I had a chat with a former international student last night about his successful path to getting H1B visa sponsorship. Like many international students in the U.S. he graduated from his degree program without a full time job offer and had to quickly find employment before the 90-day limit on his F-1 visa. Because of the difficulty in finding paid employment, he decided to volunteer at an organization aligned with his career ambitions.
Score an H1b Visa by Volunteering
Volunteering has its challenges: some organizations are afraid to accept international student volunteers for fear of appearing to exploit free labor, or because of the uncertainty surrounding their legal status as a potential employee. The student I spoke to was able to arrange a minimal weekly stipend (which probably helped the company put him on the books as an employee) and therefore satisfy the employment requirements of his F-1 visa.
Beyond satisfying the legal employment requirements, his volunteering experience also helped him build a network of professionals in his field. What began as a several month stint as a volunteer turned into a 12 month experience delivering value to his employer and providing him experience. When the student became a candidate for a related job with a different company, he was able to call on the connections he’d made as a volunteer to lever the employment referral network and land the job.
In my book, I tout the informational interview as the most powerful tool in a student’s networking arsenal. I’d add volunteering as an additional technique. It takes a little more time, and certainly requires some sacrifices; but it can built you a powerful network of colleagues who have intimate familiarity with your work and can vouch for you when you need a referral.