Over the years, as an international student, I have realized that it takes a village to secure an on-campus job. It can take months and sometimes years of preparation. Before working on my PhD in the U.S., I knew little about the strategies and resources that I could use within my institution to find a job. Having completed almost three years of my doctoral studies in health behavior, I have gained important insights into how international students can increase their likelihood of being hired on campus.
Know Your Visa Status
International students who are on an F-1 visa are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week on campus. During the summer and over breaks, they can work more than 20 hours per week depending on the specific rules and regulations of their department. For instance, my department stipulates that international students cannot work more than 29 hours per week during the summer and over breaks. The Office of International Services at your university is also a very good resource in terms of educating and advising international scholars on what types of jobs they qualify for and how many hours they are allowed to work.
Look for Jobs in Your Field
When looking for jobs, it is always best to make those that fit your interests a priority. For over two years now, I have worked as an instructor and research assistant in the Department of Applied Health Science at Indiana University (IU). These positions have allowed me to teach health-related courses to undergraduate and graduate students while teaming up with professors and other colleagues to work on research projects of similar interests.
Many schools and departments in the U.S. will provide funding to doctoral students through a teaching or research assistant position, and that is often the most convenient way for graduate students to pay their tuition fees and earn a stipend each month.
Use Resources Available at the Office of Career Services
The Office of Career Services has been instrumental in helping me secure jobs on campus. During my first semester at IU, I attended a career-related workshop and set up an appointment with one of the career coaches at the Office of Career Services in the School of Public Health (SPH) to review one of my cover letters. Since then, I have sought help at the Office of Career Services to have a résumé critique, conduct mock interviews, polish my LinkedIn profile, and improve my cover letters for job applications. As a volunteer, I also oversee a team of bloggers who write blog articles and make video blogs to advise our peers in SPH on tips and strategies to secure internships, improve job application materials, network with other professionals, and prepare for graduate school.
Network and Volunteer
Networking is key to landing a job or an internship. Many times, jobs will be advertised within close networks and by getting connected to these groups on campus, you can maximize your chances of being hired! For instance, at IU, there is a group for women in technology called CEWiT; members of this group receive weekly news on events around campus, job positions related to the group’s goals, and tips for networking or collaborating with other graduate students.
Related Reading: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: The Importance of Networking
Volunteering is another excellent way to connect with resources on campus. Since 2015, I have been active in several student organizations and I have led student teams at IU. Last fall, I shadowed the career coaches in SPH in leading new student orientations, which helped to hone my communication skills and provided me with valuable leadership experience. These concrete experiences of having worked as part of a team and leading other students are skills sought out by employers, and volunteering is one way to improve those skills.
Related Reading: The Benefits of Volunteering
Apply for Grants
Grant writing is pivotal in a graduate student’s life. Grants and fellowships can serve multiple purposes, such as completing a dissertation, improving the quality of research work, paying tuition fees, and traveling to conferences. When I first started my doctoral studies, I won small grants of $200 to $500 USD to buy incentives for participants in my study and to travel to conferences. Over time, I have been successful in winning bigger grants mostly because practice makes perfect. Grants beget grants in academia.
Although grants and fellowships are not equivalent to on-campus jobs or internships, they can significantly help in paying an international student’s expenses and improve the quality of their research.
These were some of the strategies that have worked for me in finding an on-campus position, and I hope these tactics can be helpful for other international students. My final piece of advice is this: Whatever you end up doing, start early and do not be discouraged by setbacks!