This week 
is Career Gallery – MSU’s largest career fair with over 250 employers and 5000 students over the 2 days.  Something for all students, all majors, all colleges.  This event attracts well-known employers representing a variety of industries and full time, internship, and co-op opportunities for students.

TODAY (October 1, 2012) The Office for International Students and Scholars is hosting a Career Fair Prep Webinar specifically for international students from 4-5 p.m. to get our students ready for Career Gallery.

In honor of Career Gallery week, OISS would like to introduce Bernadette Friedrich.

Dr. Friedrich is Director of Student Engagement at Michigan State University and works closely with OISS to develop joint programs between our office and the Career Services Network at MSU. Dr. Friedrich has agreed to update our students on Career Services issues throughout the year on OISSLive as a guest blogger! Here is her first post about Navigating the U.S. Workplace – Networking 101


As an international student you know that there are some big hurdles for you to obtain permanent employment in the United States, but it is not IMPOSSIBLE!  You are bright, educated, and articulate!  You love your chosen profession and you are excelling in your coursework, surely there is an opportunity for you somewhere!

Many international students indicate that they are looking for 2-5 years worth of work experience in the United States with the potential of then returning to their home country.   But getting that experience seems next to impossible!  The fact is – if, as an international student, you start to look for work experience in the United States during or after your senior year in college, your chances of obtaining a full time position are extremely limited.

In my 20 plus years working as a student advocate for employment, I cannot think of one time when an international student obtained a full-time position upon graduation without having worked for or developed a relationship with an employer prior to their senior year.  The question then is how do YOU create a potential post-graduation employment opportunity?

Well, this is what I see from my vantage point:

a)      More students, few opportunities:  The number of international undergrads is growing exponentially, with international undergrads now outnumbering international grad students for the first time!  This is true across the US.  H-1B visas have decreased from a high of 120,000 to the current 60,000.  This cuts opportunities for students with bachelor’s degrees in half.

b)      Bridging the Cultural Gap: From a University perspective, there is not always a clear understanding of what international students are expecting in the area of post-graduation employment.

  1. How many of you want careers in the US? How many just want to gain some experience in the US? 
  2. How many would be equally happy to find employment in your home country with a global employer? 
  3. How many are considering grad school as their first option?  

Understanding that the answer to these questions may change as you progress through your curriculum, it is important for you to keep in touch with your academic advisor, the career team in your college, and OISS.

c)      Resistance from Employers: When international students attend career fairs, apply online through MySpartanCareer, or apply online directly through a company website, they are often frustrated with the common response of “Our Company doesn’t  sponsor.”

As for any student, the best and most effective method of obtaining a coveted full time position is through internships and other experiential education opportunities.  This includes participating in student groups that emphasize employer relations as part of their mission.  If you are interested in a particular employer, show up at their information sessions, make sure you get a name and contact information.  They may not be the right person, but by developing communication with them, they can pass you on to who does make the decision.  YES, it will be more challenging for you!  But remember, you are worth it, you have skills and experiences that domestic students don’t have. These skills include language skills, working in a diverse team, and global experiences.  Don’t be afraid to give yourself credit for leaving the comfort of your own home, city, country and culture as a plus.

d)      Not enough interest from students

Sometimes I think that international students just assume that we can’t help them.  That they have had so many rejections on the career front that they just stop trying.  All of the services that are offered for domestic students are available for you: resume writing workshops, practice interviewing, acting as an ambassador for a career event, meeting with your career advisor.  MSU has a lot of students, it may seem that we aren’t offering you the services you need, but they are available! You just need to ask someone; your academic advisor, a professor, your OISS advisor, the career center – all of these people are here to help you.  Talk to us!

e)      We are not sure where you want to end up

We don’t want to assume that you want to stay in the U.S., we don’t want to assume that you want to go home.  I can’t guarantee that I can get you your dream job at your dream company, but I can guarantee that all of us at Michigan State University will do our best to help you achieve your goals.

Bernadette Friedrich is the Director of Student Engagement at Michigan State University.  Bernadette obtained her BS in Counseling and MS in Human Resource Management at Gannon University in Erie, PA. Currently, Bernadette has completed her doctorate at Michigan State University in the College of Education. She has worked in Cooperative Education for the last 20 years. In addition, she has held numerous state and national positions in Cooperative Education organizations and has presented at the local, state, regional, national, and international level on career issues and diversity.  International student career development is of particular interest to Bernadette and she has developed programs and presentations to assist international students in reaching their career goals.