Networking for International Students

Heidi Roizen, the most well connected professional in Silicon Valley, said: everything is relationship driven today. As international students, we’ve all experienced, at some point of our college life, getting rejected by a recruiter because of visa-sponsorship issue. We go to career fairs, submit tens even hundreds of resumes online then wait for months to hear back from the automatic online job portal. It is time that we revolutionize our way of getting that dream job/internship: networking.

I know that as soon as you heard networking, you might say: I am not naturally forward. I am not comfortable talking to strangers. I don’t know what to talk about. That’s why I am giving you the following tips to help you get over the fear and get that dream job:

  1. Practice talking to the mirror. As weird as this sounds and looks like, talking to the mirror effectively let you see how you look when you talk to people. Imagine you are having a conversation with the employer and play both roles in front of the mirror. In the end, judge yourself from the employer’s point of view. Are you friendly (do you have smile on your face)? Did you feel the passion for the company? Were you intrigued by the person’s experiences and want to learn more about him/her?
  2. Practice with employers/companies that you are not so interested in. Go to career fairs and information sessions and talk to recruiters and professionals from companies that you don’t want to work for. This way, you can practice talking to strangers and eventually feel relaxed talking to recruiters and professionals.
  3. Follow up with the people you met with. Follow up within 24 hours of meeting someone new and recap on your conversation. Within the email, try to set up an informational meeting with him/her soon and get to know him/her better. Connect with the person on LinkedIn with a personal note instead of a generic invitation. When you see update on the professional’s LinkedIn profile, ask them about it or congratulate them on a promotion. Look up news related to the companies/industries you are interested in and discuss the news with them. Follow up with him/her at least 5 times a semester(information meetings, discuss news, discuss your updates, professionals’ updates, ask questions about the industry, holiday greetings, etc.) This with help you get to know his/her job area and companies better, help you figure out what field you want to go into with your career and makes sure when he/she heard of a job opportunity, you are the first person who comes up in his/her brain.

Only about 15-20 percent of all available jobs are ever publicly advertised in any medium. That means networking is the most effective channel that we can pursue. When in doubt of whether to approach that recruiter/professional, I encourage you to think about what is the worst that can happen: he/she can hear you. Worst comes to worst, you guys had a horrible conversation. So what? There are thousands of other great companies; you may never see this person again in your entire life and most importantly, you will learn about what conversation areas not to cover in your next conversation with a professional. You only need to have one good job offer in the end not 100, 50, not even 10. Look forward to seeing you all talking confidently in the next career event!

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