Why network? You need information and access
As an international student in the job search, you know what it’s like to submit a resume online and never hear back from an employer. Maybe you’ve submitted 20 resumes but never heard a response from companies. Unfortunately this is a common experience for international students in the US.
The competition for jobs in the US is intense. The average job post online receives over 100 resumes. As a student with limited experience, it is very difficult to stand out among 100 resumes. Even more disappointing, recruiters spend an average of 10-15 seconds looking at your resume. Many recruiters don’t read your cover letter. Only about 2% of all applicants are invited to the interview stage.
In the US, a perfect resume, good grades, or a top school doesn’t guarantee you will be selected to interview when you submit your resume or application. For many international students, the US job search is a learning experience and quite different from their own countries countries. In American culture, networking is as important in the job search as writing a strong resume. As an international candidate, you need the help of professionals inside organizations who can help you understand the job search, advocate for you, and bring your resume to the attention of hiring managers. Networking helps you get noticed by your dream employers, makes you more competitive in the job search, and teaches you the important information you need to know to get a job in the US.
As an international student, it is very difficult to get a job in the US without networking. Though you’ve already heard about networking from your career services office or friends, networking is an unfamiliar concept to most international students.
What is American Style Networking?
American style networking is like making professional friends. When you meet professional contacts, you exchange information about your professional lives, interests, and ideas through conversation. You build relationships.
Think about when you first arrived in the US. The first time you made friends with an American you learned a little more about the culture, language, and expectations in American culture. As you spend more time with American friends, you learn how things are done in the U.S. When you network, you learn how things are done in a professional American work setting, including how to search for jobs.
Professional relationships help you in your job search. When you build relationships with professionals they give you information and access, the two things international students need most.
For example, imagine your dream company:
- Do you know what they are looking for in candidates?
- Do you know when they hire entry-level candidates?
- Do you know if they have internships?
- Do you know if they hire international students?
- Do you know how you can help them do better work? (American businesses like candidates who are problem solvers!)?
You need this information to be successful in your search. When you network you build relationships with people inside companies who can give you the answers you need. The answers to the questions above make you a stronger candidate because you learn insider information that you can’t don’t learn from a job description on a website.
Networking also gives you access. Unless you are a perfect match for a position, it is very difficult to stand out in a pile of resumes. Recruiters want to find the right candidate, so they rely on employee referrals. Employee referrals (also known as internal referrals) are when a hiring manager asks current employees if they know anyone qualified for an open position. If you have a good relationship with someone inside a company and you are qualified for a job, that person may refer you to an open position.
For example, Google is a company that gets over 2 million applications a year (and sponsors international students!). Google jobs are incredibly competitive as it is the top employer in the world. Yet you will only get an interview if you have an internal referral. When you apply to a big company like Google you need to know someone on the inside of the company who can share your resume with a hiring manager.
The challenge is that you can’t just ask professional strangers for an employee referral. You have to build relationships first! There are many ways to build relationships and your goal is to learn the different ways to network. Here are just a few of the types of networking you need to use in the job search:
- Writing introductory emails to strangers
- Interviewing alumni about their career paths so you get to know them and they get to know your interests
- Making small talk with strangers to practice your conversational skills
- Talking about your career interests and professional goals (self-promotion) Attending events and holding engaging conversations with strangers
When you network, you build important conversational skills. Your ability to have professional conversations benefits you in the job search and long term. If you want to work in the U.S. networking is a required skill once you have a job. In order to get promoted or assigned to projects, you need to know how to talk to people and build relationships inside companies. Just like the job search the American workplace is likely quite different from your home country. Networking teaches you the skills to succeed in the American workplace, as well as how to get a job.
Most importantly, networking can’t be learned without practice. You will not learn to how to interact with professionals unless you practice. So gather your courage and commitment to try out new networking skills. American style networking requires you to take risks and step outside your comfort zone. But that’s why you’re here. So are you ready?