Written by Kyriaki Protopapa, Employability Executive (International) at the Careers Service
Making your first steps into the professional world as an international student may seem like a daunting task. Where do I begin? Is there a right way? What have others done and what did they learn?
We’ve gathered advice from fellow Manchester alumni and international recruiters to alleviate some of your anxieties and better prepare you for the entrance into the work force as an international graduate.
Tip 1: Be resilient when applying for jobs in the UK
Zayne Tan, an international graduate currently working for Toyota GB, paints a familiar picture to what international students sometimes experience when applying for jobs in the UK.
‘I had lots of ups and downs trying to land myself a job. I completed more than 50 job applications, almost 90% said no. I attended several assessment centres and interviews, they also said no. Even when a department in my placement company had a role for me, they had to say no to me because they couldn’t get past the legal procedures of employing me as a foreigner. I have to admit, I nearly gave up.’
If you are faced with the same difficulties, Zayne advises to keep a positive mindset, be patient and simply keep applying! He also stresses how important it is to speak to your friends and family after a job rejection as they are your main supporters and can help restore your confidence.
The Careers Service is also here to help; send us a copy of your CV and cover letter to review before you submit your next application or book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to help you refine your job search strategy. For example, you can try to be more flexible with the roles you are considering so you can open yourself up to a wider market of jobs which qualify for a Tier 2 visa.
If you are uncertain which employers offer Tier 2 sponsorship have a look on our website here. Be mindful that even though some organisations are on the Register of Sponsors, they may only consider sponsorship for exceptional candidates on a case by case basis or not all the roles they are offering may qualify for sponsorship – always check with employers in advance so you are prepared for all outcomes.
Tip 2: Use online University learning to your advantage
It is undeniable that the coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of University life including how teaching is delivered. Both Maria Forrest, Head of Overseas Graduate Recruitment for KPMG China and Susanthi Oh, Regional Talent Acquisition Partner for Shopee Southeast Asia, tell us that international recruiters won’t see this as a disadvantage; rather will perceive candidates who’ve successfully switched from on-campus classes to e-learning as flexible, adaptable and agile.
‘Tell us about a time where you had to deal with a difficult situation’ is one of interviewers’ most common questions; describing the new skills you’ve learned and how you’ve risen to the challenge of the current situation could become your go-to answer. Find out more about transferable skills and how you employers test for these on our website.
Tip 3: Effective networking is your most valuable tool
Building a wide network of contacts and keeping in touch with professionals in sectors that interest you is essential. They can provide you with insights into their organisations and its recruitment processes or even help you uncover opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to.
Pauline Melvin (MSc International Development), Project Management Officer at WHO Mauritania encourages you to be pro-active, keep a global outlook and get out of you comfort zone when reaching out to new contacts. This is the secret to her successful career which spans roles in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.
It may seem daunting at first but there’s a few tricks to get the conversation going:
- Make a good first impression by addressing new contacts formally and thanking them for taking the time to talk to you
- Avoid common faux pas such as being direct in asking if they could offer you a job or discussing salaries with them
- Be deliberate with your questions – enquire about their organisation’s work culture, skills/training that is valued and opportunities for career progression
- Show interest in their own career journey and if they present you with opportunities that could benefit you, try to reciprocate if you can
Not sure how to meet professionals in the UK or your home country? There are over 500,000 Manchester alumni around the world willing to share their expertise. Join The Manchester Network, our exclusive networking and mentoring platform, to receive advice from graduates who were once in your shoes. If you are looking for a job back in your home country, consider joining your local Alumni Association or connecting with the alumni representative for your region.
Tip 4: Tap into the hidden labour market
There are plenty of resources available to international students who want to go down the traditional routes of recruitment. To discover UK and international vacancies have a look on CareersLink or explore country-specific information on Passport Careers and the Prospects working abroad guide. You can supplement your efforts by exploring hidden opportunities.
The hidden job market is a term used to describe jobs that aren’t widely advertised or posted online. Employers might not post jobs for a number of reasons – for example, they want to save money on advertising, shorten the recruitment period or prefer hearing about candidates through employee referrals.
Teo Teck Loon (MBA 2016) is the Vice President of United Overseas Bank Singapore and attributes reaching this position to always being on the lookout for opportunities and not being afraid to put himself forward. He advises that many international markets are network-oriented and if you can access a job through your network before it’s advertised, then this will get you a step ahead of your competition. To do so:
- Get into the habit of talking to people about your career aspirations. Spread the word amongst your friends, previous colleagues or explore your sector contacts so you can discover opportunities through word of mouth.
- Reach out to companies that interest you and make speculative applications. Practice your elevator pitch and market yourself by showcasing to employers what you have to offer. Focus on your skillset, not just your grades.
- If an organisation is looking for volunteers, students to participate in project work or campus brand ambassadors, consider signing up. Many organisations only advertise graduate roles internally and this could be your way of getting an ‘in’ with a company.
- If you work for an organisation and you make yourself indispensable, employers may even consider creating a new graduate role just for you.
Raman Talwar (MEng 2011), Founder & CEO at Simulanis India, also highlights the importance of building a strong online presence, aligning your skills with what employers are looking for and backing your competencies up with examples. This can lead to headhunters or recruiters contacting you directly. Watch the recording of our LinkedIn Profile Essentials workshop for more hints and tricks. Whatever your plans after graduation, don’t give up and remember to persevere! It takes time to yield results but sooner or later you’ll land yourself your dream career either in the UK or abroad.