Part 1: Feeling like a dragged out process
Jumpstarting your career is a constant worry for many aspiring young professionals, especially international students who are faced with many employment restrictions. These students are often limited by several work opportunities they can apply to, which puts a strain on their living situation and the means to legally stay in the US.
Ericka Tenefrancia, an F-1 international student and recent Communications graduate from the University of Washington, traveled far away from home to attend college and explore work opportunities in the US.
Upon graduating, finding a job has been a challenge for Tenefrancia, on top of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has pushed back her full-time job offer.
“During school, it was much easier getting a job on-campus,” Tenefrancia said. “The hours were flexible, and it was a much smoother process because there were fewer restrictions for me to work (legally) part-time as a student assistant or in the dining halls.”
Tenefrancia said the post-graduation job searching process has been much more challenging than she expected, in terms of getting squeezed with unclear job descriptions and vague interview responses about visa sponsorship availability.
As for other work authorization options, F-1 international students like Tenefrancia can also apply for Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training programs — employment opportunities special for F-1 international students related to their field of study or major if visa sponsorship isn’t acquired. The only difference between the two programs is when it can be completed, OPT being completed before or after graduation, and CPT being completed only before graduation. H-1B visa sponsorships, on the other hand, would be required for those without OPT or CPT.
Part 2: What does Equal Opportunity Employer even mean?
Company websites that do not provide work authorization information publicly can make the application process difficult for international students like Tenefrancia.
And the formal, long(er) job application process — waiting for the phone call screening, moving onto the next rounds, and waiting for the offer can be dreading. After Tenefrancia expressed her frustrations, she said, applying to so many jobs and hearing back from only a few of them feels discouraging. Especially having to wait and find out whether the employer is willing to provide work authorization, feeling like a dragged out process.
Handshake, a commonly used early-career searching platform for university students and recent grads, offers the option to filter out job listings such as Optional Practical Training/Curricular Practical Training, employers willing to sponsor, or jobs that don’t require a US work visa. However, Tenefrancia mentioned many of the job postings she came across on the platform were inaccurate or not up to date with their work authorization status.
“Not only are these job postings vague and a little misleading, but the employers at these big companies aren’t even sure about the work visa situation themselves,” Tenefrancia said. “And then you read the ‘Equal Opportunity Employer’ statement, and it’s still unclear on what that means.”
Tenefrancia explained that employers and job postings should be upfront about their work authorization statuses, as it would help save a lot of time and hassle during the process.
Part 3: Tips & Resources
Most employers aren’t aware of the hiring process when reviewing these international students’ applications, assuming it’s time-consuming and costly. Meanwhile, the entire onboarding process may not cost a dime. It’s highly suggested that international students fully understand their visa status and work authorization — as it will help them be a strong advocate of their career.
In general, if a company says they do not hire international students, it usually means they haven’t undergone the process to hire these students. The process may seem unfamiliar and too complex, which in that case convinces them to not do so. It’s usually never that they are (legally) unable to. So it’s important that these students help educate employers, be honest about their visa status, and avoid saying the word “sponsor.”
Finding the available resources to help with the job searching process also poses a unique challenge for these students. Tenefrancia explained that she couldn’t find too many online resources dedicated to helping international students, especially with accurate sponsorship statuses. “My friend told me about this website called myvisajobs.com,” Tenefrancia said. “It looks sort of sketchy at first, but it’s been a good place to check for H1-B sponsorships.”
The four things Tenefrancia said she wished she had known more before starting her job hunt — that maybe others who are in a similar situation can find helpful:
- Sharpening her interviewing skills
- Attending career fairs, networking events, and virtual key-note speaking panels
- Starting the job searching process a lot earlier than she did (probably her sophomore year instead of senior year to prevent cramming)
- Knowing the process was much more complicated than it is