Project #8: Seeking Best Practices for Career Services for Undergraduate International Students

By Soo Kyoung Lee, Alisa Eland, and Yuki Rowland
View the Full Report

ISSS conducted four studies to explore best practices in serving the career needs of undergraduate international students: 1) General international student survey of career experiences/expectations, 2) Internship focus groups and 3) Interviews of international alumni who found jobs, and 4) Interviews with other institutions about best practices.

Key Findings of the Four Studies

A. Student experiences at the University of Minnesota (from a general survey of all international students)

  • 92% of the survey participants want an internship before graduation and 75% of them hope to work in the U.S. after graduation.
  • Participants’ top job search challenges include ‘limitations of visa status’ (36%), ‘language proficiency’ (18%), ‘lack of connection or networking’ (10%), ‘lack of qualifications’ (9%), and ‘interviewing’ (8%).

B. Best Practices of Successful International Students and Alumni (who found jobs in or outside the U.S.)

  • Students found an internship in their field by the following:
    • Attending job fairs and other career events on campus
    • Utilizing internet resources and applying online
    • Using a network of people including advisors, professors, and mentors
    • ‘Being excellent’ in classroom projects and company competitions   
  • Helpful resources include career events, mentorship, internship classes and internships, online resources, workshops (resume, interview, communication, OPT/CPT), and student clubs.
  • Students recommendations for:
    • Career services: International alumni/employer connections, training on working with international students
    • ISSS: Online resources, clarify ISSS/career service roles, explain cultural differences
  • Tips for other international students who are looking for work experiences:
    • Start early and be strategic, know what you want, understand job search process 
    • Network and be proactive
    • Know American work culture, e.g., know how to sell yourself

C. Best Career Services Practices of Successful Institutions (interviews with staff at recommended institutions) 

  • Collaboration across colleges/units (ISSS, career services, alumni association, employer’s relations. etc.)
  • Staff training (intercultural competency, cross-cultural communication, and immigration policy)
  • Providing resources and programs to international students:
    • Career education/resource: Workshops on job search/skills, handbook, list of OPT/CPT companies, certificate program, student mentoring, and global career development
    • Networking/panel – With international-friendly employers, and with international alumni, with other successful international students, and bilingual/ international career fair 
  • Diversifying ways to communicate with students (flyers, emails, newsletters, and social media)
  • Providing the following resources to employers: Employer guide, workshops, webinar, and newsletters

What Findings Suggest For Our Campus:

  • University colleges and units need to collaborate in order to meet the specific needs of international student job search in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Career Services and ISSS need to develop and provide resources for the local, national, and global job market.