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How to get Internships/ Co-ops in USA for F1 International Students?

If you are an international student studying on F1 Visa, sometimes it can be difficult or tricky to get an internship. Many a time, it is all about connections and whom you know. As far as my experience goes, I got my first co-op/ internship during MS through a senior’s reference who graduated from the same University; I just met him at a social event after he graduated from school and got connected.  I even got my on-campus job through someone I met at an event on campus.

Also, I got my second internship for MBA through my professor. Similarly, my juniors got internships in the same place we used to work through references. The whole point I am trying to make is, your personal network plays an important role in getting these internships, and just applying online may or may not yield results. In this article, we will look at how you can find an internship by proper networking.

How to really Network for getting Internships? Build relationship

It may sound cliché if I say “you need to know people to get internship or jobs”. But, the reality is, it is true in any job market irrespective of any number of openings or any number of people in the job market.  Networking is the key to get internships, up to my knowledge most of the people I know, who worked as interns, got their internships or co-ops through references.  It is even more important to build a network as you are an international student on F1 visa and do not know many people in the US.

Networking should be based on having a good professional or personal relationship sharing personal interests or common professional interests. Any network formed just for the sake of finding a job or just network for the sake of networking is waste of time. It is more materialistic and fades away after the need or with time. You have to be honest and create a good relationship. Do not just think of Job or internship when you network with people.  Think about it, why would someone take time to care about you and tell you about a job opportunity at their work or somewhere else, unless they have that personal or professional connection with you ? 

I have seen people go to networking events and talk to like 20 people and get 20 business cards saying, I have networked with so many people…I will get a job…I can tell you that, it is just a waste of your time and their too.  You just need to talk to few people 3 or 4 and create that bond by sharing common interests either professional or personal. Follow up after that and maintain that relationship. Your network strength lies in the network of the person you are networking with! There are some great career advice by Indeed on how to network for a job

Where to Network with people? Social, Professional Organizations?

You can network with people in a variety of ways. Quick and easy way is to join a social or professional organization in school or in city and slowly meeting new people in organization and building the relationship. You do not start networking with people when you just need a job. You slowly form relationships with people over time and when you are in need of help, you just let them know that you are looking for an internship.  

Most people are really nice, you just have to ask them for help, they will try to help you.  See if there is an Alumni registry or contact list in the organization, get their emails and invite them to a social events in the organization or invite them as guest speaker.   Talk to them about your passion and interests, ask for business card and follow up with them. Ask them you want to meet them to know about how it works in their company. Be passionate and try to learn stuff. Your enthusiasm is the key.

You have to network with Alumni; they are your door to enter the corporate or professional world.  You can try to join local professional organizations of your major and network with more people.  Just do NOT talk to people because you need a job. Be passionate and always try to learn and meet new people, you will find your way to get a job.

Should you ask Professors for internships?

One of the things I have noticed is, most students try to rely on campus career services or online websites too much for internships. They never take time to talk to professors and ask them for help. Personally, I have benefited from taking time to talk to professors. I got my internship through my professor. Just think about it, professors work with local businesses or corporate companies on a variety of tasks for research and other stuff.  Also, professors are constantly contacted by employers or their previous students to send them some good interns.

If a professor recommends you, you have just got the job. The hard part is your professor having confidence in your abilities. Some people may argue, they only recommend smart people. I disagree; my understanding is they recommend students whom they know well and who they think work hard and not just smart students.  It is up to you how you create that good relationship with professors. The key point is, talk to your professors and seek help. They will do their best. Professors are busy with research; your follow-ups and interest are the key things for getting a response.

What has been your experience getting a job through networking ?

Image Credits : http://adriennebailey.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/1314161.jpg


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1 Comment

  1. “Most people are really nice, you just have to ask them for help, they will try to help you”.

    I’m not sure where you live, but this is certainly not the case. 9/10 people I’ve met through online and offline are people who weren’t willing to help me despite having the capability and connections to aid my career. I’m no longer friends with people whom I once considered as “friends” because they’d almost always bring up bullshit excuses as to why they won’t be able to help me even though I know they were 100% capable. If a person truly wanted to help you, they’d go out of their way to help you however tough it might appear. I know I would do that. All I ever wanted was a physics internship so that I can smoothly transition my field from engineering to physics. I tried with my profs in my university but unfortunately, they are just profs there solely for teaching and no contacts whatsoever. Call me a cynic, but this is what my life has taught me. People would diss and laugh at your failures rather than helping one achieve their dream goals.


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