Breaking the “Funnel Effect” in International Student Job Search

Funnel Effect for Job Success

Often, international students struggle to get appropriate and timely advice that uniquely applies to their strengths and interests. To succeed, international students have to learn how to map their career goals with the limited support and resources available to them. Given the constraints of limited career support, the outcome is that career options for many international students are pigeon-holed as typical IT, quantitative or research roles. It takes planning and effort to break the “funnel effect” in your job search and align it to your career path.

In a recent research article, Amy J. Binder, et al. use “career funneling” to describe the phenomenon in which “(a) large number of graduates gravitate towards a narrow range of career choices.” The paper further explains that “students are embedded in local campus contexts, where dominant discourses of action, as well as organizational features of their universities exert a strong influence on them, including, presumably, on their job choices.”

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Binder also commented students come to campus with high ambition, “but they are incredibly naive about what the labor force actually looks like.” She continued “this lack of knowledge leads to a kind of vulnerability among students, who respond to jobs that seem available and prestigious on campus”.

The funnel effect results in an unfortunate mismatch between students’ career choices and their professional interest and passion on Ivy League campuses, but it may be even more devastating for international students who must land a job within very limited time frame due to the immigration policy constraints. This can create another layer of barrier in addition to other challenges they face.

To avoid becoming the victim of “the funnel effect”, international students should not rely solely on campus resources. Have your career plan with multiple career options. Identify the sectors or career paths where you bring comparative advantages. Network with professionals in “adjacent” professional field. Develop critical intercultural competency and transferrable skills.

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