Career services provided by American universities are a crucial support system for international students as they face the difficulty of acclimating to a different educational environment. Equally overwhelming is the task of assimilating into a new and highly competitive professional culture post-graduation. Recognizing these challenges, U.S. universities offer an essential resource to aid students in their transition from academic life to the professional realm.
Navigating the Interplay Between Cultures and Careers
Priyanka Raut, a counselor at the University of Houston’s career services office, says “In India, if you want to be an engineer or a doctor, you have to pass an entrance exam to get into a good school, and your scores are the only thing that determine your school.” She also added that, in the United States, universities and employers take into consideration a wide range of factors when selecting candidates. Additionally, there is greater flexibility for individuals who wish to switch their academic majors or transition into different career paths.
Engaging with career services can assist students in effectively showcasing not only their technical achievements but also their soft skills, such as communication prowess, team-building capabilities, and negotiation aptitude, to prospective employers.
Talking about CV and résumé, Raut says, “in the United States, they’re very different documents. A CV is more focused on researching, teaching and publications, while a résumé focuses on internships, extracurriculars and skills. It’s very important for Indian students in the United States to understand the difference.”
Ariadne Cheng, associate director for International Student Career Engagement at the University of Southern California, advised applicants to customize their résumés to align with the specific position they are seeking.
“Look at the job description and find the key skills, qualifications and even personal qualities that are listed for the position,” she says. “Highlight the ones that you have, and then make sure that all those points stand out in your résumé, both in the skills section and in the descriptions under your experience.” She further added, “Whenever possible, try to quantify or demonstrate your impact in some way,” she says. Using specific numbers or milestones to show how important your efforts were is a great way to go.”
Making Connections: The Key to Success in Academia and the Professional World
Career centers foster strong employer relationships to empower students with valuable resources. International students from India should make the most of the opportunities presented by their career center to establish direct connections with employers and gain valuable insights from them. Career services offices frequently organize a variety of events such as career fairs, talks, receptions, and more, enabling students to engage with potential employers.
In addition to these events, students should actively participate in school mentorship programs and apply for any programs they are eligible for. To this Cheng says, “Adjusting to college life can be hard, especially for international students, and having a mentor who has been through it to help guide you can make the experience so much easier. Even if your school doesn’t have a formal mentorship program for international students, don’t be afraid to reach out to alumni - you may be pleasantly surprised to find they are happy to help and offer advice.”
To this Priyanka Raut says, “Even the smallest career services workshop can help you, and it’s already covered by your tuition, so you really don’t have a reason not to go,” she says. “It can be a stepping stone to get you started on your career. Especially if you’re from another country, career events can help you get over culture shock, learn how to talk with employers, and really get a grip on how things work in the United States.”
Embarking on Your Journey
International students in India begin their path to success with career center support. Ariadne Cheng advises no matter which career path you choose, it is always advisable to visit your school's career service office and initiate your planning without delay. She further added, “Your school’s career center will have resources for every step of your career path, from major and career exploration all the way to job offer negotiation, so you don’t have to do any of it alone.”
|NOTE: Published with inputs and permission from SPAN Magazine|