Tuesday, March 8, 2016

megaVOICE - Gaining Work Experience

By Meghavaty Suresh
Contributing Writer

Now that I work a full-time job and my school days are behind me, I’ve been doing some retrospective thinking. What were the surprises, issues, and experiences that shaped my journey? Among the many things that come to mind, one that stands out is work experience. Having work experience on your résumé holds immense weight when you are applying for jobs.

During my time in school, I realized there was a significant percentage of international students who began their master’s degree soon after completing an undergraduate program. While this strategy helps you finish school faster, it can also put you at a disadvantage because you might lack full-time work experience. 

I am going to elaborate on three key strategies that you can employ to overcome the work experience hurdle:

Do Your Research

For students who transitioned from their undergraduate program directly into a graduate program, it is important to understand how the skills you gained in school fit into the real world. Look up job titles that interest you on websites such as LinkedIn and Indeed to see what kinds of requirements companies expect in a candidate; it will help you know what to expect and better prepare for the working world. 

Your classmates can also be a resource for you; tap into their knowledge to understand how the day-to-day is for different companies and industries the U.S. Even if you do not currently have U.S. work experience, you can still form the habit of interacting with your peers and networking to prepare for your future.

Find an On-Campus Job 

Try securing an on-campus job that mirrors the type of job you would like to have when you graduate. While this might sound difficult, if you think about it, a university is a business just like any other organization. Universities have departments for marketing, finance, accounting, public relations, business strategy, and more. Try to expand your campus job search to positions that suit your career goals. This will help you pick up skills that are important for when you begin looking for jobs after graduation.

Look for Internships

Find an internship at a company that is well known in your target industry. While you may have had work experience at a small company in your home country, it is important to gain work experience with a company in the country where you are studying. If you worry that experience at a smaller company will negatively impact your résumé, try to find internships or projects at larger brand companies.

I hope you are able to use one or all three of these strategies when trying to gain work experience for your career. Remember that you can succeed, all it takes is some research and preparation!

Meghavaty Suresh is a brand engagement specialist at The Guardian. She is originally from Mumbai, India. She earned a master’s in new media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she realized what it truly meant to be an international student and how best to enjoy the experience. The megaVOICE column is her opportunity to give a voice to the whispers of international students. Megha lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @meghasuresh.

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