Panelists Offer Encouraging Words for Finding a Job or Internship as an International Student

The Center for Career Development and International Student and Scholar Services hosted a panel discussion Navigating the U.S. Job and Internship Search in October of ‘22. Three panelists joined the discussion: 

  1. Ruiting Hu – ‘21 Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics-Actuarial Science; Minor in Psychological Science 
    • Current Job: Associate Actuarial Analyst at Swiss Re 
  2. Lasangi Dhanapala, Ph.D. – ’22 Ph.D., Bi-Analytical Chemistry 
    • Current Job: Development Scientist I, Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. 
  3. Maryam Pardakhti, Ph.D. – ‘19 Ph.D., Chemical Engineering 
    • Current Job: Senior Data Scientist, 3M 

The following are topics of discussion from the panelists: 

Plan Ahead 

It is important to understand authorization and visa options to enable one to plan for job opportunities as they open. Joining International Student & Scholar Services’ (ISSS) OPT workshop is essential. It is also helpful to schedule a one-on-one meeting with ISSS to understand the work authorization processes and to learn about specific circumstances. 

Gaining Skills Outside the Classroom 

Looking for opportunities to develop skills to become the most qualified job candidate is another key piece of advice. One speaker took a postdoc scholar role in a field slightly outside of her primary academic discipline which broadened her skill set and made her a more qualified job candidate. 

Another presenter learned that she needed to improve her communication skills and interpersonal relationship skills. She looked for ways to work on these within UConn and was a peer mentor and academic coach at the Academic Success Center.  These roles provided her with lots of opportunities to improve those skills.  

The Importance of Networking  

A common myth is that one needs to be an extravert for socializing and networking, while the panelists disagree – “You don’t have to be an extravert to network, the important part is to show up and participate in the ways you can and put yourself out there or it will never happen.” 

Talking to people can lead to all sorts of opportunities. One panelist spoke to a professor after class and that professor said “send me your résumé”. That interaction connected her to a summer opportunity that led to another experience where she met additional people. “It is not about having lots of individuals in your network but rather the right individuals. You can network everywhere both within and beyond UConn,” she said.  

Making Connections through Volunteering/Organizations 

Volunteering and joining organizations can connect you to new people. Explore volunteering opportunities – become an orientation leader, participate in a club or student group, look for experiences as an event coordinator for a club, serve in a leadership position, or collaborate on a summer program. 

Handshake for Job Searches 

One panelist explained that an employer found her résumé on Handshake (her current position). She got rejected from several job applications and then her “dream job” came from Handshake. Additional advice about Handshake – filter employers/jobs and internships by whether OPT/CPT is accepted. 

Answering Employer’s Questions about Sponsorship 

The presenters agreed that the sponsorship question should be answered honestly. Another suggestion was to begin working with a company through an internship using CPT, or utilizing OPT. “Then when a company recognizes that your skillset will be a valuable addition to the company, they will be willing to spend the money to get you the authorization that you need to remain in the U.S. long-term.” 

Internships Serve as a Bridge  

One speaker discussed how coursework in actuarial science is different from doing the work of an actuarial scientist. Her internship provided a bridge between the learning of concepts and their actual application in day-to-day work. The internship was during the summer and then extended for an additional few months. Eventually, a full-time job emerged and the panelist applied and got it. The internship helped provide a bigger picture of the field of actuarial science and the life of an actuary. 

Never Give Up & Don’t let Rejection Get you Down 

One presenter shared her vulnerability about fearing she would never find a job. Job hunting and waiting to be hired was a two-year process. She committed to also using that time to develop skills and knowledge to make her a more competitive job candidate.  

On Campus Resources 

To become successful was to take advantage of all of the resources UConn offers. “Meet with ISSS for one-on-one sessions – they will provide you with all your options. Consider attending the CPT and OPT sessions multiple times as you may learn something new each time,” suggested the panelists. 

Another final piece of advice – meet with a career coach at the Center for Career Development for interview advice and application document preparation. Always have an updated CV or résumé so that you can apply when there is an opportunity. 

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok:

By Desiree Martino
Desiree Martino Career Coach | Pronouns she/her