• Kwan Segal

Job Search Game Plan for Class of 2021👩‍🎓👨‍🎓

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

Dear Coach Kwan,

Due to the pandemic, I’ve seen a lot of my friends who graduated in May 2020 struggling to find a job. I’m worried about my future as I’m graduating next May in 2021. How do I make the job search process painless next year?

Class of 2021 International Students

I’ve heard many concerns just like yours, and I understand. It’s a scary time, but it’s important to know that there are people in the same boat as yours who do end up successful, even before graduation. Let me tell you a short story about a student of mine named Maria who landed a job of her dreams in the US during the pandemic.

Maria is an international student from Colombia who attends Bay Atlantic University in Washington, D.C. When she came to the United States, she realized that job searching in the U.S. was much different than in her home country. She got in touch with me only a few months after she got to the U.S. She worked diligently with me to build skills in networking and develop a career brand for the U.S. job market. When she became eligible for her CPT (Curriculum Practical Training), she got a job offer from a company in Maryland. After only a couple of weeks at a job, her employer started to discuss ways that they can offer a full-time position for her and sponsor her in the future.

Because Maria invested in her career development early, made meaningful connections, and grasped essential skills early on, she was able to land the job of her dreams with no issues. See our ICAway High Success Plan below:

Start this process early, even before you are authorized to work. This will make the job search painless before you graduate.

I completely understand how overwhelming it is as an international student when you move to a new country and try to settle in. You may feel that investing your time in career development can be something that you can push out until you really need a job and you may wait until you’re close to graduation.

To increase the success rate of landing a job, I’d like to encourage you to start as soon as you can, even within a few months of coming to this country. Here are some benefits you will get from early career development, besides simply landing a job early.

1. You’ll have more time to learn new skills.

Career development is not just about landing a job. Starting the career development process early not only lets you acknowledge the skills that you already need for your potential job, but also gives you adequate time to learn that set of skills.

By realizing your career goal and understanding the skills that your desired employer needs early, you will be able to acquire them before it’s time to land a job. Some students realize there’s a particular key skill they don’t have in the career they want; if they wait until they graduate to start working on it, they will have a very short timespan to obtain that skill.

Right now, there’s a talent war going on in the job search world; landing one is all about the technical skills you possess compared to the other candidates.

2. Build new connections.

According to PayScale, around 85 percent of jobs are filled by networking or referrals. Take the time long before graduating to build these connections for a painless job search when you’re done with school. Procrastination does not help with networking.

The important thing to remember here is that people give people jobs; humans give other humans jobs, not the job portals. People will give employment to someone they like, so how can you make someone like you? Some people are naturally charismatic, but not everyone is--not everyone can land a job through their personality alone. It’s about relationship-building, finding someone that trusts you enough to advocate for you strongly, and building a reputation for future referrals.

Networking that yields results is not just about sending people messages and asking for job referrals. The best networking approach is to engage U.S. professionals as your mentors, make them trust in your capabilities and turn them to your career advocates.

Building relationships and trust takes time. Early career searching allows you to have time to prove your worth and create a good impression on prospective employers, future full-time opportunities, or H-1B sponsorship.

3. No 90-day OPT stress.

“I am worried and anxious as my OPT is about to start soon” is something that I hear all the time when students start a program with me after graduation. Don’t you agree with me that your life will be so great if you get a job offer before your OPT starts?

To get a job before your OPT starts, I strongly recommend that you develop your career brand and build your professional network a year before you need a job.

As an international student, you have limitations of your work authorization, like a 90-day unemployment allowance and OPT (one to three years). This means every day counts during those 90 days, and it’s better to start career development early rather than regret it later. Job searching early could land you your dream job before the deadline of your 90-day OPT unemployment allowance.

If you do start within that 90-day time frame, there are some steps you can take to land a job, but you will have limited options.

And remember, career development is not just about getting a job. It’s about finding mentors, creating a portfolio, and gaining meaningful relationships. Starting this process early by taking these steps will make the job search painless when you finally graduate.

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.

Connect with Coach Kwan on LinkedIn

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