The Job Search: Getting Started

Getting started with a realistic and smart approach

As an international student, can I 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 due to regulations and immigration laws. Become an expert by connecting with the OISSS. For F-1 students, there are two types of off-campus work authorization: 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 experience 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.  Several undergraduate concentrations have a Professional Track option which facilitates the use of CPT for summer internships.

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 position related to your studies.  Unlike CPT, OPT can also be used after graduation. Students studying in STEM fields may be eligible for a two-year extension for a total of three years of OPT.

If you plan to stay with your employer beyond the end of your OPT, you will need to be “sponsored” by the employer for an employment visa – not necessarily a complicated process, but often an intimidating one to those unfamiliar with the guidelines. The H-1B visa is commonly used to sponsor a non-immigrant in a specialty occupation – a position that requires specialized knowledge and a Bachelor’s degree or higher. 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 (65,000 with20,000 more for advanced degree recipients).


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How should I prepare for the job search?

In addition to learning about work authorization requirements, there are other important processes to familiarize yourself with in preparation for a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity. This is where advising at CareerLAB is helpful.

  • Your job search documents, including a resume, are integral to a successful job search. Resumes take different forms in different countries and across sectors, so it is important to prepare accordingly.CareerLAB peer career advisors will show you how to tell your 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 peer career 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 in the U.S. often 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 include “small talk,” a conversation about low-stakes topics meant to build a rapport between individuals. Small talk  typically starts an interview, and involves 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. If you want to practice your small talk skills, learn more about appropriate and inappropriate topics of conversation, and non-verbal communication, English Language Support has programs to support students whose native language is not English.
  • Networking  is the process of having a career conversation to gather information or advice in order to explore careers or search for employment opportunities. Networking is a strategy to make connections, gather information, and seek advice. Networking is an essential job search skills because it can help you to learn more about a career that interests you, seek advice for your job search, and build professional contacts. Networking conversations can happen with friends, classmates, professors, Brown alumni, and members of community organizations. It is reported that 70-80% of jobs are found through networking and developing relationships.

    There are several strategies for making a networking contact. As a Brown student, you have access to BrownConnect, where you can contact alumni working in industries that might interest you. You can also use the Brown University LinkedIn page to search alumni by industry, job, and country of residence. Peer Career advisors can also help you develop effective networking skills and strategies.

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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 an H1-B visa by focusing their studies on technology, business, computer science, engineering, and medicine. Students are encouraged to seek employers from their home country working in the US, or owners of companies from their home country.

Here is another resource:

  • At MyVisaJobs, find H1-B sponsors by industry, state and more.

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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 should be to demonstrate your competence for a given position during an in-person interview. . Conversations about work authorization might be prompted by your potential employer. Common questions about authorization include: “Do you need sponsorship? Do you need work authorization? Do you require sponsorship now or in the future?”  It is important to be knowledgeable about work authorization requirements so that you are prepared to answer employers’ questions. If you are unsure about the specifics of CPT, OPT, or STEM OPT, please contact OISSS. 

If you are not asked about sponsorship, it is recommended that you take initiative to disclose your need for eventual full-time sponsorship. We suggest that you begin this discussion 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 attorney fees (you cannot legally pay H-1B filing fees).

  • If you are seeking an internship using CPT before graduating, explain to your employer that your student visa enables you to work as long as your employment is approved by your academic advisor and OISSS in advance.The employer does not need to provide visa sponsorship for the internship.
  • If you seek employment using OPT, explain to your employer that your student visa enables you to work for 12 months after graduation (or longer for STEM fields) without sponsorship from your employer. To continue working beyond OPT, your employer will have to file for a work visa for you. 
  • 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-1B 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  job search?

If you seek employment in the U.S., it is helpful to develop your career and professional goals early on. Moreover, it is important to remain informed about regulations related to work in the U.S.. CareerLAB strongly recommends the following:

  • Do not assume that what you learned your first year is accurate a few years later. Stay in touch with OISSS throughout your time at Brown to keep updated about regulations and timelines.
  • Get comfortable with networking. It is a vital skill for the U.S. 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 U.S. has different conventions than many other countries, and practicing is essential.
  • Understand which skills are most valued by employers and how to develop them. When planning for your future career, keep in mind how skills you develop at Brown will transfer into professional settings. Practice talking about your skills, abilities, and interests, particularly those valued by employers.

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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 (OPT) guidelines allow students with training in certain science and technology fields to work for up to 3 years 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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