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Fernando, Gihan S
Know Your Competitive Skill Set
Before you begin your job or internship search in the U.S., reflect on your employable skills. Many U.S. employers value both job-specific and other important skills. Think about your unique experiences (e.g., academic experience, part-time jobs, volunteering, athletics, etc.) and create a list with specific examples where you have developed, applied, or demonstrated these skills. Doing so can help you write effective job or internship application materials and prepare for an interview. Knowing your own competitive skill set will help guide your job or internship search and help you identify organizations and opportunities that may be a good match.
Start Early and Act Strategically
Finding a job/internship may take three to six months or more. It is crucial to plan ahead. Generally speaking, you can search for positions in two places: the open market (Handshake and other job boards) and your professional network. Be advised that some employers and opportunities may require U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status in order to apply. All opportunities posted in AU CareerWeb specify work authorization requirements. Visit the
ISSS office for more information on work authorization requirements and eligibility.
As the competition for many positions is high, be prepared to apply to numerous openings. Organize your job/internship search efficiently: apply only to those positions that are a good match for your skills. To assess your fit with a specific internship/job opening, research and consider the organizational structure and the responsibilities required of the position.
Application Documents | Draft, Revise, and Proofread
A typical job or internship application in the U.S. will ask you to submit a resume and supporting cover letter. Job applicants with advanced degrees (master's or PhD) who plan to apply for teaching/research positions at universities or think tanks should prepare a curriculum vitae (CV). Employers may also require applicants to complete an employer-specific job application and submit additional documentation such as a writing sample or portfolio. Since each organization's requirements are unique, refer to individual positions for specific application instructions.
The purpose of your resume is to convince a prospective employer to consider you for an interview. A standard U.S. resume is one or two pages in length and summarizes your academic background and accomplishments, as well as your skills and experience. These experiences can include jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, and extracurricular activities. Use action verbs and industry keywords when crafting your cover letter, and remember to provide your local address in lieu of your home country address. Do not include your TOEFL score; photograph; immigration status (unless you are a U.S. permanent resident); personal information like age, religion, or marital status; or hobbies or interests (unless they are relevant for the position for which you are applying).
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
The purpose of a curriculum vitae (CV) is to showcase your scholarly endeavors. It should include relevant research projects, papers, or publications; your teaching/research interests; and any presentations. A CV can be multiple pages in length depending on your academic experience. Your CV should not include your high school academic accomplishments or non-professional jobs (e.g., babysitting, waitressing, etc.). Like a traditional resume, you should not include your TOEFL score; photograph; immigration status (unless you are a U.S. permanent resident); personal information like age, religion, or marital status; or hobbies and interests.
Learn more about formatting your resume or CV and view samples. For help getting started, consult with a peer advisor or schedule an appointment with a career advisor
A cover letter is a targeted business style letter, no more than a page in length that accompanies your resume and conveys to an employer why you would be an asset to the organization. You should write a different cover letter for each job or internship for which you are applying. It should articulate your:
- Understanding of the job/internship responsibilities
- Abilities and skills relative to the position
- Enthusiasm about the organization
When crafting your cover letter, remember to highlight your skills and competitive advantage as an international student. These skills may include (but are not limited to) your regional/country knowledge, language skills, and your cross-cultural competency. Learn how to present and format your cover letter effectively.
Interviewing in the U.S. | Practice, Practice, Practice
The interview is an important part of any hiring decision in the United States. In order to be successful, it is important that you learn how to market yourself to an employer. In the U.S., it is important to portray confidence and enthusiasm for the job. To do so, you must openly discuss your individual accomplishments, strengths, and skills. However, it is important not to overdo it. Remember, there is a fine line between appearing confident versus arrogant. Gain culture-specific interviewing advice on
Going Global through Handshake and take advantage of events and services offered by the Career Center including workshops, advising appointments, and our virtual mock interview tool.
Networking in the U.S. | Be Proactive
According to experts, 65-85% of all job leads in the U.S. come from or through people that you know, i.e. your network. The purpose of networking is to build meaningful relationships with people in careers, fields, and organizations that interest you. By building these relationships, you can gather a great deal of useful information and learn about professional opportunities. Visit our career resource library, located in the Career Center, for information, tips, and resources.
Begin building your network in the U.S. through social opportunities. Your new friends at AU may have contacts in your field of interest. Ask them to introduce you to individuals in these fields and attend Career Center and other professional events for additional networking opportunities. Request business cards and follow up by e-mail or phone. You can also identify professional contacts by researching organizations on LinkedIn, through faculty, or AU alumni.
The Informational Interview
When building your network of professional contacts in the U.S., you may consider holding informational interviews. Informational interviews are in-person or phone meetings with professionals in fields that interest you. An informational interview is not a job interview or request for employment. Rather, it is a way for you to learn and gain advice about specific career paths, important skills, and organizations. In addition to valuable information, informational interviews give you the opportunity to build your network, which may lead to future job/internship opportunities. Stop by the Career Center's resource library for additional tips and resources.
Overcoming Challenges | Be Informed and Persistent
As an international student you may face challenges in your job or internship search. Many employers may be reluctant to hire non-U.S. citizens. Insufficient oral and/or written English language proficiency or a lack of understanding of U.S. cultural norms may jeopardize your job prospects. Additionally, not all employers are familiar with the work authorization associated with various immigration categories. The more knowledgeable you are about the employment options available to you, the more confident you will feel discussing them. Learn more about strategies to help you overcome or reduce these barriers by scheduling an appointment with an advisor and taking advantage of other Career Center services.