Often international students come into my office, hand me their resume, and ask me what I think they should do for work. I put their resume down and turn the question on them-“what do you want to do?” This question is sometimes met with surprise, confusion, and occasionally relief. Career coaches in US universities will seldom tell a student what to pursue. This stands in contrast to other countries where you might be tracked into a career from early in your education. Instead, we want to hear from you about your interests and career goals. Once I know what a student wants to do, I can provide information about that field, hiring timelines, and employers, as well as ask questions and suggest next steps.
A few things you might want to know about my expectations of our conversation. I do not expect you to have everything figured out; I expect your ideas to be in development. I know that you may be deciding between different careers or that you know what you like but are unsure of how that will translate into a job. What I expect is that you’ll be able to tell me some of your interests, skills, and/or the type of work you are considering. From there we will engage in a conversation about next steps.
So what is the best way for you, a student, to prepare for a conversation with me, a career coach? Have a purpose for our meeting. It could be one or a combination of the following:
- I want to know more about how I can best use the office as an international student
- I am thinking of pursuing a career in X, how can I best prepare myself
- I am confused about how to navigate the US workplace/what norms might I not be aware of
- What are the best ways to network for an international student
- How can I talk with employers about my international student status
- Can you review my resume and cover letter to make sure it conforms to a US format
- What are some of the norms that employers expect from me during the recruitment process
- How are US interviews conducted and can I schedule a mock interview
Many of these questions require you to do a little planning in advance so that you can make the most of your time with the career coach. Before you go to the appointment:
- Look at the career office’s website to learn the basics of what services are offered
- Go through the online career directory at your institution and look at some of the positions that might interest you in the future – print them and bring them to your appointment
- Look at online resources for creating a US style resume and cover letter-bring your drafts to the appointment (check for grammar and other common writing concerns by seeking out writing resources on campus)
- Look up common interview questions – think about how you might answer them
- Think about your own networking style and where you get nervous
Having a relationship with a career coach is important and it takes time to develop a rapport. Taking the time to schedule a meeting is the first step. I like to meet students early in their time at school to start a conversation and begin to map out a career plan. In our first meeting, I want to know a bit about the student and their background. As we continue to meet, it gives the student a chance to reflect on their courses, student involvement, volunteer, and internship experiences and how their career goals have shifted. At the beginning of their graduating year, one of our first conversations is about post-graduate plans, including an ideal plan and a backup plan. So what are you waiting for? Connect with your university’s career center and make an appointment today.
This blog article was contributed by Surabhi Lal and draws on over a decade of career development experience. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of NYU Wagner.