Internship while pursuing Masters in USA
You may have barely set foot in USA and began your journey of pursuing your Masters there, but it may not be surprising that you may already be exploring job opportunities and contemplating how you can land your first job or perhaps an internship. The latter is an excellent opportunity to gain job experience and try out your skills in your field of interest, while also aiming to land a permanent job with your employer after you finish your studies with a full-time pre-placement offer.
From the tech giants and startups of Silicon Valley to the media, fashion, and finance conglomerates of New York City, there’s little surprise that many international students want to propel their career with an internship in USA and make it big in the land of opportunity to live the American dream. However, there are a number of points to consider before trying to land an internship in USA. From the nuances of visas and adapting to the unique American workplace culture, it’s best to be prepared!
While pursuing your Masters in USA, you are on an F-1 visa and you typically can take part in an unpaid internship or an internship on your campus without having to
fill out additional paperwork. But there may be limitations on when and how many hours you can work. Typically, you’ll be allowed to work for up to 20 hours, so look for a part-time internship.
If you want to intern at an off-campus organization, there are two options:
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). CPT internships (paid or unpaid) must be related to the student’s degree, and typically, the student must receive some kind of credit for the internship. For CPT, students must have completed their first year at university, and they must apply for authorization on their student visa and receive an updated I-20 form before they can begin their internship. OPT internships do not necessarily need to be a part of the student’s curriculum or directly related to their degree and can be undertaken while still enrolled in school or post-graduation. The process is a bit more difficult than CPT, as approval for the internship must be gained from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The internship can be up to 12 months, full time (or even longer up to a 24-month extension! — if you are in a STEM field).
Most students opt for CPT internships during their enrollment, looking to utilize their OPT authorizations after graduation, as it is the only legal way they can stay in the country and look for a job, if they do want to remain in the country permanently.
In both of these instances, the employer does not feel burdened to take on an international intern as the employer does not need to take the pains of filling paperwork and hiring legal experts to sponsor the work authorization. So make sure you make this known when you are interviewing to up your chances of landing an offer. Also, be sure to talk with your DSO or foreign student advisor before you begin your internship hunt to fully understand these visas.
Every university has a career management department and it is in your best interest to consult them from time to time to discuss your career with your career
counsellor. Career counsellors are usually experts who have years of professional experience in their kitty and know all about current internship/job openings and can also help match your aspirations and personality type to an internship of your choice. Make sure you ask your counsellor ample questions, ask them to introduce you to contacts, and give you direction in your search.
In most cases, you’re going to be tasked with finding — and landing — your own internship. This is typical in USA. This is the time when you should also get rid of your old habit of drafting a CV and create a resume which is more popular in American culture. Make sure that you set up multiple mock interviews with your career management center and practice commonly asked interview questions. This will ensure that you get valuable feedback from the counsellors
and also practice diction to improve your verbal communication skills in English, which is often a big challenge for international students. The more you practice mock interviews, the more confidence you will gain for the actual interviews which matter the most.
Be sure that you use a visually appealing and effective template for your resume. Consult your career management center for resume templates and discus with them how to draft your executive profile, bullet points etc. so that your profile stands out among numerous applications. You should also take advice from your
counsellors whether to use cover letters and how to effectively write a cover letter.
It may sound like a cliché, but the importance of networking cannot be overlooked. Networking is the key to get internship and should be based on developing 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 the job or internship when you network with people and talk to them. Think about it, why someone would 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. You slowly form elationships with people over time and when you are in need of help, you just let them know that you are looking for an internship. 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.
Professors and academic supervisors can guide you to find an internship and also on what to do after your Masters. Make sure you talk to your professors regarding your intention of finding an internship and ask them for help and guidance on where to look and what types of offers to go for. They can help you find direction in
your search, introduce you to contacts, and mentor you regarding how to go about the process and what to do during and after your internship.
There are multiple online platforms to start your internship hunt such as Dream Careers, Global Experiences, USA Internships, Indeed, LinkedIn, Fulbright Program etc. On top of this, your career management team will give you access to various services like Handshake and encourage you to attend on-campus and national level career/job fairs. Make sure to fully utilize those opportunities. Look for multiple opportunities and relentless in applying to several internship openings. There is likely to be high competition and you do not want to limit your chances by applying for only one or two positions. Aim to apply to a particular number of positions daily or whenever you come upon openings. Applying for multiple opportunities will also give you greater probability of landing a position and you will have greater choice in choosing an internship that you enjoy and is likely to benefit you the most.
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