• COVID: Can international students still network for U.S. jobs?

    Blog | Dan
  • The gauntlet of the U.S. job search seems to be getting even more challenging for international students. Things were tough to begin with: institutional reluctance to sponsor work visas, tightening visa rules, populist sentiment against hiring foreign workers, and an increasingly competitive visa lottery. To overcome these obstacles, international students needed a strong understanding of their own value to an employer, a grasp of the hidden job market, and the guts to go out and meet people in their desired career field. And even with those assets, the lottery could (and still can) derail a student’s plans to work in the United States. Against that backdrop, enter COVID-19. Things now look impossibly bleak… or do they?

    Thousand of international students who had planned on being in the U.S. this academic year now find themselves at home, taking classes remotely, and wondering if their hopes of working in the U.S. are permanently dashed. After all, how can they build connections with people in the United States if they aren’t hear themselves?

    But could it be that COVID has actually made the connection process easier for international students? Everyone in the world is becoming an expert on building relationships and conducting business remotely. Each day we become more familiar with web conferencing tools, more patient with their idiosyncrasies and more tolerant of the minor mishaps that accompany online meetings. All professionals, from the highest executive to the lowest entry-level employee has undergone a crash course on how to do his job remotely. This spells opportunity for the international student stuck at home, and particularly those who were scared by in-person meetings to begin with.

    At the heart of the power ties job search system is informational interviewing. That is, holding research conversations with experts in your field for the purposes of gathering insights and building a relationship. Relationships are what fuel hiring decisions and open jobs for international students. Informational interviews were traditionally held in person. Meaning, it was really important for an international student to be in the U.S. to set up and hold these meetings. All that has changed.

    There are still plenty of formidable obstacles to finding a job in the United States, but connecting with people (perhaps the most intimidating) need not be the nightmare international students anticipate. Quite unexpectedly, COVID has brought all of those people much more within reach. International students may feel very far away from the action in Fall 2020, but with the world gone remote, they may be a great deal closer to a network of supporters (and U.S. job prospects) than they think!