How to Find a Summer Internship in Less than 60 Days
Is there still time for international students to find their summer internships?
I teach job search skills to international students in the U.S. Many of these students are grad students with work experience, but lately, they’ve come to me feeling hopeless. They’ve said things like, ‘The Fortune 500 company I’m targeting has stopped accepting applications’ and ‘I’ve sent my resumes everywhere for the past few months with no response.’
This reminds me of when I first moved to Chicago from Thailand. I’d had 10 years of work experience from big corporations, and an MBA from a top business school. So I thought that getting a job here shouldn’t be too hard.
I remember feeling the same way when I first moved to Chicago from Thailand. I had 10 years of experience with big corporations and an MBA from a top business school, but I was wrong to think finding a job would be easy. As an immigrant, it was hard to get my foot in the door. I went networking, asked for referrals, and applied online, but after receiving many rejections, I realized it’s not what you do, but how you do it. I changed my approach and landed a consulting position with one of the Big Four, earning a six-figure salary.
The challenge is even greater for international students who have to follow many rules and deadlines. However, with a strategic plan, they can still find an internship or job in less than 60 days. For F-1 international students, it’s important to consult with their school’s International Student Office before starting any off-campus employment. F-1 visa students are allowed to work off-campus through curricular practical training (CPT) under certain conditions, and they don’t need an employer sponsorship with their internship on CPT. Their CPT is their work authorization.
Here are five steps to help international students find their summer internship in 60 days:
Number 1: Ask Yourself, "Why do I want this internship?"
What made you set out on your internship journey in the first place? If it’s not merely a course requirement, then the most popular and appropriate answer is, and should be, “to gain experience.”
NACE job outlook survey reports that internship experience is a top deciding factor, be it an internship with the same company or industry experience. Even general work experience has a higher influence than GPA in deciding between two equally qualified candidates. In the past, a person’s major was the top influence.
Think about your internship in terms of the experience you would get out of it.
- Does it help you gain industry knowledge?
- Does it give you the opportunity to solve actual problems? (By the way, problem-solving skills is the top attribute that employers seek on a candidate’s resume)
- Will you get to interact with others to practice teamwork and communication skills?
- Will you be able to put this job on your resume and proudly talk about what you have achieved at it?
- What stories will you tell your future full-time employer during your interviews?
After all, they won’t need to hear how big your company was, what kind of cool product they made, or how splendid your office was. They want to hear what impact you have made during your internship. If you want to do a meaningful internship to help you build skills by joining the ICAway team, you can also reach out to us via this page.
Number 2: Plan and Prioritize
Create a time-based plan with your desired internship landing date and work backward, including defining your career goal, doing job market research, developing your resume, and more. Prioritize tasks carefully to avoid wasting time.
Number 3: Be Realistic and Be Focused
Know your goals and be realistic about your current situation. Consider small businesses and start-ups instead of Top Companies like Amazon and Google, which may be harder to approach. Focus on the industry and position you want to work in long-term and set SMART goals.
Which industry do you plan to work in long term? Which position are you targeting?
Those goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-limited.
Number 4: Brand Yourself
What is your area of expertise? What is your passion? Can someone say something about your expertise and experience within the first 30 seconds when he or she looks at your resume or LinkedIn?
Your career brand includes your education, knowledge, skills, achievements, experience, interests, and values. While building your career brand is a long-haul, ongoing process, it is communicated through your professional profiles such as your resume and your LinkedIn profile.
When preparing your profile for a job, clearly and realistically state your target job title. Talk about the skills and experience that the job requires of you. Talk about what motivates you to pursue this job, and what you can do to help the employer reach their goals.
Don’t forget your two most important assets as a foreigner: your mother tongue and your multicultural experience.
These four steps can be accomplished in the first week of your game plan.
Number 5: Network and Apply
This is when you start looking for internship opportunities. Plan to do all the searches in four weeks.
Many international students are not familiar with the support system that U.S. universities offer. I encourage you to visit your career services center as often as you can while talking to your academic and international advisors about all career-related matters.
Talk to your professors. Many of them have industry experience and an extended network of professionals. Many others have projects that you might want to help with.
Don’t forget to go to alumni events. Remember, your alumni don’t just come back to campus to reminisce about their college days.
They are there to network and pay forward by helping motivated students.
Communicate your career brand to your career services advisors, your professors, and the alumni you meet. Make them remember you as a strong candidate, and they might just become your advocates when the right opportunity comes up!
Go to industry conventions and events at co-working spaces. If you live in Chicago, check out 1871, which houses more than 400 digital startups, MHub if you target manufacturing, and 2112 if you are in the creative industry.
Join a professional organization such as Ascend (a non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America), SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management), Prospanica, or ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America). Check out what events or workshops are going on, and go to them.
The only place online that I encourage you to go to is LinkedIn. More and more employers are turning to LinkedIn for skilled candidates. It’s a powerful tool for connecting with the greatest professionals and finding the most quality jobs. If you do not already have a LinkedIn profile, create one and learn how to navigate it as soon as possible.
Need more advice? Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn
Finally, don’t forget that you need at least 1-2 weeks to clear your CPT paperwork before starting your internship. Please contact your international student services office (ISSO) at your school for more information.
Don't give up. With these steps, you can find your dream internship in 60 days
There are so many important networking techniques and strategic game plan that you can learn to help you find jobs in the U.S.
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