Building Your New Network in the U.S. is Not That Hard
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Going through the traditional job search online is tough because only about 2% of applicants get the interview. For international students it can be even tougher because of the immigration screening questions that you will experience at the beginning of the application process. Moreover, when many medium to large companies clearly state that they do not have the work visa sponsorship policy, there is nothing that you can do to change their minds.
However, if you are able to build meaningful connections with a business professional, then there is a possibility that you can be referred straight to the hiring manager of a company that’s in demand for talent and is flexible with their hiring policy. Therefore, it is your connections that can help you bypass the traditional job search online, jump over the “immigration question hurdle” , and help get you the job interview of your dreams.
Change the Way You Think About Networking
When you hear the word “networking” you may think of a situation in which you simply exchange business cards with as many business professionals as you possibly can and wait until someone contacts you. Or maybe you think of going to a business conference and trying to impress as many business professionals as you can in hopes that one will give you the golden opportunity of working or interning at their company. Sadly, not only are these two approaches unrealistic, but they are also not very effective when it comes to building your network. Instead of thinking of networking as a business transaction, think of it as building meaningful connections with business professionals.
The goal of building meaningful connections is to connect deeper with business professionals by forming mentorships where both you and the business professional are learning about each other. These connections are important because they are more impactful and long lasting than simply handing a person your business card. More importantly, you will be able to find mentors that can help you in your future career.
Different Ways to Connect
Both online and in-person networking are important ways for international students to expand their network. The U.S. has several major cities so online networking can be especially helpful for students to connect with business professionals outside their region. Some examples of online networking include utilizing email, LinkedIn, social media, or even phone calls.
A common mistake international students make when networking on LinkedIn, is that you may be too straightforward and only reach out to people because you want to have a job in a specific company. An important question to ask yourself is, “Did you reach out to people with the mindset of job seeking or to build a meaningful connection?" If your sole intent is to look for work without building a meaningful connection, consider changing your approach. Find people that you're genuinely interested in and ask yourself how you can help them.
A professional career counselor, Ed Brodka, from University of Buffalo, has mentioned that being “on” LinkedIn is like attending a huge (400 million attendees) professional development networking conference that never ends. Check out his article by clicking the link above to benefit from his tips!
A common mistake that international students make is that you may be too formal and write lengthy emails. Some things to remember when networking through email are addressing the email to someone specific and having a friendly and professional tone. For example, greeting with “Hi” or Hello” followed by the name of the recipient instead of using “Dear”. When it comes to length of the networking email, your message should be no more than five sentences as a sign that you want to respect their time. The Huffington Post has resources like The 1 Email Successful People Never Send to further help you achieve success through email networking.
You may be afraid of going on a call because of your accent or because you know Americans can speak very fast at times and you may not be able to understand them. But phone networking is unavoidable because it helps you connect with people beyond the town or city you are living in. For example, if you are a software engineering student at a school in Lincoln, Nebraska, you may want to connect with someone who works in a tech firm in California to introduce yourself and learn more about the industry and the work that he/she does.
Phone calls are the most personal type of online networking because you have the opportunity to talk with a business professional live. Similar to email networking, you should begin a phone call with a friendly and professional introduction. Begin by stating your first and last name and asking a sociable question such as “How are you?”. It’s important to not overthink the call and instead strive to engage with the business professional in a genuine way.
Are you originally from a country that speaking with a stranger is an awkward behavior? I know my home country (Thailand) definitely has that culture! It will take a bit time for you to adjust but you can simply start practicing this skill by observing and taking note of how Americans speak to others in public. To help you further prepare for your next networking event, here’s the 12 Networking Do’s and Don’ts For International Students that will help you network effectively.
When it comes to building your network, you can start small by engaging with people that you meet in your everyday life. Whether at a coffee shop or at a business conference, it is important for you to constantly create opportunities to engage with new people – you never know who you might end up talking to!
I wish you all the best with your new chapter in the U.S!
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