On a rather rainy Tuesday, August 22, 2017, around 30 international students were warmly welcomed by Indiana University alumnus Lawrence Joshua Nah, a two-time Kelley School of Business student who began his career as an international transfer student in summer 2006. Lawrence came back to share his career journey with current international students and to offer tips on how to make the most of their time at IU in order to be marketable and try to land a job in the U.S. after graduation. The event was a collaboration between the College of Arts + Sciences Walter Center for Career Achievement and the Kelley School’s Undergraduate Career Services Office.
Lawrence was very honest and open about his own experiences, sharing his strategies for success as well as mistakes he made along the way. Lawrence also promoted his self-published book, What’s Next? – The International Student’s Guide to the U.S College and Job Search Process, which outlines his own journey from college to career. In his book, he shares anecdotes and faux pas from his undergraduate career and how he networked his way into high-profile companies.
Lawrence received a Bachelor of Science in Finance (Honors) and Master of Science in Information Systems at Indiana University’s (Bloomington) Kelley School of Business. After graduation, he moved to San Francisco in 2010 to work for Ernst & Young’s Financial Services Advisory Group as a Management Consultant. He is currently an M.B.A candidate at the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business.
Here are some pieces of advice from Lawrence’s talk:
- Know your audience. US employers values well-roundedness, leadership roles, and relevant experience in new hires, whereas Asian employers value high GPAs and the name recognition of the university students attended. Craft your resume accordingly based on where you’re applying.
- Connections make a big difference. Alumni from US universities will advocate for students from their alma mater. Use this to your advantage by leveraging connections from LinkedIn and the IU Alumni Association.
- Get experience. Student organizations have lots of ways to help you gain leadership experience. Volunteering, internships, and serving as a teaching or research assistant under your professors are also excellent ways to gain experience. Having these experiences and being able to articulate their value will make you much more competitive. If you need help with this, meet with a Career Coach.
- Keep your grades up. While your GPA is only one indicator of what you can do, it’s a very important one. Your GPA will be looked at by recruiters, especially those from high-profile firms. Be sure to study hard and stay on top of your homework so your GPA is one less thing to worry about.
- Strike a balance on your resume. Who would you rather hire: someone with a 4.0/4.0 GPA but no extracurricular activities, or someone with a 3.3/4.0 GPA who has been involved in clubs and IU Dance Marathon, conducted undergraduate research, and served as a teaching assistant? Employers will consider your GPA as a factor, but they want to see a balanced resume. Hone your time management skills by finding time for school, work, social activities, and rest.
- Practice English…a lot! Lawrence was a TA in the psychology department, which helped him “speak like a local” and helped his comfort level when he engaged in professional conversations. Find time to practice English with native speakers (from the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand – wherever!) and show employers you have mastery of the English language.
- Be an advocate for yourself. While connections are important and will help, you must learn to sell yourself and speak up for your own value. You are going to get yourself a job, after all. Ask yourself, What sets you apart from other international students? If you’re not sure, speak with a Career Coach to find out.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Lawrence reminded us that international students typically stay within their peer groups, where they can speak their native language. You need to launch yourself out of your comfort zone and get comfortable speaking English all the time. Get involved with non-international student groups and activities.
- Be properly prepared for U.S.-style career fairs. Get acquainted with U.S. social cues, colloquial terms, acceptable etiquette, etc. See Lawrence’s book for a funny anecdote about him inappropriately using the phrase “making a move” in a professional setting and why that sticks with him to this day.
- Maintain good relationships with faculty and staff. Get to know your faculty in office hours and after class to help them know more about your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, and your career goals. Do the same with your academic advisor and career coach, as they will be able to help you with more than just registering for classes and finding internships. One day, they may even be writing a letter of recommendation for you!
- Familiarize yourself with “small talk.” Be it at conferences, coffee shops, or in an interview, small talk is a skill we all have to master. Learn it, practice it, and be ready to employ it at a moment’s notice.
Ready to get yourself out there? Then be sure to check out these upcoming events:
- Career Fair Drop-In Coaching – Monday-Tuesday, 9/11-9/12, 10am-3pm in the Career Development Center
- 2017 Fall Career Fair Prep (with FREE food and IU swag!) – Tuesday, 9/12, 6pm-7pm in the Frangipani Room (Indiana Memorial Union)
- CONNECT: Tableside Employer Sessions (with FREE food and IU swag!) – Tuesday, 9/12, 7pm-9pm in the Frangipani Room (Indiana Memorial Union)
- 2017 Fall Career and Internship Fair – Wednesday, 9/13, 3pm-7pm in the Indiana Memorial Union
We look forward to seeing you there!