International students, from one to another, let’s talk.

Yesterday, my alma mater, The George Washington University, invited me back to speak to a group of international students about finding a job in America. It would be a standard sharing of tips and tricks for landing a job post graduation, questions about visas, interviews, and the job search, they said. What it turned out to be, was 90 minutes of vulnerable, scared, and nervous students sharing their job search woes and concerns with me. Here’s a quick round up of everything I wanted to say to everyone in the room:

Firstly, the most cliched piece of advice a twenty-something can give you: it’ll all be okay. Yes, I understand that’s easier said than done, but with 22 years of experience in this full-time job called life, I can guarantee it actually will be okay. Everything works out, seriously, it always works out. Call me naive and unnecessarily optimistic, but having this positive mindset is what got me through the most troubling times. I know it sounds like total and utter bullshit to spew positivity in an otherwise seemingly stressful time, but someone has to do it (the same does not apply to spewing hate, even though there is always that one asshole who will do it).

Second, the deluge of information that universities give us regarding finding a job can be overwhelming. What worked for me, may not work for you and vice-versa. But the key, I think, is finding a strategy that does work and sticking with it. For me, it was networking. I’m a pretty social person as is, I really enjoy talking (if you’ve met me, you know this to be 100% true), and I love getting to know people. If those are qualities you possess, may I suggest replacing those nights at da club with networking nights instead? Meeting people and making an impression is the best way to be remembered, especially when looking for a job. The best thing about networking is the fact that it can also be fun! It doesn’t feel like you’re going through the job search process, you’re just meeting and talking to people who may or may not be able to help you land a job at some point. If you approach the process of networking as more of a social activity than a professional one, you’ll feel better about doing it. That being said, it actually is a professional event, so be respectful, don’t be arrogant and aggressive, and don’t leave the event expecting a job. If networking isn’t your thing, try informational interviews. If that doesn’t work for you, get active on LinkedIn (highly recommend this). Whatever you decide to do, find the move that works for you and be consistent.

Third, Deloitte isn’t everyone’s dream job. It certainly wasn’t mine. It’s easy to be swayed by where everyone else is applying especially if you’re an international student because the main thing you look for straight off the bat is sponsorship. But remember, Deloitte, The World Bank, IMF, EY, Google, etc are hard to get into and super competitive. Granted, they’re the ones most likely to sponsor but here’s my tip: don’t let sponsorship be your sole focus. The main objective should be to just get hired after graduation. Under OPT, you’re eligible to work ANYWHERE for a year or three if you’re STEM (so jealous, can we be friends?). Take advantage of that and apply to smaller businesses, or fun jobs, or something quirky (as long as it relates to your field of study, of course). Basically, make being hired the goal, not being sponsored. Focus is so important in finding a job, if the goal is Deloitte or PwC, work towards that. Work hard and hustle, but don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out. Keep your options open, the smaller guys are great too, take it from me.

I’m not an expert but I’ve been there and damn have I done that. You will get hired, just be persistent and determined. And remember, if OPT doesn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be and that’s okay. There is something bigger and better on the horizon. There are 100-something countries in this big beautiful world of ours, take a leap of faith and go forth and conquer, my friends. Wishing all of you the best of luck in your job search endeavors. I’m always around to help as best as I can.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ishabahaque/