The job-hunt: an international student’s candid evaluation

Male graduate with a degree certificate

Written by Pranav Sivaramakrishnan, Chemical Engineering Graduate who will now be starting as a Graduate Manufacturing Engineer with Rolls Royce

Any email starting with a ‘Thank you for your application! After careful consideration…’ used to throw me into a fit of anxiety and despair. Another rejection, what has gone wrong? I had relevant work experience with BP and was doing well at University; a predicted First-Class average complemented by 4 awards. I was confident, worked well with people, was a quick learner and adapted well to new situations.

Male graduate with a degree certificate

Now. I did not just point my credentials out to brag: anyone who knows me well, knows I’m capable. What I wanted to highlight however, was the sense of confusion I had over why I couldn’t make it across the line. What was going wrong?

As an international student, I knew from the get-go that securing employment in the UK post-graduation would require me to find an extra gear or two, and it might still not be enough. If the statistics from the Home Office are to be believed, you have a better chance of submitting a successful application to Oxbridge than you would securing a graduate position in the UK as an international student.

Does that mean there is no point?

The simple answer is no. Perseverance and resilience are key!

The first step is to change your mindset. When BP, the company I was most confident to get hired into, rejected me, I felt de-motivated and lost. With self-doubt casting its ominous shadow, it felt easy not doing anything and easier still to wallow in self-pity. However, I came to the quick realisation that:

1) Inaction is easier than failure, and

2) Rejections are not personal: it’s all about compatibility.

Understanding the relevance of these made the job-hunt a lot more relaxed. Relaxed in the sense of anxiety; not volume: the volume of applications shot up. At this point in time, a new stressor threatened to slow my pace: comparisons between my own progress and that achieved by my mates native to the UK. Seeing the effect this had on me, my house-mate offered me an excellent piece of advice:

‘Try to think about yourself only!’

This advice was more liberating than I anticipated and helped me take comfort from my own progress. With a better mental framework, I now focused on refining my preparation techniques. Two of the refinements that helped me most were:

1) Using the LinkedIn alumni tool to find relevant contacts within a company of interest

2) Using mind-maps to link my skills to my experiences and my experiences to the firm’s values

The LinkedIn alumni search tool was, in effect, Ben’s (Careers Service consultant) biggest gift to me in the job-hunt process. Using this tool, you can find people who work at the companies you are interested in and in the functions that appeal to you.

Keep your introduction simple and concise. Do not request contacts to secure job interviews or for information about new openings! Your aim is to find out more about the person’s experience within the company and use their inputs to determine if that role is right for you. This is best done as an informational interview, which you can request your contacts for once regular communication is established.

For an informational interview, as with any other aspect of the application process, preparation is key! Do your homework to understand why the professional experiences of your interviewee is relevant to the role you intend to secure. Being pro-active allows you to understand the company culture better as well as their expectations on graduates. You might also learn a thing or two about the actual application process if your correspondence is with a recent graduate.

Mind-maps are a technique that work for some people. It worked for me and I’d suggest experimenting with them first. Essentially, a mind-map or spider diagram links things which share something in common. By writing out the skills required for a job on one side and your experiences, it is possible to map how you have applied these skills in the past. In a similar fashion, it is possible to identify how your experiences align with a firm’s values. This 3-way mind-map not only gives you a list of relevant experiences to discuss at interviews but also offers you a better understanding of how your strengths can be tailored to the role.

With these techniques, some luck and a massive reserve of grit; I bested the application process. I consistently went deeper into the application cycles with some of the best firms in the world. Eventually, four months after that BP rejection, I had the rare privilege of choosing from multiple offers.

In a nut-shell: Believe in yourself, stay calm and enjoy the hustle!  

Good luck!

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