Antonnet Botha is a Senior Training & Events Development Coordinator at WES.
She traveled from South Africa to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in international business. But after graduation, it was not easy for her to find work.
Ultimately, she found a great job—with guidance from her college career adviser. Now, she has reached out to the same woman who helped her succeed: Leigh Nicholas, the Career Development Adviser for Hult International Business School.
Antonnet asked Leigh to share some of her best tips with other international students who might be planning their pathways to academic and career success in North America.
Keep reading for some expert tips from a professional career adviser!
I had two career advisers during my master’s degree program. Unfortunately, I did not relate to my first adviser, and she ended up leaving the school a few months into my studies. I was then lucky enough to cross paths with Leigh Nicholas, the Career Development Adviser for Hult Business School. This was a game-changer, for both me and my career.
Leigh not only encouraged me all the way, she also helped me understand and navigate the job market in the U.S. If you have the opportunity to choose your career adviser, then find the one that you work with best! This will make your experience much better, and you are likely to be more successful.
But I realized that this advice deserves a wider audience, to help as many people as possible. I reached out to ask Leigh for some of her top tips as a professional career adviser. Below are some insights that she considers essential for every international student.
What Are the 7 Best Tips to Start Your Career in the U.S.?
- Network, network, network! This is such an imperative part of the job search. Leigh sometimes jokes that she wants to come up with a different name for this, because people hear the word so much, they start to glaze over and tune out. But ultimately, it just means making connections and building relationships with people to create a network you can tap into, and this is the most important thing you can do. Specifically, she recommends students find people who are in positions or companies they are interested in and requesting informational interviews. Especially for international students who may only have experience in a role in a different market, this is an excellent way to learn more about the position in the U.S.
- Perform a skills gap analysis. When looking at positions you would like to apply for and talking to people who have a career that you aspire to, look at what skills you are missing and work toward gaining those skills. Online courses, community events, college courses, and reading materials—all of this will help gain the skills you are lacking.
- Be strategic! Think carefully when it comes to the positions and industries you are targeting. Consider the value you present to an employer. For instance, if you are fluent in Spanish and a company has a large Latin American client base, that is a specific value that you bring. Other candidates may not have that skill. It could give you an advantage.
- Change your cover letter for each job. The most important part of a cover letter is to demonstrate how your skills and experience are a great fit for the specific position that you are trying to fill. Too often, people create one generic cover letter for every job application. Or, they might simply change the company name and title for the role. It might be tempting to take this shortcut, but it is very apparent to hiring managers when a letter is generic. Hiring managers want to see that a candidate has taken the time to be thoughtful about their qualifications. They want to know that you really believe that you are the right person for the role.
- Stay focused and organized. Sometimes, looking for a job can be considered work! Students who are successful in their job search typically have these things in common: They are strategic; they are clear about what kind of job they want; they start their search early; they make it a priority even with a rigorous academic schedule; and they are not afraid to get off campus to network and build relationships. This is the time to apply yourself, because a great job and future opportunities will be a long-lasting reward.
- Do not overlook your résumé. In the United States, you send a one-page résumé instead of a long curriculum vitae (CV). If someone wants to know more about you, based on your résumé, they might call you in for an informational interview or look you up on LinkedIn (see below). The key when it comes to résumés is making sure they are relevant for the role you are targeting. You can change them to match different ads for different jobs (but, of course, never lie or embellish). Make sure you are using appropriate keywords. It helps to look at the kinds of words and phrases the company used to create the ad; don’t copy it exactly, but use a similar tone and style to show that you have the right skills and understand their needs.
- Get LinkedIn. If you are looking for a job in the United States, you simply must have a LinkedIn profile. It is a platform heavily utilized by recruiters to find candidates, and it is also the first thing people will check if you request an informational interview or apply for a position. Your summary is the most important part. Ensure you are using relevant keywords (like your most important job titles and skills), and really consider these questions: Who is your target audience? What do you want them to know about you?
I hope that Leigh’s job search tips will help you as much as they helped me!
Read Antonnet’s full story: