• Kwan Segal

Gear Up for 2020 International Student Job Search Challenges

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

Dear Coach Kwan,

It’s a new decade, and I want to make the best of it. However, news out there is quite discouraging for an International Student like myself. I feel like finding jobs in the US as an International Student is much harder than before. As you always teach us to be positive while setting a realistic goal, could you please advise the key challenges that I should look out for this year and an approach for me to better position myself in the US job market?


A career-driven and trying-to-be optimistic student.

As the new year rolls around, International Students are being shown more and more opportunities to further their professional careers. While we encourage our students to move towards these opportunities, we also wanted to point out a few key challenges International Students will face in 2020.

Let’s take some time to find out!

What To Look Forward To

1. Economy Is Good

Deloitte Insights

Let’s start with the positives. According to Deloitte, the unemployment rate in the US is predicted to increase to 4% in 2020. Goldman Sachs is even more optimistic and it predicts that the US unemployment rate will drop to 3.25% by the end of 2020. The last time the jobless rate was that low was in October 1953.

Either way, the US economy has been doing very well in recent years, and unemployment will remain steady. We can especially infer this from the consumer spending observed in recent years. Consumers are comfortable spending, implying that they have confidence in the economy’s stability. The finance industry is not predicting a significant shift in the economy, which can only help International Students. When the economy is good, everybody wins.

Learn More: United States Economic Forecast Fourth Quarter 2019

2. Demand Is High

At ICAway, we strongly believe as long as International Students learn to keep up to date with the job demand trends and be able to fill the gaps, they will have higher chances to be chosen as a candidate.

According to the SHRM Skills Gap report, American corporations have been struggling to find properly educated and skilled workers to fill positions. Many companies have turned to H-1B visas and are willing to bypass the red tape set up by the Trump Administration. So although H-1B filings will decrease due to the tightening immigration policy, we don’t believe that the drop will be too significant.

This drop will likely be nonexistent for International Students who hold an advanced degree or skill, as American companies will be willing to put aside resources for these high-value students. Check out these top ten tech skills that employers are looking for in 2020 and choose to develop your career profile for jobs that are hard-to-fill.

3. You Can Get Your Foot In The Door via Effective Networking Approaches

Traditional recruitment processes include immigration screening questions such as, “Do you need work sponsorship in the future?” For the reasons we’ll be looking over soon, Employers tend to hesitate to invite candidates who need work sponsorship in the future for job interviews.

However, if the students get a chance to present their skills before talking about work sponsorship, the success rate will always be higher. Therefore, International Students need to be able to bypass the traditional job search process and its immigration screening questions. They also need to have great networking skills to find these hidden job markets.

At ICAway, We have developed a comprehensive step by step coaching program to help International Students build meaningful connections with US professionals and develop an effective career brand that US employers are looking for.

We have videos, tools, templates, and discussion features that students can ask questions to us and we will respond within 24 hours.

If you’d like to learn more about our flagship program “ICAway Talent Platform” please click the link below.

What To Watch Out For

Problem One: Career Search Mindset

While many International Students may be well educated and skilled, the vast majority struggle with properly marketing themselves. When we ask International Students about their career goals, the majority of them will say, “I’m looking for an employer who sponsors.” One thing we should keep in mind is that even though companies have sponsored in the past, it doesn’t mean that they will sponsor all candidates.

Moreover, cultural differences could also become key barriers for International Students when they need to present their achievements or past experience in a compelling way. At ICAway, we believe that one of the best ways to get around this is to develop a career brand. Here are some helpful statistics that will show you why a career brand is so important:

1. Hiring managers will only take an average of six seconds to decide whether to keep or trash a candidate’s resume.

2. 98% of job seekers are eliminated at the initial resume screening, with only a “Top 2%” making it to an actual interview.

Some students feel that, maybe if they apply for as many jobs as they can in a week, they might have higher chances of getting employment. Surprisingly, there were many International Students that reached out to us for help as they have applied for at least 1,000 jobs in the US and haven’t been successful. We don’t advocate a numbers game as an effective job search strategy.

Solution: Career Branding

International Students need to position themselves as problem solvers, not job seekers. Instead of searching for an employer who will sponsor, we’d recommend that students put on a consultant’s hat and explore the challenges that employers are facing and present how you can use your skills and knowledge to solve such problems.

Employers are like consumers. They are the shoppers and you are the product! To get picked out from the others, you need to respond to your consumers’ needs and differentiate yourself from other products! Your resume & LinkedIn are like your product packaging- make sure it’s appealing.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Am I branding myself as a job seeker or as an expert in my field?

Effective networking approaches will give you higher chances to present yourself in front of the hiring manager. However, your resume needs to tell good stories as well. Because you only have six seconds to appeal to the hiring manager, you have to make sure that your resume carries your career brand. Here are some steps to arrive with an effective career brand:

First: Define Your Career Goal

Second: Research the Job Requirement

Third: Find Your Selling Points

Forth: Develop Your Career Brand on All Channels: Resume, LinkedIn and many more

You can also start with evaluating if your resume falls into any of these 7 major pitfalls.

Problem Two: Extra Scrutiny to the H-1B Program

Over the last couple of years, the Trump Administration has pushed many rules, memos, and policies onto the H-1B visa program. According to RedBus2US.com and USCIS Announcements, some of these changes include:

  1. New policy memo for third party worksite for H-1Bs

  2. New guidance on Level 1 wage positions

  3. Options to report H-1B fraud

  4. More site visits

  5. Changes in USCIS website on STEM OPT employment at Third-Party site

  6. August 9th unlawful presence memo for F1 students

  7. New NTA Memo to prevent overstays and public safety, etc. (Including many other H-1B Visa Bills that are in house & senate)

  8. $10 Fee for H-1B Visa Registration (For petitioners seeking to file H-1B petitions on behalf of cap-subject aliens)

  9. Implementation of H-1B Electronic Registration Process for 2021

Check out this prediction of H-1B applications in 2020.

These stricter guidelines and policies have two goals: restrict the abuse of the H-1B program by bad actors and to encourage employers to hire local American workers. These new rules are especially hard on outsourcing firms which file H-1B petitions and employ students offsite. It decreases filing from these firms significantly. As for average American businesses, these policies and the financial repercussions for not understanding them have made them hesitant to put aside resources to properly deal with them.

In short, it might be easier for businesses to not even bother with International Students. This worried us, so we will talk more about this with ICAway Immigration Attorney friend Arthur Serratelli in our podcast. If you’d like to leave a question for us to ask him, please click here.

Solution: You Are a Premium Product

As we mentioned earlier, there are many companies that are willing to bypass this red tape to hire employees. You simply need to put yourself out there to let them know you’re one of these “premium products” which they should put more resources towards acquiring.

Do this by developing your career brand beyond your resume. LinkedIn is a great social media platform to show off your professional skills and abilities. It also allows you to start networking directly with professionals and professional employers, which will help you stand out even more.

If an employer believes that you are an employee that they cannot risk losing, you will quickly find yourself in an optimal position, with job offers coming to you from every channel.

We have free resources to share career search tips for International Students. But if you really want to take your career opportunities to the next level, then you should definitely check out our flagship program, ICAway Talent Platform, and learn all important techniques in building professional connections and creating a career brand for an effective job search.

Click the link below to learn more.

About Coach Kwan

Kwan is an experienced human-capital consultant. Her past corporate experience includes global organizations like Deloitte, Accenture, and BMW.

Kwan moved to the U.S. in 2014, earned her Senior Professional HR certification from HRIC and joined one of the world's most prestigious consulting firms as a Senior Consultant of Human Capital Consulting Practice and managed multiple projects for Fortune 500 clients.

Today, Kwan is the CEO and Founder of ICAway, an educational consulting firm based out of Chicago. Our mission is to be an empowering community for international students and light the way for students to find jobs in the U.S.

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