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Connecting UW Students and Employers

Job Search for International Students

Please note: If you are already in a major, your home career services office may have major-specific career resources to aid you in your search.

International students have specific restrictions regarding employment both prior to and following graduation. If you have not, be sure to visit the International Student Services office located in the Red Gym at 716 Langdon Street (608-262-2044) to learn more about programs for international students. The ISS office is your main resource for your work authorization questions, but the Co-op office can also provide you with information regarding the two types of work authorization for F-1 visa holders: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

As an international student, you may have already discovered many things are different in the U.S. than in your home country. The job search and employment aspects probably will be quite different. Following are a few suggestions to help you prepare for a successful employment experience in the United States.

Finding a Job
The two major tools used in a job search are a resume and cover letter. These tools are used to introduce you to the employer and request an interview. The two documents in the United States may differ significantly from how they are completed in your home country. Please see the Job Search Basics section for more information on U.S. resumes and cover letters.

As part of the job search, you will be required to interview. During an interview, you meet with representatives from the employing organization to discuss your qualification for the job. Your objective in an interview is to convince the employer that you are the most qualified person for the position.

It is important to make a positive impression in the interview. These factors are important in creating a positive professional image:

On the Job - Questions/Notes
College students are often given positions with significant responsibility. It is important to ask questions and seek out additional work when you encounter a slow period. When you begin, take a note pad to record important information. While it is important to ask questions, you shouldn't be asking the same question several times. Keep in mind that it is always better to ask a question than to assume you know the answer.

Communication Skills
It is important to use the best possible English in all of your communication whether it be e-mail, a letter or interpersonal. U.S. work culture strongly emphasizes the importance of communication skills. Engineering students tend to concentrate on technical skills and overlook communication. It is a mistake to do so.

A positive attitude is very important in order to succeed in an organization. Volunteer to take on additional tasks and be enthused to do so. Maintain the highest level of professional behavior at the work site. Do not use e-mail, telephones or the Internet for personal communication. Focus on your level of professionalism and not that of other workers. A high standard of ethics will also be important.

Supervisor/Co-worker Relationships
Several international students have mentioned a lack of personal connection with supervisors and co-workers. In most situations, personal interaction is limited to social events organized by the employer or a supervisor. People in the U.S. tend to develop friendships outside of their employment situation through neighborhood or community involvement. Each situation will be different.

Performance Reviews
Employers will periodically conduct formal performance reviews. Ask your supervisor on your first day of employment for the format and timeframe of your evaluations. At this time, inquire about his/her objectives for your work assignment. It is important to know your supervisor's expectations at the beginning of the job.

It is highly recommended that you read First-Job Survival Guide by Andrea Sutcliffe before beginning your first job in the U.S. It is easy to read and has a great deal of important information to help you be successful! Specific scenarios are discussed in the book, and copies are available for loan in the Engineering Career Services office.

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