Continuing my homage to oversized stationery, the third in the series of write-ups from discussion with UC Berkeley Career Counselors, centered around tweets or comments from UK careers staff.  We’ve covered Internships and Student Involvement in service delivery, on to…

Giant post-it #3: International Student Needs

Picture of post-it discussion
Comments on meeting the needs of international students, following comment from Tahira Majothi – thanks Tahira!

Initial comment from Tahira Majothi:

Do they have issues re: meet needs of international students, visas etc?

Notes from UC Berkeley Career Counselors:

New position of Career Counselor for International Students – meets exclusively with international students…

  • resume / cover letter
  • job search strategies
  • grad school prep
  • work authorisation (visa)

[Also works on]

  • Specific programs, workshops for international student needs
  • Lack of confidence in spoken/written English language skills
  • Getting out of comfort zone and making friendships with students outside of home culture -> encourage practice networking!
  • Academic needs: writing / grammar support\

Contact Sarah Bang for more (via the Career Center contact form)

International Student Needs: overview

Berkeley has well over 4,500 international students (out of a total student body of 36,000), with the majority coming from China or Korea to study at Cal (Source:  Berkeley International Office).  For US citizens it’s usually cheaper to go to college in the same state that you live, and so these international students join freshman classes where two-thirds of their fellow students are from California.

International students are really well served by Sarah Bang, our new, full time, International Student Career Counselor. Sarah previously worked at the Berkeley International Office, and so is very well-informed about visas, work authorization and cultural change, and is serving as a great link for jointly held programs with that office. We recently ran a great joint session with them titled ‘The Unwritten Rules of the American Workplace, supporting students adapt to a professional culture that values interaction, speaking up and has a lower ‘power distance’ between boss and employee than in many Asian cultures.

International students can also see any other Career Counselor too, or consult with the International Office advisers for work authorization routes such as OPT  (after finishing studies) and CPT (work during their studies).  Around 40% of international students intend to return home after their studies, and the 12 month initial OPT option is a viable one for many. H1B (‘skilled worker visas’) are the sought-after equivalent of Tier 2 work permits for the UK, and like the UK are capped at a relatively low-level.  They ‘run out’ quickly after each annual release, although it is notable that positions within higher education institutions, affiliated non-profits and non-profit or government research employers are exempt from this cap.

International Student Needs: trends

Many of the trends around international student needs mirror those in the UK:

  • Student demand for job listings stating whether an employer sponsors visas, although NACE (AGCAS equivalent) guidelines advise against using this potentially discriminatory field
  • Employer demand for screening out international students (ditto)
  • Many advertised graduate roles for which employers are not looking to sponsor visas…
  • … apart from some of the big multinationals
  • … and with many citing exceptions that have been made for outstanding individuals who’ve build a relationship with the company through work experience

One common UK trend that I haven’t seen replicated is student need for information/job listings to work overseas.  Whereas in Oxford questions like ‘what are the vacancy websites for engineering work in [insert country]’ are pretty common, here students don’t seem to expect an international knowledge base in the same way.  Even US students seem to accept readily that the Career Center will know more about the labour markets in California than in other US states.  They’re right: the majority of students are Californian, the majority of recruiting employers are too, and most students are reluctant to consider leaving the state for work.  The acceptance of ‘California-centric’ information serves the majority population, and acknowledges that the US is BIG.  Where entry requirements for lawyers and teachers can vary hugely across a state line, and listing all 50 state variations becomes unmanageable it’s no wonder that students acknowledge that the Career Center will teach ‘strategies’ rather than dispense knowledge of a global labour market.  And as a result, US and international students alike do seem to be more self-efficacious – usually seeking career counseling for strategies, decisions, confidence-building and reviews rather than expecting an information dispensary.

The fact that international students follow this approach suggests to me that their expectations are largely set by the career service itself and its current relationship with its clients. Issues around English-language exist, but I definitely have said “we don’t proof-read your application for spelling and grammar” MUCH less than I do back home.