You may have just arrived in the U.S., but it is not too early to start thinking about the day you return home, perhaps with a job in hand and the prospect of a new beginning - that of your professional career. Reflecting on questions such as "Why did I choose the U.S. for study?" and "What do I want to accomplish during my time here?" can help you clarify your career expectations. Preparing for the surprises that often greet travelers after an extended time abroad will enable you to turn what is often a very awkward time into a productive one.
Keeping in Touch with Home
Part of the preparations for returning home includes keeping up with political, economic, and social developments at home. For some students, these changes will be minute; for others, they may be very significant.
- Check in the library to see if it carries newspapers from your country or region
- Find out how to access the cable-television network that broadcasts world and local news about your country or region
- Use the Internet's newsgroups and Web for updated information
- Maintain contact with family members and friends
- If possible, travel home on a regular basis while you are studying here
Build a Network! All over the world, people find jobs through personal or professional contacts. Although you may not be graduating for a few years, building a network now will pay off in important ways in the future.
- Develop your leadership skills
- Keep in touch with friends and acquaintances back home, including former classmates and teachers
- Get to know your classmates and roommates on campus
- Talk to your professors outside of class
- Participate in a sports team or social club
- Explore resources on campus and develop relationships with the staff of Career Services
- Organize events for an international club
- Join programs that take you into the local community
Taking advantage of your U.S. Education
Just having a degree from a U.S. college or university will probably not guarantee you a job when you graduate. Although the education you acquire will be quite valuable, employers often look for more than just academic merit. Some suggestions:
- Acquire an in-depth knowledge of U.S. politics, economics, and culture as well as a commanding knowledge of written and spoken English. Exercise your leadership skills in the U.S. context.
- Volunteer to work on projects in the community
- Travel to different parts of the U.S.
- Participate in professional conferences
- To the extent your visa allows it, get work experience, preferably in your field of study
Beginning Your Job Search
Ample resources are available on campus and off to help you in your job search. Begin to take advantage of them early in your academic career. On campus, these resources include Career Services, ISSS, your academic department, libraries and the Internet. Career Services (278 MSC, 516-5151) probably does not have specific expertise in employment in your particular country, but career counselors provide many services that can be of benefit to you.
- Prepare your resume in accordance with the expectations of U.S. based international companies
- Review job listings for practical training or internship opportunities
- Maintain a good relationship with faculty in your field of study and make sure they know about your goals
- Review journals in your field as well as newspapers and magazines from your home country
- Use the Web as a resource for researching companies
- Participate in job fairs
All students should consult the Directory of American Firms Operating in International Countries and the Directory of International Internships. Other important offices to be in contact are the American Chamber of Commerce in your home country and your embassy in Washington, DC.
Going Home Prepared
Know the job-hunting pattern in your home country. Many companies do their recruiting at the end of the local academic year. Contact the local American chamber of commerce for listings of American companies who may be interested in U.S.-educated candidates. Investigate the proper format for resumes and cover letter and local customs for contacting companies.
Start networking. As soon as you graduate, contact the International Alumni Association to make sure your address is on file so you can be contacted. Reestablish contact with former classmates and teachers. Let your friends and relatives know you are looking for a job.
Preparing for Reverse Culture Shock
Few people anticipate that upon their return home they will experience culture shock as they did when they first came to the U.S.. "Reverse culture shock" is most pronounced in those who expect everything at home to be the same as it was when they left it. Realize that standards of living, the political climate, and even family relationships may have changed. You've grown during your years abroad, and your friends and family will have grown too! Friends may have married or moved away. You may feel ill at ease with what were once familiar circumstances and may experience subtle forms of rejection if family and friends show less interest in your adventures than you had hoped they would. The solution? Find other students with whom to share concerns and coping strategies. Participate in the UM-St. Louis International Alumni Association.
Let awareness be your ally. To the extent you anticipate the strains of "reentry," the better you can minimize their impact and severity. And take heart: you can use the same skills that helped you to adapt to life in the U.S.. While here, take photographs, keep a journal, and update your address book to maintain memories and contacts when you return home.
Take advantage of the many career development opportunities available to you during your studies. Above all, don't wait until your last year in the U.S. to being planning your career.