I recently learned that my students have a much better chance at getting a job upon graduation (yay!)…and that my job may be obsolete (huh?!). Earlier this month, I attended a lecture at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City with Dr. Phil Gardner, Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, who spoke about his research on 2015-16 recruitment trends. There were several positive trends he highlighted, including:
- Hiring is up for graduates of four year degrees in computer science/IT and business
- Hiring is also up for Master degree candidates in accounting or health professions
- Paid internships are being offered at a record high of 71% of employers
- 79% of employers who do offer internship programs will hire
Pretty encouraging for a higher ed professional like me who helps oversee our institution’s internship program, right? Well… Dr. Gardner pointed out that career services departments do not make the hiring process efficient for employers (the crowd of career professionals went silent). Though recruiters continue to rely on college career fairs to identify their talent pool, the process is expensive, time intensive, and doesn’t always yield a high ROI. In an economy that rewards replacing the traditional (i.e. taxis) with the new and “improved” (i.e. Uber) – employers are eager to find ways to recruit new hires that are the right organizational fit, without having to duplicate efforts at multiple universities. One such method that Dr. Gardner demonstrated briefly was Knack (www.knack.it), a series of games developed by Stanford and MIT masterminds that can assess potential candidates’ organizational fit – at a very low cost to employers. Brilliant for employers and college grads (the games test innate qualities, thereby potentially evening the playing field for non-Ivy Leaguers) but not so much for us career services folk.
Where I did see the ultimate silver lining is that employers are looking for students with experience (hello, internships!), multicultural perspective/experience (i.e. alternative spring break and study abroad programs, or local opportunities researching or working with diverse cultures), and professionalism. These opportunities and skill sets can’t be automated – and that’s where career services professionals come back into the picture:
- Career Fair models can be updated, reorganized or deconstructed to better fit the needs of employers
- Professional etiquette can be taught online to meet students where they are
- Internships can be coordinated so students are learning and growing, while employers identify and shape their talent pipeline
My takeaway from Dr. Gardner’s research is that our field isn’t irrelevant, but it is evolving. It’s important for us to be knowledgeable about what’s ahead but also recognize our value in higher ed and in society – we prepare students not only for the world of work, but to learn how to advocate for themselves, continue learning and growing in their chosen fields, and achieve financial independence and professional satisfaction. All of which makes me believe that our future is pretty bright.
In this competitive job market, it is critical to be highly prepared and practice before every job interview. You will only get one shot to stand out. As an international students, you are competing against domestic students who may have the same skills and education. Here are 5 ways you can stand out, and ace every job interview.
- No dead fish handshakes. Talk about a bad first impression. Every recruiter wants to hire a candidate who is confident in his/her work, skills and self. When you walk into that interview room, put on your biggest smile and give your interviewer a firm handshake with the right amount of strength. No need to break bones. Also, sit straight as it sends a message of intelligence and confidence. Tell yourself you own that room, you are the best at what you do and they need you. You need to believe it.
- Articulate: As an international student you may be self conscious about your accent and constantly second guess your worth in this competitive job search race. You’ve probably told yourself several times “I have an accent, they will never hire me”. Fun fact, did you know that the CEOs of companies like Mcdonald’s, Microsoft, Kellog’s, Altria and many others were foreign born? Yes that’s right; many so called “aliens” hold high leadership positions in this country. What matters are your skills, experience and ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Keep in mind that everyone has an accent, whether you are from New York, Mumbai or Hong Kong. Your eloquence will make recruiters look past it. Don’t try to speak too fast. When answering questions, speak slowly but surely and articulate every word you say. And that’s something you can practice during your free time. You can take some free spoken English lessons online to practice your language skills.
- Understand the benefits of diversity: Many companies pride themselves on diversity initiatives. As an international student, you are bringing with you a different worldview, creative ideas and methods of solving problems. You are unique and think differently. You have the ability to adapt to changes and new environments. On top of that, you can help the company tap into a new market or better understand a current market or demographic you represent. In this global economy, the diversity of the staff will help companies enter new markets and understand global challenges. When asked the question “why should we hire you?”, don’t miss out on this opportunity to sell yourself and address how your foreign background and experience will benefit the company, its clients and stakeholders.
- Your skills are transferable: Create parallels between your previous work experience abroad and the job description. The environment, practices and technology might be different, but the objectives and expectations in the workplace are very similar around the world. Talk about the skills you used and developed while living and working abroad and how you can apply them to the current role. Whether you are an expert in Ingenieria Eléctrica (Spanish), génie électrique (French) or Engenharia elétrica (Portuguese) you know how to design electrical systems by developing and testing components.
- Become an immigration expert. Many employers are unfamiliar with immigration laws or have misconceptions about the timelines and cost of hiring international students. It’s your responsibility to learn everything about CPT, OPT, H1B, work permits, costs and procedures and be ready to educate your hiring manager. By mastering the processes, you will help eliminate the fear associated with hiring you. Also, the research you’ve done and your ability to clearly educate the hiring manager on a complex topic like immigration will also reaffirm your ability to solve problems and communicate effectively at work.