Job Search Tips for International Students

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According to the Institute of International Education (www.iie.org), there were almost 725,000 international students studying in the United States in 2011, a 32 percent increase compared to a decade ago.  While it can be relatively easy for international student to find a school to attend in the U.S., getting a job here is a very different story.

Each year, the U.S. government sets a cap on the number of H1-B visas it issues, the most recent cap for the 2013 fiscal year (FY) was 85,000 (65,000 regular, 20,000 advanced degree); and every year the limit is reached rather quickly, after opening the process April 1, the FY 2013 cap  was reached in early June.

Besides the limited amount of visas, international students wanting to stay and work in the U.S. face other barriers – most difficult is finding companies that are open to hiring foreign workers, given the convoluted process and additional expenses involved.

What can an international student seeking employment in the U.S. do to improve his or her chances of finding a job here?

  1. Be open about your visa status upon getting an interview opportunity.  You shouldn’t include your visa status on your resume.  The best time in the process to bring it up is when you get the chance to actually talk to someone – so either during a phone screen or face-to-face interview.
  2. Target companies with the reputation for hiring H1-Bs.  The website MyVisaJobs.com (www.myvisajobs.com) is a great resource for finding companies that hire H1-Bs.
  3. Target global or multi-national companies.  Companies with an international footprint are going to have more experience and openness to hiring foreign workers.
  4. Target global or multi-national companies that are headquartered in your home country.  The opportunity to work for the U.S. operations of a company based in your home nation can create excellent career paths for you should you want to transfer home.
  5. Pay for application and legal fees. If you can afford the fees involved in the H1-B visa application process, let potential employers know that you are willing and able to pay part or all of the fees.  This will make companies with less financial resources, or less experience with this process, more willing to hire an H1-B.
  6. Use Career Services.  Make your university’s career services department your new best friend.  These folks are best-positioned to help you with your job search.  They know which companies are willing to hire H1-Bs and can often connect you directly with recruiters.

Finding a job in the U.S. is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s absolutely doable.  If you target your search and utilize resources like Career Services, you’ll greatly improve your chances of finding a job here.  Good luck!

 

This post originally appeared on Personal Branding Blog.

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Build Your Personal Brand Through Volunteerism

Whether you’re in between jobs, in school, or working full time, volunteering is a great way to build your personal brand. Sharing your time with non-profit organizations can help you build your network and develop your skills while doing some good for your community.

Volunteering shows you’re team oriented.  When you give your time to organizations in need, you show others that you want to make an impact in your community, in a way – team spirit.

Volunteering expands your network.  You will meet and build relationships with employees of the organization as well as like-minded members of your community who are also volunteering their time.

Volunteering sharpens your skills. Seek volunteer opportunities that draw upon your skills. If you are a web designer – look for an organization who needs a website overhaul. If you’re in marketing, you can find development or PR opportunities. I’ve personally donated my time giving harassment training to a non-profit organization staff, saving them from having to hire a consultant to perform this training.

Volunteering shows that you like to keep busy. Especially if you’re out of work, donating your time to a non-profit organization will show potential employees that you’re not satisfied sitting at home.

Volunteering says a lot about you. It shows that you are altruistic, helps you keep busy and keep your skills sharp, all while making a difference in your community.  Now that’s what we call a win-win situation.

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When it comes to personal branding, you can invest all the time and effort you want in to creating well-worded profiles, resumes, cover letters, and “About Me” websites, but if you don’t back up your written communications with constructive interactions, all of that work will be for nothing.

Your personal brand is best developed through positive experiences with people.  You need to make a good impression through the actions you take throughout the job search process. Not just in your written communications, but through the interactions you have with various stakeholders throughout the course of the application process.

Here are some tips on how to ensure you don’t let your actions sully your reputation.

Be responsive.  If you’re job searching – you should respond quickly to potential employers who are contacting you regarding your application.  Check your e-mail and voicemail every day and get back to people as soon as possible. This shows interest and energy while being unresponsive can portray you as being disinterested or a poor communicator.

Be friendly.  When you interact with people through the process, be amiable and upbeat towards the people with whom you communicate.  Make small talk, ask how people are or about their weekend plans.  Show that you can connect well with others.

Be confident.  Make good eye contact with people – that doesn’t mean you have to stare creepily into their eyes without ever breaking their gaze, but if you are constantly avoiding eye contact, it can send the message that you lack confidence. Good posture, a firm handshake, and speaking loud enough (not too loud) and clearly all will help you portray yourself as being confident.

Do what is asked of you.  If the company asks you references, send them right away (or hand them a nicely formatted list of references).  If they give you an application for employment to fill out – fill out the whole thing – never write in the blanks “see resume”.  They’ve already seen your resume and you’ll just come across as being lazy.

You have to remember that your actions during an application process send a message to the people who are considering whether or not to hire you.  If you don’t communicate well or follow directions, are slow to respond, or are unfriendly – the potential employer can easily assume that this is how you would act as an employee within their organization.

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog

Do You Have Any Questions? Preparing Questions for Interviews.

When getting ready for an interview, it is important to not only prepare yourself to answer the questions you may be asked, but also questions that you can ask the people who are interviewing you. Many job seekers get so excited about finally getting an interview opportunity that they forget that interviewing is a two-way street.  Yes – you need to make sure that this company and job are a good fit for you!  Otherwise, you’ll be going through the job search process all over again when you (or the company) realize that it just wasn’t a good fit.

But like with every other aspect of the job search process, the questions you ask during an interview can make a good or bad impression on the person with whom you are interviewing.  First and foremost, asking no questions will leave a bad impression.  Early on in the interview process, asking questions about salary, benefits, vacation time, dress code, holidays, etc., can come across as petty or self-interested.

Whenever I’ve interviewed for a position, I’ve always asked questions that enable me to connect with the interviewer by showing an interest in their personal story.  The following questions will help you both connect with your interviewers, and also give you the type of insight you need to determine if this is the job for you.

  1. What brought you to this organization?  It’s always interesting to hear what attracted someone else to a company.  It gives you some insight into what’s important to them and how they view the company’s strengths and employment brand.
  2. How would you describe the company’s culture?  The answer to this question will show you if the company is fun or stuffy; team oriented or every-man-for-himself; hardworking or laid back; creative or old school.
  3. What do you like about working here? This one is pretty self-explanatory – the answer will give you insight into what’s great about working at the company – identifying its strengths as an employer.
  4. What one thing would you change about the company?  I love this question – it’s a tough one – but it should provide you with an idea of what the company could stand to improve on.  You’ll get an honest answer or you’ll watch the interviewer fumble through it like a job seeker with the “greatest weaknesses” question.  Either way – you’ll walk away with insight into what the company could do better.

Using these questions will help you connect with the people you are interviewing with and get the answers you need to make your decision should you get an offer.  What other questions have you found important to ask in the interview process?

 

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog

5 Rules of Thumb for Job Search E-mail Etiquette

I’m currently recruiting for several positions, so I’ve been receiving tons of e-mails from job seekers applying for our open jobs.  It was while going through these submissions that I got the inspiration for this post.  One of the messages I received was a very brief e-mail with a resume attached.  The e-mail simply stated the following:

Salary Requirements – $50K, Thanks [Insert Person’s Name Here]

Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this. Now it’s great that you’re being so upfront – after all if there’s a disconnect on the salary, it probably won’t work – but you should express yourself in a more professional way.

There seems to be some confusion out there about e-mail e-tiquette in the job search. E-mail e-tiquette is the professional and respectful way to communicate electronically. Allow me to clear things up.

  1. A job search e-mail is a business letter.  In today’s age of chat acronyms and Internet slang, people tend to forget to be more formal when sending an e-mail for jobs. A job search e-mail should be addressed and signed properly.  “Dear Ms. Soandso”.  The message should be written in letter format.  Not just “Please see my attached resume. Thanks”.
  2. Your cover letter is your e-mail.  There’s no need to type an introductory e-mail to your attached cover letter. In the olden days, a cover letter was mailed to introduce your resume. Now, your e-mail does that.  So treat your e-mail as your cover letter.
  3. Don’t ever send a blank e-mail.  I can’t count how many times I’ve received a blank e-mail with a resume attached.  Besides being an unprofessional submission for a job, with so many computer viruses around, some people may be hesitant to open your attachment.
  4. Don’t be sexist in addressing your e-mail to generic addresses.  If you don’t know the gender of the recipient of your e-mail, use a neutral salutation like “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiting Team”. Sexist may or may not be the right label for people who do this – but I still get e-mails addressed to “Dear Sir” or “Dear Sirs”.  There’s about a 50% chance that the person receiving your e-mail is not a “Sir”.
  5. Run your spelling and grammar check. Don’t send your e-mail with typos, misspellings, and bad grammar. This will reflect poorly on you.

We all know how important first impressions are, don’t we?  Keep in mind that if you’re applying for a job via an e-mail, that IS your first impression.  Don’t blow it!

 

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog.

Mind Your Manners: 6 Tips for Writing Thank You Notes

If your parents are anything like mine, you’ve learned to say “thank you” when people give you things. Whether it be a gift, a ride, or a compliment most of us would offer a hearty “thanks” in return for someone else’s generosity. The interview process is no different. As someone who interviews for a living, I’m surprised at how seldom I receive a “thank you” note from a candidate.

When writing thank yous, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Ask everyone with whom you interview for their card or contact information (their e-mail is enough). You need this information to send them a note! Getting their card is best because it will ensure you have the correct spelling of their name.
  2. Send a thank you to everyone with whom you’ve met. Don’t leave anyone out! Everyone who interviewed you will most likely get together to talk about the candidates. You don’t want to offend someone by making them think you forgot about them.
  3. E-mail is fine. In today’s day and age, sending a thank you e-mail is perfectly fine. It’s direct, it’s fast, and it can be replied to. Sending a nice card is perfectly fine – and a nice touch – but do so quickly.
  4. Keep your “A” game going.  Don’t slack off on your thank you notes – mind your grammar, spelling, etc.  If you’re using e-mail – keep it professional and address the e-mail appropriately: “Dear Soandso,” with a formal signature.
  5. Remind them how great you are. Use this as an opportunity to highlight why you think you’re a great fit for the position. Try to refer back to what seemed most important to them in terms of their ideal candidate.
  6. Don’t send the same note to everyone. Take good notes during your interviews so that you can refer back to the specific conversations you had with each individual. Some people don’t realize that their thank you note is often forwarded on to the group of interviewers – meaning that it will quickly become obvious that you sent everyone the same note!

Writing a thank you note is another component of the job search process and just like a cover letter, while it may sometimes seem optional, it is always best to always send one!  A well-written thank you might be the “cherry on top” giving you an edge in being selected for the position.

 

This post originally appeared on Personal Branding Blog.

What’s Up with the One Page Resume Rule?

There’s a bit of conventional wisdom out there about how long a resume should be.  Many career advisers, resume writing books and websites, and even some blogs suggest that people should keep their resume to one single page.  Job seekers shrink their font sizes, decrease their margins, and use other tricks to try and force their resume to meet this rule. In my humble, yet professional, opinion – it is okay to have a two or three page resume.  It’s what you do with that resume that really counts.

Picture graciously borrowed from talknerdy2me.org

 

There is a real benefit to a one-page resume.  You see, when we post a job opening, chances are we will get dozens and dozens of resumes – big companies in metro areas may get hundreds and hundreds!  This leaves those of us screening resumes very little time to invest in deeply reading each applicant’s resume. When we screen resumes, we do what comes natural – start at the top and work our way down.  Now, if we get half way through page one and find nothing of interest – we’ll probably stop looking at that particular resume and will move on to the next one.  The more concise your resume is, the more likely the aspects of your resume that you want to stand out will.

So, is it okay to have a two or three page resume?  Yes, but make sure on page one, and early on page one for that matter, you highlight the most pertinent information for the job for which you are applying.  One way to do this is to include a “summary of qualifications” or a “summary of achievements” as one of the first sections of your resume.  If all the good stuff is buried on page two, I can assure you it will never get read if there is nothing to excite the person reviewing your resume on page one.

 

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com)

Looking for a Job? Leave No Stone Unturned

We are creatures of habit – we get comfortable with certain TV channels, websites, and magazines, and we tend to stick with them.  When it comes to looking for a job, we tend to take the same approach, and most of us go with what we know and stick to it.  You can increase your chances of finding a great job if you expand your horizons and use more and different tools.

General Job Boards

We’re all familiar with the big ones – Monster and Careerbuilder, and you should check these often but there are other general job boards out there that are worth checking.  Indeed.com is the largest job search site that aggregates jobs from all over the web, displaying jobs from both Monster and Careerbuilder, but also niche sites and corporate careers pages.  SimplyHired is another job search aggregator and good resource to check out.  Craigslist is popular for all sorts of classifieds, and jobs are no different.  It’s cheap or free for employers to post.  America’s Job Exchange replaced the Department of Labor’s America’s Job Bank a few years back and has become a popular site for non executive positions.  Snagajob.com specializes in hourly jobs.  There are also many regional/geographical job boards – many can be found through your local newspaper’s website or through Jobing.com.

Social Media

LinkedIn’s focus on one’s professional network made it a natural place to start a job board – and LinkedIn did just that several years ago.  It was on LinkedIn that I found my current job!  Even better – you can usually see who posted the job and check to see if you have any connections in common.  Twitter has also become a popular way to look for jobs.  You can use hashtags like #hiring #jobs, etc to find open jobs.  Many companies are tweeting out there jobs!

Niche Sites

Chances are you may be looking for a job in a particular field.  Dice.com specializes in IT and tech jobs. FINS.com specializes in finance and is owned by the Wall Street Journal.  Idealist.org focuses on jobs in not-for-profit organizations. Ecoemploy.com looks like a hokey website – but is a great resource for environmental jobs. Biospace lists jobs in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and life sciences fields.  If you’re in a niche – chances are there is a job board out there that specifically focuses on you!

Professional Associations

Many professional associations also have a job board component to their website.  If there is a leading organization within your field – you should definitely be checking out their job board.  The American Marketing Association posts jobs on their Marketing Power website. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a job board, and so does the New England HR Association (NEHRA) both chock full of HR jobs right up my alley!  Don’t just look at national association websites – but also regional, state, and local!

Diversity

Many companies are working to make their work force more diverse and are doing so through targeted job posting using websites that are marketed towards specific groups.  Latpro.com and HispanicDiversity.com target Latino/a job seekers. AMightyRiver.com and BlackPerspective.com focus on helping African Americans find work.  LGBTCareerLink.com is Out & Equal’s job board for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered job seekers.

Recruiters have just as many choices as job seekers do. Some companies have large budgets with the ability to plaster their openings all over the place.  Other companies may have very limited budgets and will only post on websites that they hope will bring the highest number of viable candidates possible.  The tough thing is that you never know where you will find your perfect job – so it’s important that you look everywhere you can and leave no stone unturned.

 

This post original appeared on the Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com)

Social Networking Occurs Offline Too

There’s no question that social media has changed the way we all communicate.  Be it Twitter or Facebook; Yammer or Reddit;  LinkedIn or Pinterest.  We are all using these tools on a daily basis to share information, learn something new, have a laugh, and most importantly, connect with others.  As we use social media to build our personal brands online, we often forget how important it can be to do so offline.

Last week, I attended the Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA.  I’ve been attending these conferences for five years, and over the last three – social media has made these conferences even more enriching.  How so?  Well, I use Twitter and LinkedIn as an HR professional.  Over time, I’ve virtually connected with other people in the field – whether practitioners, thought leaders, or academics – and when I arrived at the conference, I already had a network of people to interact with.  But meeting these people in person, having a drink together and sharing an idea and a laugh, has helped solidify these relationships.  Now these people know me a lot better.  They’ve shaken my hand, seen the sincerity in my eyes.  Meeting in person takes your relationship to a different level.  Besides that – I was introduced to tons of people and made lots of new connections as well.  I’ve added over 60 new followers to Twitter in the four days of the conference.

Sure online networking is easier; it’s less time consuming and you can do it any time – but the value added by connecting to people offline cannot be surpassed.  When it really comes time to draw upon your network – people will be more comfortable working with or recommending you if they’ve met you offline.

 

This post original appeared on the Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com)

Should You Show Your Stripes? Politics & Your Personal Brand

In this highly contentious election year, politics are everywhere. Surf the web, flip the channels, or tune your radio and right before your very eyes or ears talking heads everywhere are dissecting and opining on politics in the U.S. and the 2012 Presidential Election.

According to the Pew Research Center, the political climate in the U.S. is the most polarized it has been in 25 years.  To get at this, Pew has been conducting and tracking surveys since 1987 measuring 48 political values among US voters.  The results?  The gap in values between Democrats and Republicans has doubled and for the first time ever is greater than any other demographic – gender, race, class, etc.1

So what does all this mean for your personal brand and your job search?

We all fall somewhere on the political spectrum; some of us are passionate about our beliefs, which often translate in to action: from desktop politicking by promoting candidates and positions through social media tools to campaign volunteering and activism.

You may feel compelled to list your blogging with the Obama campaign, or your phone banking with the Romney campaign on your resume.  And why not?  You gained valuable real world experience doing these things that can easily transfer to the working world; but with the country being so polarized, there is a high likelihood that you will encounter people in your job search who think differently than you when it comes to politics. Being so open about your leanings can leave you open to discrimination.

You need to be cautious as to how, or if, you demonstrate your political allegiances.  

If you are compelled to politic – play nice – don’t get personal, hit below-the-belt, or call names.  Make educated arguments to support your points, and always stay professional.  Be extra careful about how you communicate any views which may be considered to be extreme by some.

Personally, the path I have chosen is to almost completely limit my politicking to my personal social circles (Facebook), and to minimize reference to my political beliefs on my public social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn) allowing little insight into my political persuasions to potential employers.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.  What is the right ratio for you between freedom of expression and the personal brand you want to portray to the professional community?

1 – Pew Research Center, Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years, June 4, 2012 http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2277/republicans-democrats-partisanship-partisan-divide-polarization-social-safety-net-environmental-protection-government-regulation-independents

This post originally appeared on the Personal Branding Blog (www.personalbrandingblog.com)

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