A strong support system and non-inclusive work places
Ever been in a classroom or workplace where you simply felt — out of place? Well, you’re not alone. Whatever background you come from, your skills, being underqualified, or overqualified — it’s unfortunate to hear that a lot of workplaces still struggle to adopt the “Equal Opportunity Employer” in their hiring process and being proactive on diversity and inclusion statements.
Anushka Shah, a fourth-year international student from India studying Business Administration at San Jose State University was full of gratitude and passion when she talked about her goals, dreams, and accomplishments. After wrapping up her internship with Vizio — a well-known technology company that designs TVs and soundbars — Shah said she was worried she won’t have the same family-like, inclusive work culture she had at Vizio in her next job role. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, her role could not be extended due to the company-wide hiring freeze.
When I asked Shah what was the hardest part of her job search, it was no surprise to hear what she had to say as it’s been a common struggle for most international students I’ve interviewed in the past. Here were some of the things she had to say:
- “A lot of companies like to use the words “diversity and inclusion” when they talk about their culture and values. But then you come to find out they don’t accept international students, which doesn’t make sense.”
- “Reading the bottom of applications just to find the small print that says they don’t provide sponsorships for that particular position.”
- “Knowing that companies have the resources and money to sponsor, but still aren’t willing to makes me question the values and ethics of these big global companies.”
As far as feeling extra supported goes, Shah also recognizes the special opportunity she was given by her parents — fully covering her education to study internationally and work towards her future. “I’m not looking to settle here or anything,” Shah said. “I just want to work and pay back what I put in for tuition; and a lot of those (international students) around me want the same thing — home is home.”
STEM v.s. NON-STEM
Why do F-1 students who are STEM majors get a longer window frame to find OPT as opposed to non-stem majors?
So for those who don’t know — STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Students and professionals like to refer to STEM as a career path or academic discipline — varying from health sciences, information technology, to physics. And for those who are more familiar with the term “STEM,” you probably know that deciding on a STEM career is dreamt at an early age — like wanting to become a doctor — for reasons like financial stability, the high demand for jobs, and a lot of times — the pressure from parents.
F-1 students may also feel more inclined to choose an area of study that is STEM because they have the advantage of a three year extended OPT period, as opposed to the 12 months non-STEM students get. Shah, the only non-STEM major in a house full of roommates pursuing STEM careers said she feels envious of them — in terms of the longer time frame they have to legally stay in the U.S. while securing Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation.
Shah said although her major may not be considered STEM to most schools (but maybe to some), she said that it’s OK and finds it more important to feel passionate about her work than to pursue a STEM career — simply because it’s “STEM.”
“If I’m going to spend this much money on school,” Shah said. “I want to be sure that I’m doing something that I actually want to pursue.”
As I previously mentioned — feeling the pressure of family and parents throughout your education and career exploration can be stressful and I, myself can certainly relate to that. But good thing career counseling services like Volare exists — where struggling international students who might feel guilty about choosing a non-STEM major can understand that it’s totally OK. Volare encourages students to find a career that aligns with their passion, which can allow them to maximize their strengths and not worry too much about their weaknesses.
For Shah, she mentioned that she felt grateful for her parents as they’ve been very accepting of her career choice. In the end, she wants to make sure that she’s happy with the work she’s doing.
Anushka Shah’s 5 *brilliant* wishes she would’ve known before her job search
“As bad as it sounds, it’s important to engrain that fear of finding a job as early as freshman year so you know what you’re getting yourself into.” -Anushka Shah
For many of us recent graduates, international students, and those who have been impacted by the COVID layoffs — job searching may not have turned out to be the smooth process we all hoped for. For some piece of advice, here are 5 things Shah said she wished she had known more before starting her job search:
- Learning how to have better time management skills, especially with jobs being work from home.
- Taking certification courses on LinkedIn, this can show employers that you’ve attempted to learn the foundations and skills needed for the job you’re applying for.
- Being a part of student organization on campus, great for building soft skills and for networking.
- Having a strong social media presence on LinkedIn and not mindlessly scrolling. Engage with other people’s posts and don’t be afraid to share your voice, thoughts, and opinions in a professional and proactive manner. This can give potential employers who view your profile insight on your professional demeanor and soft skills.
- Reach out to people that currently work in roles or at a company you’re interested in. Do informational interviews to learn about how they got there, what they do, etc.