By Dongyang Fu, Member of IMA's Young Professionals Committee
In my experience, the most important thing you need to consider when looking for a job in the U.S. as a foreigner is how to work here legally. International students looking for part-time work are allowed to work no more than 20 hours a week to maintain F-1 visa. After graduation, to stay in the United States, one must find an employer willing to sponsor your working visa (called an H-1B visa).
I came to the U.S. last August from China, and am enrolled in a master of accounting program at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Like other international students in a completely new place, I initially felt hopeless as to where to start my job search. I began searching recruiting websites, but found that these websites aren't as helpful for students without experience.
Another method I tried was to take advantage of all the resources my school offered, including a career center. These often offer more entry-level opportunities. You can often find networking opportunities through career centers, as well.
I was honored to act as the president of the student chapter of IMA® at my university in my first semester, and actively took part in the events held by the local professional chapter every month. During this time, I not only got to know some professionals but also got an understanding about business culture in the U.S. - a great help in my job hunting.
In my second semester, I secured my first unpaid internship with a nonprofit organization located in Washington, DC. At the same time, I volunteered to help prepare tax returns. These experiences helped build up my résumé and enhanced my communication skills. Likewise, for those international students who do not have any working experience, it might be a good start to focus on volunteer opportunities and unpaid internships. Nonprofit and international institutions are more willing to sponsor foreign students since they know the process quite well. For those who work in companies that are hesitant to sponsor your working visa, try talking with your supervisor or the HR department to explain that the visa sponsorship process is simple.
This past summer, through on-campus recruiting, I was offered a challenging internship with a government contractor. After spending the summer there, I gained a deeper understanding of accounting issues on daily basis and had more responsibilities.
In addition to adding professional experience to my résumé, I was also looking to strengthen my academic background and social skills, which included passing the CMA® exam and becoming more involved with IMA. I will also attend the 11th annual IMA Student Leadership Conference in California this November. Currently, I am working as an intern in a financial institution, which has relationships with banks in China. In addition to assuming some financial and accounting responsibilities, I will also be involved in projects aimed at the Chinese market.
Thanks to my former experience, I got used to my new position quickly and was able to perform my work with minimal supervision. The company even expressed their willingness to sponsor me for the H-1B when I graduate. This shows how it is very useful to rely on your educational and professional background and seek out job opportunities with links to your home country.