It’s the day after fall on-campus interviews have wrapped up and there’s a growing line of international students lined up for drop-in career advising. Many look frustrated or dejected. Why? Because after the fall career fairs and recruiting have come and gone, they do not have a job offer. It’s a scenario that is all too common on college campuses across the US. For many, of whom the majority pay the full tuition price tag, they begin to panic and fear about having a lack of options in front of them.
Career centers can play a critical role in supporting international students consider options beyond what is available through traditional services like domestic job boards, career fairs and on-campus interviews. Evidence has shown that by creating career communities - which I launched during my time as director of UCLA’s Career Center – students can find a sense of support and optimism, especially because of the unique dynamic of peer support that forms the foundation of these communities. They essentially provide students a forum for sharing their struggles and successes, to engage in practical learning while being a part of a supportive network.
So how are career communities structured and how do they function?
Facilitation and Outreach
Career communities, unlike traditional models of career advising, can allow for more flexibility and can function differently based on campus needs. They are typically facilitated by a professional career center staff member. Ideally someone who has experience working with international students. The community can be formed at any time and marketing and outreach to international student organizations is a good strategy.
It is important to be clear about goals and expectations. And keep in mind that creating a successful career community will involve planning and relationship building. What I love most about the community model is the focus on engagement over presentations. Support rather than competition. A community will typically meet monthly or bi-weekly and have no more than 30 to 40 participants - which encourages peer to peer dialogue.
While the format is more informal and discussion-based, the content is focused with an emphasis on outcomes. With the international population, there may be some pent-up anxiety about the perceived lack of career options. The community serves as an outlet to talk through this. But ultimately it is about creating solutions – together. Bringing in a recent international alumna to highlight how she was successful in securing employment in her home country or a senior who completed an internship overseas can communicate a powerful message – that these opportunities do exist and they are attainable. Other topics may include:
- Webinar chat with an overseas alum who has resettled;
- Interview role plays with peer to peer feedback;
- Small group sharing about job search progress and successes.
There are lots of possibilities with the career community model. What’s most important is that they’re interactive and give students an opportunity to learn - especially from each other.