What To Do When Your 90-Day Unemployment Period Is Running Out
Updated: May 27
Five Steps To Take If You Are Unemployed Under Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Dear Coach Kwan,
HELP! I am now nearing the end of the 90-day unemployment period of my OPT and have not found employment yet. I am not ready to go back home just yet—what should I do?
A panicking unemployed international student
Around this time of the year, I get a lot of messages from international students such as the one above, as their 90-day unemployment period comes to an end. At this point, many May graduates who hoped that three months would be enough time to land a job offer have hit the reality wall. The job market is tough to crack—even more so for international students. To you, I say this: take a deep breath, follow the 5 steps I have outlined for you and you will be fine.
1) Stop soul searching and start being specific about your goal
Employers will not hire you because you tell them that you want to learn. Employers will hire you because you have the right skills to solve their business problems and you are passionate about helping them achieve their goals. Don’t just blindly apply—you need to narrow down your job search and be more specific about the jobs you are applying for and which industries you are applying to. For instance, an MBA international student, your career paths and job opportunities for MBA graduates can be various e.g. Management Consultant, Marketing Manager, Sales Manager, etc. Instead of distributing your resume to multiple companies in different roles, please pause and think about your specific skill sets and past experience and use them as your selling points for your job applications. If you are open to any job, you will not be a strong candidate.
2) Target a stepping stone instead of giant corporations
Connect with small to medium-sized companies that have been around for more than 5 years with sustainable revenue - those companies can be flexible with their hiring policy and be willing to hire international students if they are short of manpower. Since you have a limited amount of time, larger companies may not be the right target as there are multiple layers to the hiring process. For small to medium-sized companies, you may have access to the top guys who can make a decision to hire you if they like you. After you have built your profile and expanded your knowledge in the industry with these companies, you will become a more desirable candidate who is ready to jump into bigger companies. Large companies select to sponsor experienced hires over entry-level candidates.
3) Take the unlikely route
On average, only 2% of online applicants are called in for interviews. For international students, the odds are even tougher, as not all jobs posted online clearly indicate whether or not they hire international students. You need to use other methods. Use your connections and really put yourself out there—you might hear about great opportunities from the most unlikely sources. Remember: if you don’t put yourself out there, people won’t know you exist and are available.
4) Develop a Plan B
Find options that allow you to stay past the 90 days period. The term “employed” is not as specific as you might think. As long as you are working for 20 hours a week, be it paid or unpaid that's related to your course of study, you are abiding by OPT terms of employment.
According to this announcement, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.
Find other options, such as temporary jobs or volunteering positions, that will allow you to remain in the country. Please contact your International Student Services at your school to ensure eligibility. If you are not familiar with the job market and specific industries, it is tough for students to find jobs within 3 months. If you don’t have connections, your search time will augment to an average of 5 to 6 months. Maintain your status with your plan B while continuing your search for jobs.
5) Find a Community to Support You
Join a community that helps you move forward. There are many professional affiliations out there where you can build your professional skills and connect with the professionals who you want to be like in the future such as Ascend Leadership, the largest Pan-Asian leadership non-profit organization in North America. At ICAway, we also have a Facebook closed group for International Students so please make sure that you check this out today and request to join our group!
Have you checked out our flagship program? the ICAway Talent platform
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