The word networking can fall under two categories: Social and Business. Both are very important as it is a way to create a support system for both personal and professional development. Social networking or socializing tends to be less intimidating for international students. However, when you travel to the US to complete your degree, it is important to grow your professional network as a student on campus. Sometimes, socializing will lead to professional networking and even a potential job.
Here are some tips on how you can expand your professional network as an international student in the US
Start on Your Campus
Your school is a great place to begin as many other students share similar interests and will likely be in the same classes as you. Make sure you participate in school events like career fairs or resume critique workshops. Some universities will even offer a “business closet” that provides free professional clothing for interviews or career fairs.
Tip: Always dress to impress but remember to know your audience!
The Technology Era
In this day and age, your phone or computer is a crucial piece of equipment for everyday life. We share messages and pictures instantly with millions of people around the world. To begin your professional development, a great tool to use is LinkedIn. This app is the “Facebook” of the business world and can be used to find jobs, keep a professional portfolio, and make connections with people in the same industry. You can upload your resume to this platform, include any writing samples or presentations you’ve created, and more.
Tip: As a rule of thumb, if your parents can look through your facebook and not be embarrassed of anything that is posted, then it’s likely safe for potential employers to see. Cleaning up your current social media presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a great step toward professional development.
Network on the Go!
As an international student you are likely to encounter many people when you travel from and to the United States. When you have a long layover it’s comfortable to read a book and put your headphones on. Instead, take that opportunity to sit down with a stranger and chat about your worldviews or your interests. You would be amazed at the number of people that you can meet on your travels and exchange information with.
Tip: You can have business cards made at some schools for free with your contact information. Don’t be afraid to display your degree and school information.
Professional networking isn’t always easy in the US, especially if English is not your native language. However, the beauty of this country lies in the diversity of it. Here are some ideas on how to begin a conversation with your best foot forward:
- Network with a purpose: Have a goal in mind and find the person or group that could help you meet that goal.
- Icebreakers: Improvising a conversation can be hard and awkward. Having a conversation starter is a good idea and it can be as simple as “What brings you to this event?” or “Why did you start working for (insert company/group name here)?”
- Career goals: Before attending events, make a list of your career goals and be able to talk about them. Even if they are not clear, networking events can provide you with roads you didn’t think about before. Be flexible about how to achieve your goals.
- Follow up: You will likely encounter many people at networking events and exchange information. A great idea is to write things that will help you remember the person you just spoke with in the back of their business card. After the event, make sure you send them a quick email or letter about your conversation.
Networking is essential for your career in the United States. As an international students, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to meet people and build your support network. Often, you are likely to get a job with someone you know rather than simply applying to many different jobs. Building relationships will help you develop as a professional and help you achieve your goals.