How to ensure a successful job hunt here in the US as an international student? One place to start is with a successful job hunt mindset. What is the proper mindset? It’s the set of beliefs that you hold about yourself and your job hunt which lead you to having more conversations and less time in front of a computer.
Problems with the mindset arise when you least wish them to, such as even before you start! Your beliefs might be preventing you from starting. Or when you are presented with an opportunity to talk with a hiring manager, instead of confidently introducing yourself, thoughts arise such as, “I'm not supposed to talk to senior people.” Like it or not, we bring a lot of these negative beliefs to the job hunt. Other popular beliefs include, “I'm not able”, or “I'm not prepared” or “My skills are not good enough.” Possible outcomes of job hunt mindset issues include not ever starting, or choosing to complete online certificates instead of having meaningful conversations with the firms you’d like to join.
You’ve likely got a comfort zone, and, like me, you probably prefer to stay within it. That’s just human. Then here comes the job hunt asking us to expand and grow, to grow that zone by temporarily moving in an outward direction, in the direction of what feels like discomfort - doing things you’ve not done before. Our immediate reaction is to resist. Here’s what I’ve found to be immediately effective in managing discomfort and getting the job offer we want: in sum it is the choice to respond rather than to react. Reaction will be tied to that immediate impulse to fall back on our old ways of doing things- what feels safe. Taking the path of response will reflect our making a conscious choice: we choose how we respond to the discomfort. We can acknowledge that discomfort exists when choosing to network or attend events and still commit to doing that, since that is the path of action that serves our job hunt cause.
So see whether your thoughts help you or not. Let’s say, for example, we believe that we're “not good enough” to do a certain job. That thinking then leads to speech. We tell ourselves, “I couldn't do this”, or “I couldn't do that”. Or “that's too hard”. And then there is action which comes from that, which may be the choice not to attend an event, or not to attempt networking. It's always like this: we have the thinking which translates into action or non-action. It’s important to catch these things early!
The way to arrive at a supportive job hunt mindset is simple: just let go of negative thinking. When those thoughts of self-rejection pop up, know that you can let them go. Then turn your attention to what actually leads to your getting hired: having conversations with decision-makers. Only decision makers can decide to sponsor you.
The one metric that matters is then this one: “number of conversations held”. Let’s say you continue to have negative thoughts spring up after reading this post. You can have those thoughts. Now, experiment with letting them go and focusing on the numbers. How many networking calls are you setting up each week? None? Ok, then that is the foundation to build on. If it’s a matter of not knowing how to converse with others, you can then take steps to learn the how, and your job hunt can progress.
Let’s say that each week the number of conversations you’re having with potential employers now stands at zero. The next baby step is to move that from zero to one. And if the number is one, the next step is to move that from one to two or two to three.
Most of the time, our emotions push us around and our job hunt suffers as a result. A simple example would be as follows: you have an interview and you're so excited, so you drop everything else - you stop networking. This has happened to me so many times where I have an interview coming up and I'm really excited, and then I stop my networking, thinking, “Oh, this next interview, that's gonna be the one. And then I don't have to job hunt anymore”. Having had that thought, I stopped my job hunt and just prepared for that one interview.
And what do you know? Things don't work out. The offer is not forthcoming and then I feel like I'm starting over, and I feel like I’m on a roller coaster going from elated to depressed, then to elated the next time an interview comes.
Let your job hunt emotions be what they are, but give yourself a healthy distance. Maintain some distance between your thoughts, you can have become aware of them and make wiser choices.
What if most of your feelings about the job hunt really aren't your own to begin with? In fact, that IS what’s going on here: most feelings come from ideas that you adopted and never questioned. Typically, for international students it’s common that you hear that it's hard to get interviews and offers with firms. You adopt that idea as your own, where previously this was not your belief. Then your job hunt operates from this belief. No wonder things don’t go well! You tend to not reach out to certain firms, all due to a belief that was not yours to begin with, and never supported by your own data.
What about those firms that say they will never sponsor? How to see the bright side? Just look at who works there on LinkedIn and notice all of the internationals working there. My experience is that questions of sponsorship DEPEND on whom you talk to. Sponsorship policy can change for you DEPENDING on with whom you speak. So, wouldn't it be nicer if you had conversations with your firms of interest?
Even people in “non sponsoring firms” can get to know you and you can advance your understanding of how that industry works. You also get better at networking for having made the effort. So, let’s not get too fixed on the idea that international students can’t succeed. Instead, let’s point out the mindsets that hold them back and let them go. Stay open to the idea that an offer is possible. This can propel you to take action.
You may not be ready to jump into Goldman Sachs or Google at the beginning of your job hunt, so give yourself some slack.
I want to invite you to see your job hunt as a process of learning so that you do get such offers. For my clients in the 12-week accelerator program, we’re climbing a learning curve together so that the student can be offer-ready and offer-in-hand by the time they are done.
To demand of yourself that, right now, you are ready to obtain your dream offer - this may be too much to ask.
That’s just not being fair to yourself or honoring the process of the job hunt.
The job hunt is a learning curve. You start at point A and chart a path to point B, the offer. Then that journey is about honing your communication skills until you hit the level of communication required for that role.
Learn to see the job hunt as a gift. Learn to see these difficulties as really gifts- challenges placed in front of us that, when we are done with them, have improved us for having been there.
Not getting chances to interview? That's something that we could feel bad about, or we could get really curious about and think, Hmm, this is really interesting. Why am I not hearing back? What's going on? Well, let me check in with an advisor to see what is going on and make some adjustments
For any job hunt difficulty, we can take the scientific approach and say,
“Hmm, okay, this is my starting point. This is my situation. These are my numbers.”
“Hmm. I'm finding networking really hard and that I can't do it. Well, how many networking calls have I had? Oh, I haven't had any yet. <laugh>.”
The setting up of networking calls makes us become successful. What can I do to achieve that?
That’s what the scientist would do. Just stating the facts, then exploring options.
So what should you do if you’re not yet prepared to get hired by your dream firm?
Even if you weren't prepared or weren't ready, we could become familiar with the caliber of communications, confidence, poise, ease and relaxation required. Then we could chart a path to get there.
Maybe we don't have the right outfit purchased yet.
Maybe we've never adopted some of the professional language that's used.
Maybe I’m really vague about what I want to do.
I can get the right outfit
I can adopt the professional language
I can become specific and clear about how I help my companies of interest.
What’s the difference between the ones who rise to the top and those that don’t? It’s not really about how long the journey is. It’s about the mindset. Do we think we can climb that learning curve? Sometimes it can help to have a mentor help point you in the direction of where the learning curve is. Then, when you get there, a healthy mindset is what allows you to climb to the top.
This is a story about getting your job hunt focus tested.
In a previous coaching call, someone was asking about networking with someone outside of their area of focus.
“Should I position myself as someone interested in investment banking when this other person is a recruiter for private equity and VC roles, and not banking specifically?”
These are the times when someone’s focus gets tested.
Your job hunt focus is really only ever tested when it's challenged like this.
Stick with your focus. People know people. Not every networking call has to be about you chasing the other person’s field or company. You can have a human conversation and benefit significantly by sticking with your focus.
This comes down to a question of mindset: do you feel opportunities are scarce or abundant? Do you feel your chances are good or poor?
I don't feel like I can accomplish something, then I'm maybe not gonna be implementing well in all of those important areas such as job hunt focus and job hunt method.
Approach your job hunt like a scientist: take a look at your calendar and check:
Am I getting on networking calls with people or not? Make a note of the number of networking calls without any judgment.
If I am, then what do my referrals look like? Am I getting them?
If I am, then let’s look at where those referrals are taking you. Are they converting into interviews and offers?
If they are, then great. Your work may be done. If not, explore at which stage your numbers are weak and explore how to make the change.
FREE 20-minute training to transform how you think about your job hunt.