As an international student, being faced with the task of employment can often be challenging. Many students would describe a successful college career by including at least one internship experience. While this can be true, it is not always the case for everyone as it depends on different factors.
I came to MSU as a finance major simply because I liked business and numbers. At the time, I did not know that a full college experience entailed much more than attending classes. Much of what I learned about Finance was only portion of what I was taught in class; it took a lot of effort to realize this. My experience from finding an internship to securing a full time job after graduation has been a combination of personal effort and using the vast resources the University offers.
When I was a freshman I joined three Business student organizations that were run by primarily non-international students. As an active member, I attended most, if not all, events to gain insight about creating my professional being. Most of the guest speakers sharing their insights would be professionals working in companies I admired. With time, I gained confidence to approach them after events, career fairs and in the hallways. It was nice to know my efforts to follow up worked as I got invitations for interviews – it was another task to figure out how to prepare for interviews.
Most companies that I had the opportunity to interview with had very behavioral based interviews. In the first rounds of interviews, I tailored my answers to qualities that the company valued most. When I was sure that I passed the initial screening and first and second interviews, I began following up with Human Resources (HR) more. This included me mentioning that I was an international student and would require work authorization prior to working, if I was hired. I did this later in the process because I did not want to lose the chance of getting considered as a candidate during the screening process. During second round interviews and after I had gained a bit more confidence. I ensured that I was very conversational with the interviewers. Knowing that I was an international student, I would utilize my experiences from living in different countries and used it to emphasize how a multi-cultural component was essential for organizations. This worked to my advantage more often than not and I was fortunate to have landed an internship with an Investment bank.
While I enjoyed my internship, I wanted to make sure that I was choosing the right career path. I knew that one of the main reasons companies hire interns is to see whether they would be a good full time employee. When offered a full time position approximately a month after my internship ended, I was extremely happy to know that I had secured something. However, I used the gap period before formally accepting an offer (a month in my case) to seek different opportunities. This was mainly to assure myself that whichever opportunity I went with was the final and right decision.
Knowing that I enjoyed my internship very much, I was not opposed to returning. Fast forward to 10 months later, I am now working in a company that I consider very admirable and I can gladly say that I am doing what I have wanted to do, or at least in the right path to doing so. As an international student, I know a little about transition and change- I think this is one of the most important elements when shifting to the working world. Just as I did moving to a different country, I had to adjust to a new state, job and lifestyle. I do miss the free in between classes’ time, the availability of going to the cafeteria and not having to cook after a long day and the option to skip classes if you felt as though you had everything in control (I didn’t do that). Now, I wake up at 6 and leave work at around 6. I only have weekends to enjoy and even then, I need to do laundry, cook for the week, catch up with family and do some readings/emails. If it seems as though I am complaining, I am not- it’s a simple truth that transitioning to an extremely occupied life makes you appreciate free time more. On the other hand, I enjoyed my 4 years of college to the point that I was ready for the next phase in life.
As a closing remark, enjoy college and be smart about your decisions for the future. Be strategic as you plan your exit opportunities and always put yourself first.
You too can find a job like Wendy by applying for OPT (Optional Practical Training). OPT is defined as authorization for “temporary employment authorization directly related to
the field of study.” OPT employment authorization is granted for 12 months typically after completion of degree requirements for F-1 students.. Make use of MSU’s resources on how to apply so you can get on the right track for your career!
Attend the OPT Online session on October 24th from 1:00-2:00pm. Go to https://connect.msu.edu/oissopt/ on October 24th at 1:00pm to participate in this webinar. No pre-registration required!