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If you are not sure how to go about finding a job in the United States, you’re not alone. Many international students face the same challenge. They want a job, but they’re not sure exactly where to start looking.

Fortunately, your University has some valuable resources to help get you started, including self-assessment tools to show you what your strengths are and career coaches to guide you along the way.

James Morrison, Director of the Career Accelerator program at Shorelight Education, works with students and career coaches to help international students find their dream job. He has six tips that can make the job search easier and more effective whether you’re a freshman looking for your first job or a postgraduate student just starting your career.

Expect the Process to Take Time

Finding a job often takes longer than students anticipate. In fact, it can take up to 6 months. The economy is good but the job market, even for entry-level positions, is still competitive.

Global giants, like Google or Amazon, often have a long hiring cycle that includes as many as 10 interviews and they typically start recruiting for internship programs up to 12 months in advance. Smaller companies may ask for only two or three interviews, but the process still takes time, so don’t expect to find a job in a few days.

Know Your Priorities

Every job search has three elements: industry, function and location. The industry is the type of business you’ll be involved with, like medicine, engineering, or technology. Your function, is the tasks and responsibilities you’ll have at your job, while the location is the city, region or state where you would like to work.

Know which of these is most important to you and which are negotiable. Your career coach can help you figure out what your priorities are and make a plan that will help you achieve them strategically.

Understand your Visa Options

There is more than one type of visa so don’t just focus on the H1B. Your career coach can help you investigate other visa options including the CPT and OPT for the F-1 visas, as well as the L-1 visa and E visa.

Although all visas are competitive, and none are guaranteed, you can improve your chances with a good strategy. For example, small and medium-sized businesses may be more willing to sponsor international candidates with the right skills. By looking at smaller companies you can increase chances of visa success.

Leverage your network

Many companies recruit on campus so it’s a great strategy to be ready to engage with those companies. Get comfortable answering their questions and have the information they need ready. Your career counselor can help you prepare for networking events and even practice interviewing.

Get involved with on-campus groups and associations. Many universities host clubs and professional organizations that can help you network with others in your target industry.  You also increase your experience and marketability by taking on leadership roles within the clubs.

For off-campus opportunities, consider the career-focused social media site, LinkedIn. If you already have a target list of companies, look around for connections who work in your target company or target city.

Target Less Competitive Cities

Growing and leveraging your network in the city where you are studying makes sense. However, finding a job might be easier in a city that does not have a large group of college students looking for employment. Here are some often-overlooked cities that might be just right for you:

  • Chicago, Illinois is the key city in the Midwest. You’ll find wonderful opportunities in finance and strategy there.
  • Austin and Dallas, Texas have more than oil and gas companies. Both cities offer opportunities in data analytics as well.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah and Orlando, Florida are both great cities for technology-based opportunities.

You might also consider looking for jobs with start-up companies. In the United States, less than 20% of start-ups account for nearly 50% of new job opportunities. But these might be harder to find. Small companies rarely have the time or budget to recruit on campus and so it is critical that you get off campus and network

For off-campus opportunities, the career-focused social media site, LinkedIn will be your new best friend. If you already have a target list of companies, look around for connections who work in your target company or target city. Join some professional groups on LinkedIn and join the conversation. Become the expert.

Position your brand and value

To get the best results from your job search, figure out what you are good at and and the opportunity you can provide to any company. Your career counselor can help you by studying any self-assessment tests and help you develop your “marketing pitch”.  Students who get a job and ultimately get sponsorship do so by leveraging their unique skills and also because they know how to “sell” themselves.  Know what opportunities are in high demand and how you can help address those demands.

A job search doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the right tools and strategies, you can find your dream job in the United States. Your career coach will be there for you every step of the way.