Questions & Answers: OPT Success

interEDGE Questions & Answers

interEDGE curates Q&A to address questions from international students about job search, networking, American hiring practice and workplace culture. The following questions are from our recent virtual workshop for international students.

  1. Question: What if our employer sees us in the context of which country we are from? Does it affect international students?

Answer: You have heard that the United States is a melting pot. Your country of origin and cultural heritage is and will be part of your identity. It is especially true for international students since you have spent most of your life so far in your home country. However, this will not negatively affect your career success if you know how to embrace it as your differential advantage.

  1. Question: In my country, the collectivist culture is prevalent. However, my parents raised me in a more individualistic setting, particularly because I am an only child. I find that I am always at odds with extended family members who want me to fit in. At the same time, I do not want to stand out so much to the point where I lose my family and cultural identity. How do you find a balance?

Answer:  One may find his or her self at a crossroad of two different cultures. Growing up with an individualistic subculture among a collectivist culture may instill in you the awareness of different values and beliefs that lead to different behaviors. A balance between two cultures is not rigid and static; rather, it is fluid and flexible. It comes with understanding and the openness to consider different viewpoints and likewise, it allows you to adapt your demeanors and communication styles.

  1. Question: When you talk about the professional presence on social media, is LinkedIn the only platform that’s taken into consideration? Or do several platforms contribute in cultivating one’s overall online presence?

Answer: Professional social media networks typically refer to LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can be used for professional purposes as well, but mostly for freelancers, artists, and professionals who are targeting at a large fan base. We recommend you focus on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  1. Question: What is the role of age, as a determining factor when you are looking for an internship or OPT?

Answer: Almost all employers have an equal opportunity and nondiscrimination policy. This policy grants the equal access to opportunities regardless of the candidate’s or employee’s age, gender, race, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation. The policy also forbids employers from asking questions about your age, marital status, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and other personal matters.

  1. Question: My GPA is 3.7. I spend $150 to make a good American resume. I don’t have any experience. After my graduation, I directly come for my future study. I already applied more than 40 companies. What else can I do? I also tried to write my best cover later. How can I get an internship or OPT?

Answer: A high GPA and an excellent job application may not be sufficient to get you an internship. In reality, 75% of employers tend to search for their candidates’ profiles on LinkedIn. You might want to keep this in mind: Do you have a LinkedIn profile that will make you stand out? You may also consider reaching out to different professionals from relevant companies for informational interviews. Although you don’t have any work experience yet, we encourage that you find ways on how you can prove your skills and competence to your prospective employers. You can achieve this by sharing one’s school projects, position and tasks in organizations or affiliations, and even some writing samples.

  1. Question: I believe that you should occasionally question the boss if his decision has a huge impact on the company and employees. However, I don’t think you should question the decisions every single time because you still need to respect authority. What do you think?

Answer: When we talk about culture, we also need to consider its other aspects. This may include the country’s overall culture, the regional culture, the industry culture, and even personal differences. It is unlikely that superiors appreciate being questioned or challenged by the same staff every single time. It must be noted that no one should question someone else’s decisions just for the sake of questioning. Your questioning should be done tactfully and with respect. Furthermore, it needs to be supported with evidence, research, or at least, some creative perspectives.

  1. Question: I have a beard and from Pakistan. Would these things affect my efforts in pursuing the job?

Answer: As mentioned in the response to Question 4, no employers should discriminate a job candidate or an employee because of her or his religious beliefs and appearance. However, you may encounter people who are not entirely aware of the reasons for which you are keeping a beard. Consider having an open conversation about it to demonstrate your awareness of cultural differences by just saying “I also want to share something personal.”

Answer: As mentioned in the response to Question 4, no employer should discriminate a candidate or an employee because of difference in religious beliefs and moreover, because of appearance. Although you may encounter people who are not fully aware of your traditions, and mainly the reasons as to why you are keeping a beard. You may always consider having an open conversation about it to demonstrate your awareness regarding the cultural differences by simply saying “I also want to share something personal.

  1. Question: How can you showcase your previous work if the information is proprietary?

Answer: Showcasing your previous work doesn’t require you to reveal everything. It is understandable that certain information is proprietary and must remain confidential. You may consider writing a summary of the project, including a sample or a section of the work, or sharing a few slides of the presentation. If the contained information is strictly for private use, you must always consult with your manager first and ask for consent on whether or not a sample may be shared.

  1. Question: I have some work experience back in my home country. When I was applying for a job, the interviewer told me that unfortunately, they did not know who I am in the USA, so the position was given to another person who has experience working in the USA.

Answer: Your work experience in your home country or a third world country should add value to your overall profile.  It is important to share your previous work experience in the context of the internship or the job you are applying for. Most of the time, employers or interviewers will only be interested in your experiences or skills that are equivalent to what they are looking for. You are responsible for helping them understand how your gained knowledge and skills from your previous work experience can be applied to the one you are currently applying for.

If you have questions, you may send us an email at SharpTalent@interEDGE.org. You will receive an answer within 24 to 48 hours.

 

About Di Hu

Co-founder and principal coach at interEDGE.org, an initiative of DrEducation, to offer online training solutions to institutions to support academic and career success of international students. Follow her on @CoachDiHu

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