For University of Wisconsin students, February marks the beginning of a busy job-hunting season.
Take a look around campus and one will find students walking around with a polished résumé, trying to score an interview with the dream company. Among these people more and more international students are emerging on the job search landscape.
Career resources for international students
Andrea Lowe, assistant director of career advising at the Letters & Science Career Initiative and Career Services, said UW has ample resources for international students looking for job opportunities. The Letters & Science Career Services hosts one-on-one career workshops, Lowe said. About 20 percent of international students show up, and 23 percent of them return at least a second time.
“It’s a decent amount of students compared to the percentage of how many international students there are in Letters & Sciences,” Lowe said. “When it comes to events, we also have a pretty good turnout with our students.”
Lowe said the college also hosts targeted workshops specifically for international students to help them prepare for the career fair and learn networking skills, as networking is the biggest job search tool for anybody, domestic or international.
Xuehao Zhang, Global Economic Forum vice president at UW, is one of the international students readily seeking internship opportunities.
“I must have applied for about 200 internships last semester,” Zhang said.
Zhang has been to countless networking events and career fairs to build relationship with potential employers.
As a history major interested in economics, Zhang seeks opportunities in the business field, especially corporate finance, which surprised many employers.
“It’s a blessing in disguise,” Zhang said. “Having a history background gives you the gift of critical thinking, which is essential in today’s business world.”
Battling the hassle
Many international students, like Zhang, are beating the waves of competition with domestic students to find internships. But when it comes to staying in the U.S. after graduation, international students are facing a much different playing field.
To maintain the right status, international students need to deal with Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training and an H-1B visa.
CPT and OPT are work authorizations that allow international students to work off-campus, Brianna Cacchione, International Student Services assistant director and advisor, said.
CPT is usually for short-term internships, where students must be enrolled in the university during employment, Cacchione said. OPT, however, is a post-graduation authorization that usually gives international graduates a year to work in the country, according to the College of Letters & Science International Student Career Guide.
After the year, international students must apply for H-1B, a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to recruit foreigners with at least a bachelor’s degree to work in specialty occupations, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Among the two types of employer-specific H-1B visas, one for nonprofit organizations and universities, the other for corporates, Cacchione said the corporate H-1B visas are harder to get because they are subject to a national cap.
“The government sets a specific number of applications that they will approve, so not everyone who applies will get approved,” Cacchione said.
The value of a UW degree
Many international students worry companies won’t give them opportunities to work because of the trouble with visas.
Lowe said international students, however, should not let the visa situation block them from finding dream jobs. She said the key to finding a good internship or job is to tout what differences they can bring to the table.
“Just be in situations where they had to figure out a lot and very quickly, transitioning to a completely different country, probably in a different language; there are a lot of great skills that are adaptable to what it’s like to be in a workplace,” Lowell said.
Lowell said international students that speak more than one language often go above and beyond than domestic students, and organizations with global scales tend to value international students more because they have better cross-cultural understanding.
Cacchione said ISS sometimes get companies that seek after UW international students specifically, and the ones she’s familiar with are big names.
“The value of a UW-Madison degree is highly sought after by employers just in general,” Cacchione said.