The US Job Search: Getting Started

Getting started with a realistic and smart approach

As an international student, am I allowed to have an internship or work in the US?

Yes – but always keep in mind there are specific rules and timelines related to working in the US. This is a legal issue. Become an expert by connecting with the OISSS. As a start, the two programs you need to familiarize yourself with are Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT):

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT): CPT is designed for international students who wish to have an internship or off campus employment as part of their academic training prior to graduation. An employer does not need to sponsor you. However, you will need to demonstrate that your work or internship is an integral part of your academic program. Because most concentrations at Brown do not require internships or other practical training outside the University, you probably will not be able to use CPT during your time in college.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT): As a Brown student on an F-1 visa, you can take advantage of OPT to work for up to one year in a field related to your studies. If you would like to work for this limited time period, search for employers who have short-term positions that won’t require long-term training.
  • If you plan to stay beyond one year, you will need to be “sponsored” by the employer for an H-1B visa – not necessarily a complicated process, but often an intimidating one to those unfamiliar with the guidelines. H-1B visa sponsorship is for a non-immigrant in a specialty occupation – a position that requires specialized knowledge and a Bachelor’s degree or higher. It is a new visa, not a continuation. The visa is specific to one employer, requires filing fees, and is available for six years total, in two three-year periods. In addition, there is a cap on the number of H1-B visas available each year (approximately 65,000 for undergraduates, and 20,000 more for advanced degree recipients).

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What challenges will I face during the job search?

In additional to visa challenges, cultural differences can surface. This is where advising at CareerLAB is helpful.

  • Your job search documents, including a resume, are integral to a successful US job search. CareerLAB advisors will show you how to tell you story on paper - with impact, which means selling your experiences and skills. We know that many students are not comfortable with “selling” themselves, which is why CareerLAB’s advisors are ready to help! They are skilled at working with students to craft a polished, professional resume that reflects the knowledge and skills you’ve learned at Brown.
  • Similarly, interviewing requires that you speak with pride and confidence about your accomplishments. You’ll want to be a respectful yet active contributor to a balanced conversation. US employers are seeking employees who take initiative – the interview is your first opportunity to show this skill. Other conventions that might be new to international students include “small talk” that typically starts an interview, and non-verbal communication, such as direct eye contact and a firm handshake, which might not be the norm in your home country but are vital to successful interviewing in the US. CareerLAB offers mock interviews for all career fields, and special coaching around cultural issues for international students.
  • Networking is another essential job search skill that can feel awkward for international students. The statistic to keep in mind is that 70-80% of jobs are found through networking and developing relationships. Career advisors can help you with effective, comfortable networking.
  • Start early! Make an appointment with a Career Advisor.

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Which employers hire international students?

Some employers routinely won’t hire international students, and some routinely seek them out. Trends show that international students increase their chances of receiving and H1-B visa by focusing their studies on technology, business, computer science, engineering, and medicine. Most federal, state and local government jobs are not available, but other fields don’t consider international status a barrier. Students are encouraged to seek employers from their home country working in the US, or owners of companies from their home country. International student recruiting events, such as the annual MIT European Career Fair, can be helpful.

Here are some other resources:

  • GoingGlobal is an outstanding resource available to Brown students, includes work authorization profiles and H1-B employer listings.
  • See the listing of employers who have hired international Brown students LINK
  • Connect with “international Brown alums working in the US” via BRUnet
  • At MyVIsaJobs, fnd H1-B sponsors by industry, state and more.
  • H1-B Visa jobs sponsors charges for extensive database of employers who sponsor.

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How and when should I talk about my visa status with a potential employer?

We recommend that you do not put your citizenship on your resume or include it in your initial cover letter. Your goal is to get in for the in-person interview and show your fit for the position. You don’t want to wait too long however -- employers want honesty. We suggest that you raise the issue at the end of the first interview, or during the second – don’t wait until you have the job offer. Indicate that you are knowledgeable about sponsorship guidelines and can work closely with the employer. Sometimes it helps to indicate you have hired a lawyer, and you are willing to cover costs.

The International Careers Consortium has helpful information about the job search process in the US, including how to educate employers

  • Tell the employer you can get a 12-month authorization (or longer for science, technology, engineering or math fields) without any paperwork on their part.  The only requirement is completion of the I-9 form as with any employee.
  • Explain to your potential employer that they are not required to demonstrate a lack of US citizens qualified for the job.
  • Be sure the employer knows the H-1 visa is employer and job specific. It shows your dedication to the organization, as it can’t easily be applied to other employers.

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How can I best prepare for a successful US job search?

As an international student, you absolutely must be well prepared for the job search, and must stay well informed about changes in federal law pertaining to non-citizens aspiring to work in the US following graduation. CareerLAB strongly recommends the following:

  • Do not assume that what you learned first year is accurate a few years later. Stay in touch with OISSS throughout your time at Brown about updated regulations and timelines.
  • Get comfortable with networking. It is a vital skill for the US job search. Remember – CareerLAB advisors can help you with this!
  • Make a commitment to connect with CareerLAB to build your skills along the way. Allocate time to come to workshops and meet with an Advisor.
  • Take advantage of mock interviews –interviewing in the US has different conventions than many other countries, and practicing is essential.
  • Be able to articulate clearly the advantages of hiring an international student. Highlight your ability to adapt to a new culture; your facility with multiple languages and ability to study in English; and your resourcefulness, perseverance and flexibility.

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Does my concentration matter?

Students are most successful academically when pursuing a program of study well suited to their interests and abilities. Moreover, Brown alumni with varied concentrations have pursued successful careers in many fields. As you consider your concentration choice, we urge you to think carefully about the best match for your skills and interests.

At the same time, you should also be aware that Optional Practical Training guidelines allow students with training in certain science and technology fields to work for up to 29 months in the United States (as opposed to the standard 12 months). No such preference for science and technology skills exists for H-1B work visas.

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