Often I meet very concerned international students worried about how hard it will be to get a job post study in the UK. Yes, there are opportunities out there for international students but it does feel much harder because of visa regulations. It may not help that these visa regulations change with little notice and the impact on Brexit could add further complications to an already complex process.
If you are an international student here are some tips to help you.
By putting these into action you will be improving your chances of landing your graduate job. Remember that is never too late to get started on making yourself more employable!
1. Know what you want to do. Do you have a clear idea in terms of your career or is it still rather vague? Consider what it is that you want to do, what sector you want to work in. If you don’t know then use a reflective tool like the Prospects quiz and reflect on the results with a careers consultant. Reflect on the skills you have, the things you know and the things relating to careers you want to find out about. Know your values and needs. Know what you need to learn more about or to develop.
2. Do your research on sectors and companies – this is a key skill known as ‘commercial awareness’ and you need it as much as any other skill. Indeed, many graduate recruiters feel that many students and graduates lack this ability, or the ability to demonstrate it! That also includes UK students! Remember that you need to know about what is out there and also, who is out there. The idea is that you have as much information to help you see what suits you. To be successful you will need to be commercially aware and demonstrate this awareness.
3. Get work experience and get relevant work experience – all work experience is good but there is definitely some that is more desirable to a recruiter. So, yes, do get part time work as this will help you but think about internships and if you can, do a placement year as part of your course. Placements are usually part of a course so do speak to your department staff. By doing a placement year you will gain excellent experience that links to the area you want to work in and develop your networks further. Once you have completed work experience it is vital to reflect on the skills that you have developed.
4. Remember, it is quality rather than quantity in the number of applications you make. It is better to do 10 focused applications than 100 unfocused and untargeted ones. Rather than sending off non-tailored CVs and covering letters create bespoke versions that give clear evidence to a recruiter to help. Attend workshops on effective applications and any other workshops that can help. Check My Advantage for details.
5. Maintain your home networks whilst you are in the UK – networking is important in the UK and at home so utilise those that you have. You can develop new networks but don’t neglect others. So, join LinkedIn if you are not already a member. This can help you make contacts and become a contact for others. Attend workshops on developing your social media profile and make sure you make your profile effective and professional. If you want to connect to others always personalise your contact message to explain the benefits of connecting to you and why you want to contact to them. Connect to people in the areas that interest you and with academics and see who of their contacts can help you.
6. Practise your English language skills– if English is not your first language you are truly amazing to be able to study in another language at degree or post graduate level. Highlight this as many employers will be interested in your other language skills. Don’t down play these but talk about them where they are part of the criteria of a role. Sometimes English skills can fall by the wayside if a lot of your friends are also from the same country as you and you find yourself speaking in your mother language. Try to practice your language skills as much as you can. Be aware of slang used by friends from the UK too and if they use an expression or reference you don’t understand then ask about it. This helps to strengthen your cultural awareness.
7. Get involved in extra-curricular activities – recruiters tell us that they really value the worth of such activity. So, join the clubs and societies that interest you and be active in them! Yes, it is a fine line in balancing your work with academic studies. Sometimes in the first year you can be tempted to get carried away by the social aspect but if it isn’t impacting on your studies have fun and keep developing those skill sets.
Follow these simple steps to help you to develop your employability skills. Don’t forget to use your Careers Centre to help you throughout your time at university as well! Check out the Warwick Worldwide Careers Moodle and the Office for Global Engagement