Internationals at the college campus career center (or not)

Serving students better to help with individual outcomes, international admissions and employer relations

Career center staff spend a lot of time encouraging students to access available supports, but they may need to work even harder to serve international 
students. A recent survey by World Education Services (WES) found that more than 40 percent of current international students had not yet used campus career services.

Among international student alumni who are now residing outside of the U.S., nearly one-third said career services were “not very helpful” or “not helpful at all.”

Both current students and alumni were most likely to express dissatisfaction with services that assist in connecting students to jobs and internships, including networking events and virtual job fairs.

Yet, preparing international students for future career opportunities “helps with the recruitment cycle, making it more likely for international students to say they’ve had a good experience and recommend the institution to their peers,” says Bryce Loo, research associate at WES.

Serving international students well also results in better relations between employers and universities.

“Those students are representing us,” says Aga Sypniewska, career development advisor and international program manager at the University of Colorado Boulder, which has more than 3,000 international students from 100 nations.

“We want that collaboration with employers, so the more we invest in our students, the more employers are willing to hire our students.”

Career services administrators can do more for international students, even on smaller campuses with limited resources, by:

Employment and visa regulation awareness ideas

  • UC Boulder organized a career panel with employers to discuss the process of hiring foreign nationals.
  • Arizona State offers the Optional Practical Training Academy, or OPT, to teach F-1 students about how to find employment in the U.S.

1. Leaning on colleagues who work with international students.

At Arizona State University, which has the third highest number of international students in the nation (over 11,000), many offices work together to help international students become career ready, says Janell Mora, associate director of international student professional development.

“Leveraging your partners in admissions, the international student and scholars center, academic units, international student engagement and the alumni association is critical.”

Some ways to collaborate include co-hosting campus events, encouraging other campus offices to refer students to career services, and sharing announcements via each other’s student newsletters.

2. Meeting students where they are.

Have someone from career services attend student orientation, and introduce themselves to students at international club social events and mixers, says Sypniewska. “Don’t wait for them to come in, because often, it will be too late.”

3. Helping students develop post-graduation plans, even outside the U.S.

Some international students don’t bother with career services because they plan to leave after graduation, says Loo. But many institutions are beginning to connect students with opportunities abroad through alumni connections and partnerships with multinational companies.

“We cultivate relationships with organizations across the world to offer our students and alumni global internship and career opportunities,” says ASU’s Mora.

Her team recently offered an information session and on-campus interviews for positions in China, and just hosted its inaugural Global Virtual Career Fair.  

4. Ensuring a career services staff member understands work and visa regulations.

International students need help advocating for themselves when meeting with prospective employers, says Sypniewska.

“Regardless of institutional size, career advising staff should be familiar with institutional and governmental policies, processes and timelines for international students,” says Mora.

With other countries recruiting international students (especially in today’s political climate), U.S. institutions can get a leg up by demonstrating their commitment to career-focused support and better outcomes.


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