beginning OPT in April and May due to this crisis? Please contact your ISSO for all OPT regulations. Please also stay up to date with the USCIS Response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Unfortunately, we don’t know what’s going to happen. Please follow the current policy at this time.

6. My OPT actually expires in July 2020 and I am still in the job search/interviewing process. I am wondering when would be the deadline for me to land a position that can sponsor me an H-1B visa? I’d recommend that you find other solutions beyond H-1B to maintain your status by seeking a skilled immigration attorney to discuss your case with. You can look for a lawyer in a directory such as and choose a lawyer who practices immigration law. You can contact your ISSO at your university to ask for a recommendation. For your general information, here are key dates for H-1B:

  1. February 24: Prospective petitioners may begin creating H-1B registrant accounts. Representatives may create an account at any time.
  2. March 1: H-1B registration period opens at noon ET.
  3. March 20: H-1B registration period closes at noon ET.
  4. March 31: Date by which USCIS intends to notify selected registrants.
  5. April 1: The earliest date that FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions may be filed.

Final Word

Don’t forget that you are not alone. You have a great support system that you should utilize during these uncertain times.

Source: American Immigration Lawyers Association: H-1B Registration Tool

7. Do you think that the virus situation is going to be the same throughout the summer? Please keep monitoring the updates from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention at

8. What advice do you have to be effective on LinkedIn for networking during this time? Focus on boosting your career brand. Follow professionals in the field that you’d like to get into. Join groups. Post informative and professional updates. Optimize your keywords on your profile. To earn more about LinkedIn networking techniques, check out our previous blog Remove job search barriers for international students by using LinkedIn.

9. How can we reach out to the recruiters or connect with professionals during this time of COVID-19? You can use LinkedIn or ask your current connections to introduce you to your target professionals. Keep in mind that during this time all networking approaches will be virtual. I’d like you to be twice as proactive and ask to connect via a phone call or Zoom conference call. Respect their time and be courteous about what’s going on around them.

10. Is it a good time to post relevant articles and achievements on LinkedIn to gain traction? It is ALWAYS a good time to post articles and achievements. If you’d like to talk about your achievements, such as earning a certification, you can add some personal touch in your message. For example, “ It hasn’t been easy during this #COVID-19 crisis, but I’m working on shifting my focus to personal growth. As a result, I have completed a SQL training on LinkedIn Learning. My target for this week is to earn more knowledge and skills in data analysis as my dream career is to be a data analyst in the technology sector.”

  1. For anything related to your F1 status and work authorization, contact your ISSO.
  2. If you have anxiety and need a professional counselor, universities typically offer students counseling services. You can also check out the ADAA website to get helpful expert tips and resources to cope with Coronavirus Anxiety.
  3. If you are currently working on campus and have questions about financial support or sick leave, contact your employer.
  4. For any health-related issues, emergency preparedness or your safety, the CDC website is the best resource.
  5. If a career search is your main focus and you are looking for a strategy to find jobs, this is what ICAway is for. We have a complete solution that will help you build networking skills and develop a career brand for American employers. Check out our ICAway Talent Platform for more information.

The information in this article, or in links provided by this article, are not to be misconstrued as health-related advice or a recommendation regarding any of the COVID-19 issues or problems. Nothing in this article should be interpreted in any way as constituting the giving of COVID-19 related advice. We insist that all attendees seek updates from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on anything related to COVID-19. The information provided within this article is not a substitute for COVID-19 advice. This article is not designed to and does not provide individual advice.

All of the content is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of a qualified resource regarding any issues you have interest in. You should not disregard professional advice or refrain from seeking professional advice because of anything contained in this material. The information contained herein is general and educational in nature. Under no circumstances shall the International Career Advisory Inc. and the presenters be liable for any actions taken or omissions made from reliance on any information contained herein from whatever source nor shall the International Career Advisory Inc. and the presenters be liable for any other consequences from any such reliance.