The Employment search as a International Student

We have now entered April, and as a masters student on a one year full time programme the realisation that your time here is winding down is a bitter – sweet one. For those of us with dissertations and similar project activities, we will not fully be done until September, but the ever present thought in our head is employment and whether to remain in the UK. In this post I’ll be looking at some of the lessons I’ve learnt as I traverse the job hunt.

As a student of the UoS, we have one true advantage on our side. The University has been committed to providing comprehensive resources to assist it’s students in finding both Graduate employment and placements. As masters students, our time is brief with the university and job hunting must be started early. In my experience, the best time to start is October ( If you are a September intake) or January ( If you are a January Intake), my reasoning behind this is to avoid missing the Graduate scheme deadlines for a few early closing companies. Particularly in Engineering, my field, I have found that the graduate scheme positions for many of the more popular companies close rather early and I have found a few that close as early as November 1st hence the start in October. Prior to starting your masters, you would generally have certain ‘dream companies’ that you aspire to work for and it is important to know when their grad scheme application period closes,, and if unsure apply early. The down fall of these earlier applications is you are new to your program and you cant fully exploit the knowledge and academic experiences you are to gain in your degree when writing CVs and particularly cover letters. If applying can be delayed to late November or early December then this is best but it is better to apply than miss an opportunity entirely.      

 As mentioned before the University has several support mechanisms to help with the job hunting process. I haven’t used all of them but I want to spotlight the Surrey Pathfinders service & the Surrey Connects service, I recommend using both. Surrey Pathfinder is the more traditional type of support; it is a website run by the university that acts as a ‘one stop shop’ for the basics of job searching. They list searchable graduate schemes that are available for application through out the year, have profiles on various companies in each sector and post regular articles (both internally written and written from the perspective of potential employers) giving advice or guidance on varying aspects of the job search process. For example a company may post an article, giving advice on answering interview questions. Not all their services are confined to the online sphere though, they also offer one on one consultations particularly to offer help with CV writing and career guidance. Surrey Connects is the University’s Allumni social network. It allows current students to connect with former students who work in sectors they may be interested in. I highly recommend signing up for this service and searching to see if any potential mentors exist for your field of choice. I would have engaged with three alumni on the website and each of them provided insight that was helpful in my job search and understanding the industry a bit better.

So now that we have covered the support services available, where can one go to look for jobs to apply for? This is a wide question, and the answer may differ between persons. I found the best results to get a wide variety of potential opportunities was a combination of techniques. I did my primary job hunting on LinkedIn, and ensured my profile was up to date and put together . I used their job search feature to find potential roles and saved the ones I was interested in for later, I also set up job alerts to my email so I could get alerts when jobs fitting my ‘tags’ were posted. In addition to LinkedIn I also set up similar job alerts with Surrey Pathfinders Job Bulletin Board  and used a site called Grad Cracker to find more companies to apply to. To expand on Grad Cracker, it is a website dedicated to Graduate Scheme positions and I found it particularly useful to learn more about companies in the sectors I was interested in. We often get caught up in only applying to the larger, well known companies in our fields but it can be beneficial, though difficult at times, to find smaller companies in the field (especially start ups).

 So, now you have found jobs that you wish to apply for. The key things to remember are to properly read the Job descriptions (many positions have additional requirements that may exclude International students from being able to apply for example jobs that require SC level clearance are not open to persons who have not resided here for 5+ Years.), research the company you are applying for and tailor as many Cover letters as possible (even your CV can be minorly edited to focus on certain areas) to the company you are applying for and the skills, attributes and values they are asking for. Above all else, it is crucial to not get discouraged and to take advantage of every possible positive about your self you can promote. The path to employment in the UK has gotten slightly easier, now that they have allowed International students to work unsponsored for a period of time after graduation but it is still an uphill climb to find work. It is essential that you exercise patience and perseverance and try to gain an understanding of how in demand your field is for young graduates. Many fields that are purported to have ‘large employment opportunities available’ , actually have human resource shortages in their mid level career section, this means that the jobs available will require 2 to 6 years working in that specific field and experience with industry specific tools or software, things many Masters Graduates may not possess or may possess from another country (which is not always accepted). I wish everyone a smooth application process and all of the strength and will power to fight through the challenge.