Many universities around the world are loosening restrictions that previously limited, if permitted at all, the amount of hours international students could work for an off-campus employer. In many places where international students were previously unable to seek off-campus employment, those students are now sending out resumes and applications to businesses in their new host countries—most for the first time. That being said, it is important to know what to write in a follow-up letter, as well as what not to write.
Elements of a Good Follow-Up Letter
A follow-up letter is an applicant’s chance to directly thank the interviewing hiring manager for taking their time to consider him or her, as well as an opportunity to refresh the manager’s memory regarding some more positive points of the interview and to reiterate how well he or she would fit with the company. However, a hastily or poorly written follow-up note can be a disservice, so keep the following points in mind:
- Personalize it. Don’t send a generic ‘Thank You’ form letter. This letter is being written directly to the hiring manager who interviewed you, so reference something real in their lives when thanking them. Maybe they mentioned a project they are swamped with—thank them for taking the time to consider your application despite his or her workload with project XYZ.
- Reiterate Your Value. During the interview there may have been a number of positive interpersonal moments, or instances where the hiring manager mentioned projects wherein you felt your skills would be valuable contributions—the follow-up letter is the place to mention them. Don’t just mention you “feel your qualifications are a match for the position”, show the hiring manager you mean business and know that specific skill x will be a great asset to the company’s project y.
- Timeliness. Be prompt in sending your follow-up letter. It should ideally be received one or two days after the interview.
Writing a follow-up letter or thank you note to a hiring manager is unlikely to change the outcome of a poor interview. However, sending a follow-up letter can certainly tip the scales in an applicant’s favor and help distinguish them from a group of similarly qualified applicants. Moreover, not sending a follow-up letter can harm an applicant’s chances of success.
That being said, international students should be sure to include writing cover and follow-up letters among their application procedures for finding off-campus employment.
With off-campus employment opportunities for international students, many students will be applying for jobs in their new host countries. Many international students may need a reminder of both the importance of writing a cover letter to accompany a resume and application, as well as how to write an effective cover letter.
Why Write a Cover Letter at all?
Most hiring managers agree that including a cover letter is as important a part of an application resume. However, it isn’t important to write a cover letter because the hiring manager is going to carefully read it—in fact, many will admit to “just browsing” them or, in many cases, not reading them at all—but because hiring managers often DO remember those applicants who didn’t bother to take the time and include a cover letter.
In a situation where someone is looking for easy ways to reduce the amount of similarly qualified applicants to look through, the people who didn’t care enough to put forward the effort are an easy choice when faced with a number of applicants who took the time to craft an individualized cover letter.
Features of a Good Cover Letter
That being said, a cover letter should not be a resume or a condensed version thereof. A good cover letter requires a bit of research and should fit the following guidelines:
- Write directly to the hiring manager overseeing filling the desired position. No “To Whom it May Concern”—do your research and personalize your letter. After all, this is the person making the decision to hire you or not.
- Show that you are passionate about working with this particular company. But don’t do so in a way that comes off as flattery. Demonstrate you didn’t just send out 1,000 resumes to whatever company. You chose a company where you felt you could make a difference, whose vision and practices you stand behind, and that you would be proud to work for.
- If you have a name to drop, this is the place to do it. Whether it is someone you know in the company, a mutual acquaintance, or a mutual contact in the broader industry, the cover letter is the place to mention it.
- Avoid re-hashing your resume or writing a ‘form letter’ style cover letter. Only list accomplishments that are directly relevant to the position or the company’s projects, and make sure to make the letter individualized enough so that the hiring manager doesn’t feel as if they just wasted their time reading the same generic letter attached to your resume you sent to every company.
- Be brief. Certainly no more than a page, though, the consensus seems that even less than a page is the most ideal.
Take the time to set yourself apart from the mob of similarly qualified applicants and include a well-written cover letter—it will really go a long way!
Finding employment after college is often difficult. Traditionally, few degrees offer work integrated learning, internships, or actual job experience as part of their programs. Even fewer programs and degrees offer straightforward career placement upon graduation.
This lack of infrastructure to support students’ transitions from the university to the workplace hurts both students and employers—students graduate and move on to the “job hunt”, wherein they regularly must settle for nearly any employment opportunity (often completely outside of their specific field).
Employers, on the other hand, are left with a series of new hires with absolutely no prior training or hands-on experience from which to draw—according to Inside Higher Ed, nearly two thirds of employers surveyed cited these new hires as drains on productivity and resources.
In response, institutions around the world are taking actions to emphasize and increase work integrated learning and networking opportunities into both the curricula of an increased number of programs, as well as broader university infrastructure.
These actions include:
- increasing the amount of hands-on training within particular career fields (while introducing it to others)
- providing research and employment networks through the university
- a shift toward competency-based degrees, wherein degrees are awarded based on evidence of learning rather than earned credit hours, etc.
For students, this shift toward competency-based learning can be a real boon in that students can use supplementary resources (like MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses]) to enhance their understanding of a field and thus, shorten the time it takes to receive a degree in an area in which they have demonstrated mastery.
- Many students have a difficult time finding employment that pertains to their degree upon graduation due to a number of factors, including: limited or no prior experience in the workplace, lack of access to research or career networks within the university that would assist in finding employment, and no career-oriented education
- Many employers find themselves with new hires who are a drain on resources as they have no prior experience
- Work-integrated learning and competency-based degree systems are current ways of addressing these issues—making employment easier to find for graduates, and making graduates more competent in the workplace and, hence, more employable.
- International students can benefit tremendously by getting ahead of this trend in international education and employment by looking into programs that offer work-integrated learning, internships, mentorships, or offer competency-based degrees.
Want to learn more? Check out International Student Loan’s article on how you can find a job in the US after graduation.
As an international in the US, employment opportunities are not easy to come by as many of you may have already seen if you are a current student. Finding a job is not only hard in general, but your visa status may restrict where you work, what type of work you can do, and how long you can work for.
All hope is not lost, though! Many schools across the US will allow you to work right on campus up to 20 hours a week if you hold a F-1 visa. It’s important to discuss your employment options with your international student advisor before securing any type of position.
To help you on your way, we have given you 5 ways to land a job on campus:
- Get chummy with offices on campus – Depending on your school size, there may not be a central hiring office for student jobs. The best way to find out if opportunities exist is to talk to each office and see if they are hiring. Dress professionally, bring a resume, and have a smile!
- Say hi to the career center – You will want to talk to your career center on campus and provide you with information about your school’s on campus positions. Since you’re there, they may even be able to look over your resume and cover letter, and give you a mock interview!
- Talk to your international student advisor – International student advisors can be a great resource to help navigate working in the US. Talk to them and find out what options are available for you to work on campus.
- Put extra effort into your classes – There are many on campus jobs where you can act as a teaching assistant (TA) or a research assistant for your professor. While in your classes, make sure you go the extra mile and make an extra effort to build a rapport.
- Browse your school’s job posts – Many schools have a job portal that lists all of the available jobs on campus. Be sure to check these out and submit an application. This can be a great way to get the dialogue going. Job openings can also be listed on flyers posted around campus so keep your eyes peeled!
Dan Beaudry is the former head of campus recruiting at Monster.com and former associate director of corporate recruiting at the Boston University School of Management. On October 10, Beaudry presented “How International Students Can Find Employment in the US” to students at Drexel University, and shared his knowledge of the job search system which he has used to help international students.
Drawing on his own experience, Beaudry shared innovative networking ideas that are valuable for both international and American students. For many international students, the word “networking” is an intimidating term that begins following them the moment they set foot on campus, evoking images of overwhelming career fairs at which they find themselves jockeying with dozens of other students for the recruiters’ attention.
This association can prove especially daunting for international students. After all, how are international students supposed to compete with their American peers when they are often conversing in their second or third language? According to Beaudry, you may not have to.
In today’s economy it is getting harder and harder for recent college graduates to differentiate themselves from the herd. Despite the fact that potential employers see application after application with a strong GPA, solid test scores, and positive recommendations, though, there is one thing you can do to help yourself stand out: study abroad. That’s right, studying abroad is not just about having a fun adventure – although, of course, it can be – it can also help your chances when you enter the job market. Here are the top 5 reasons why studying abroad can help your career:
1. Language Skills
Even if your classes are in your native language, immersing yourself in a second one by living abroad has been proven to be the most effective way to learn (or polish) the must-have language skills needed in modern international business.
2. Communication Skills
There is more to getting your point across than the words you use, however, and employers know that applicants with study abroad experience can work with people from different backgrounds – be they in the classroom or in the boardroom – a crucial skill in today’s global economy.
3. Independent Thinking
Because studying abroad, by definition, means leaving home – and the usual support network it entails – behind, employers know that students with international experience are more capable of making well-reasoned decisions on their own.
4. Multi-Cultural Exposure
Because more and more business is being done across national borders (but less and less time is being dedicated to on-the-job-training), hiring managers are eager to find employees who already have hands-on experience in a particular international market. With such experience employees can begin to contribute to bottom-line from day one.
5. International Experience
The piece de resistance, of course, is international work experience. Above and beyond the normal practical experience such opportunities impart, internships and jobs abroad are proof positive that you have developed the skills listed above and can use them in a useful context.
As an international student in the US, chances are you have to worry more about funding your education in the US than your domestic peers do. Because international students do not qualify for federal loans and often have to pay out of state tuition at state colleges, they generally end up paying more for their education than US students.
This infographic seeks to help international students explore their options when it comes to funding their education in the US. Renata and Cristian are both international students, one at a private university, the other at a community college. Like 63% of international students, each primarily rely on personal and family support to pay for their education. However, when something comes up, they both have to find different ways to support themselves.
We hope that this infographic will prove helpful to you as you learn about your different funding options. With the right combination of financial aid, we are certain that you will be able to afford your US education.
Click the infographic above to zoom in.
Funding college can be expensive, especially if you have to pay for your education overseas. Most students rely on their own personal savings and get help from family members, however this many not necessarily be enough to cover all of your costs. With most degree programs taking four years, and sometimes even longer, getting an international education can certainly add up. If you are looking to get financial aid for your education overseas, we recommended looking at the following sources:
- Institutional Help – Many colleges and universities offer some sort of financial assistance to their international students. While some schools offer more than others, get in touch with your international student advisor to see what’s available, how competitive it can be, and whether you can rely on it. You will also want to find out when you need to apply and be sure to write down any deadlines in your calendar to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.
- Private Scholarships & Grants – Universities aren’t the only organization that provides financial assistance to international students. Home country governments, host country governments, non-profit organizations, and international companies do support studying abroad through scholarships, grants, and other awards. Be sure to do your research to find out which awards are available so that you can apply and increase your likelihood of winning awards.
- Work in the US – Many visas have restrictions on the type of work you can do and in what capacity you can do it. Many schools do have openings for part-time employment opportunities that are available to international students. To find out what’s available, check out your school’s current openings and make sure that you are eligible. Remember, payment is minimal and should be expected to cover only ancillary expenses.
- International Student Loans – International students can apply for an international student loan as long as they have a US cosigner. This cosigner must be a US citizen or US permanent resident with good credit and who has lived in the US for a minimum of two years. If international students have a cosigner, they can apply for the total cost of their education minus any other financial aid they’ve received.
A report recently released by NACE, the National Association of College Employers, has detailed the ten highest paying majors in the United States. The study measures these majors with top pay by looking at the average starting salary for a newly hired employee. Here’s the full list:
- Computer Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Computer Science
- Aerospace/Aeronautics/Aeronautical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electric/Electronics and Communications Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Construction Science/Management
- Information Sciences Systems
Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of these ten highest paying majors come out of the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There are a few major reasons for this.
First off, STEM fields are many of the vital forces that drive our world today – the influx of computer and web technology in day-to-day life, for example, makes jobs in the above categories of Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Information Sciences Systems significantly more important than they were even a few short years ago.
Another main reason that most of these majors with top pay come from the STEM fields is that relatively few students choose to pursue these majors over the more popular ones in liberal arts, making the actual STEM-field graduates very hot commodities for employers desperate to hire workers with the appropriate expertise.
Does this mean that you should go into one of these fields just because it’s one of the ten highest paying majors in the United States once you snag that first job? Certainly not. But some planning ahead and honest soul-searching in your pre-college and early college years can help you consider what you’d really like to do and see if any of the above majors is in fact something that inspires you.
Also keep in mind that it’s never too late to shift gears into one of these ten highest paying majors if you decide that it is indeed the right thing for you. Even if you’re already finished with your undergraduate education, there are various ways such as grad school and community college that you can use to get you started on a major career change.
If one of the above majors sounds like a good choice for you, make the commitment, study hard, and be ready to land a great job once you join the workforce!
For international students who don’t receive significant financial aid and need some extra help funding their education in the USA, finding a job is one of the best ways to make ends meet. But, just like with financial aid, on-campus jobs can be hard to come by for international students due to legal red tape. Here are a couple tips to help you go about finding a job to facilitate your education:
- Know your student visa limitations
Student visas, such as the F-1 visa, restrict international students’ legal right to work in the United States, even if they need a financial boost during college. Students on a F-1 visa can only work in certain capacities, the most freely offered one is on-campus employment. For on-campus work, an F-1 student is subject to the following rules:
- You must maintain valid F-1 status
- You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session
- You can work full-time on campus during holidays and vacation periods if you intend to register for the next academic semester.
- The employment may not displace (take a job away from) a U.S. resident
Some exceptions can be made such as if a student is approved for severe financial hardship or an off-campus job on OPT or CPT status. Make sure you check the specific details of your own student visa so you know if you are eligible to work in the United States.
- Check for jobs off campus
Part of the federal aid that is unavailable to international students is work study, which helps US citizens get on-campus jobs to fund their education. Plenty of on-campus jobs are not officially limited to work study applicants, but work study employees are legally allowed to be paid with federal funds. If you’re an international student worried about finding a job on-campus, check with your advisor to see what options are available and try widening your search to unaffiliated employers in the immediate area where your ineligibility for work study won’t be a disadvantage.
- Start early
With all the obstacles international students face in finding a job, don’t add getting a late start to your personal list of difficulties! If you are eligible to work in the U.S., start your job hunt before you actually need the money from a job. It may be hard to focus on the job hunt while adjusting to college life, but keep in mind that it is for other students too – so starting on it right away will give you a big head start!
* Photo of paying money courtesy of Shutterstock