Trust me, getting an internship is not easy. Getting an internship as an international student is even harder. But I am here to give you some top secret tips that will make the process less intimidating and prepare you for what is to come.
This is gonna be a content heavy article but it is a well-worth read because I made sure of that. So, hang on tight and here we go!
- Go meet with an advisor from your school’s Career Services!
First of all, go meet with an advisor from your school (i.e: Kelley School of Business, College of Arts & Sciences, Jacobs School of Music, School of Informatics, etc) if you are already accepted to the school. If you are still under University Division, go meet with an advisor from Career Development Center (right across from IU Health and Wells Library). You can either show them the internships you are interested in applying or you can ask them to look for suitable internships for you together. There, you can also find out about career fairs, events, and workshops that are going to be beneficial for you!
- Network! Let’s march into all the Career Fairs! ALL OF THEM!
Everyone panics and sweats before career fairs or networking events. I know I do. Practice networking and greeting recruiters or employers with a career coach/advisor or even your roommate before going to a career fair. Stand tall, chin up high, and you are ready to go. Recruiters love to talk to students and are interested in getting to know you but know that they are meeting with hundreds of students at the fairs while standing up for hours, so be considerate. They probably won’t remember your face the next time you meet them but it’s okay. The important thing is to smile, introduce yourself briefly, ask some questions (one or two; don’t forget there are many peers who are waiting in line and time is precious for all of us at the fair!) and ask for their business card so that you can arrange a phone informational interview afterwards.
- Email them a sincere THANK-YOU afterwards and arrange an informational phone call!
Send them a quick email with the subject like “Scheduling an informative phone call” but, do remember to ask them if they are willing to answer your questions on the phone beforehand. Include your gratitude for answering some of your questions at the fair earlier. The key here is to send this email within 24 hours of meeting them; the earlier, the better! If they say “YES”, start compiling a list of questions you want to ask them about the internship position, what their job is like, the recruiting process, your interest and so on. Keep the conversation lively! You should try to form some kind of bond and try to ask some light questions; maybe even questions about what the weather is like there now, or whether they had lunch (if you guys are calling around 1 pm).
- Go to workshops hosted by the companies you are interested in!
Another important thing is to stay in touch and show your face more so that they can remember you. Go listen to the workshops hosted by the companies you are applying for internships. Don’t forget to shake the recruiter’s hand after the event so that they know you came and are very much interested. Ask some great questions during their Q&A period so they remember your face when you go up to introduce yourself afterwards. After all, have fun, de-stress, and get to know the recruiters better.
- Review and tailor your resume and cover letter for the position!
I reviewed my resume and cover letter with two career coaches before submitting. This is the best way to up your game and make sure that your resume and cover letter stands out! Use appropriate action verbs to describe each position you hold and remember to have a master resume before tailoring your resume! A master resume can be many pages long (college undergrad’s resume should and must be one page; this is the unwritten rule!) and can include every single thing you have done up to this point in life. This makes tailoring your resume for many job applications so much easier.
Your cover letter should include how your skills and experiences match the job description that you are applying. Believe me or not, some companies use computers to scan your resume instead of people reading them because of a high number of applicants. So, include specific important words from the job description in your cover letter and resume so that the machine or person sees it! 🙂
- Get to know the Curricular Practical Training application process! (*Hint Hint: Office of International Services (OIS) is your best friend here!)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is what you should get before you start working your internship here in the United States so that you won’t terminate your F-1 status. It is crucial that you know what CPT is and how to apply for in ahead of time! International students can’t just decide to work in the United States and not have any approval. You cannot work off-campus part-time or full-time but for internships you can and only after you apply for CPT. Attend workshops hosted by your specific schools on CPT application process since every school has different application process and even some might require to enroll in classes! But, they all involve OIS. So, meet with OIS advisor and your college advisor on applying for CPT and please please do so for months in advance if you can! Also, get to know how having long-term CPT can affect your Optional Practical Training (OPT which is something you apply for when you get a job offer to work in the U.S. after graduation–this is not sponsorship, not yet anyways).
- Submit your CPT application documents to OIS and your school’s career services early!
I repeat. E. A. R. L .Y. I got my internship offer retracted (right after my CPT was approved) just because the process was long and it was already in the middle of the summer. So, don’t repeat my story on yourselves, hun! Submit everything single document early! That’s why I suggested you to learn about CPT process as early as you started applying internships!
You got a lot of work to do! Chin up and start marching on, Hoosiers! You will do great and remember, I am here on the sideline cheering you on!