By Hongye Zhai and Zara Pastos
In this widespread pandemic context, international students are facing a pivotal challenge in planning their career paths. Many things in their lives are full of uncertainty at this time, and their career planning is especially being greatly affected by the current situation. The University of Oregon Career Center provides career consulting and advice to help international students become successful in their career paths. In order to help international students get multidimensional career advice, we invited several successful UO international alumni and UO graduate students to share their stories of how they developed their career paths during their college experience.
Yichi majored in Advertising at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon and finished his master’s degree in Advertising and Brand Responsibility at the UO. While Yichi was a student, he expanded his experience and skill set by doing several part-time jobs on campus, including math and Chinese language tutoring. Moreover, he participated in the Career Center’s/ISSS’s collaborative Career Empowerment Program to explore work culture and gain experience through job shadowing UO staff. Yichi gained excellent leadership skills while serving as the president of the Chinese Philanthropic Leadership Association (CPLA) at the UO, guiding the association to achieve many great goals. All of these opportunities that Yichi participated in on-campus lead him to his current role at Arc of Lane County as a skills trainer to motivate and train children with developmental disabilities.
Boyuan majored in Accounting at the Charles H. Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. He used to work as a peer educator at the University of Oregon Career Center and accounting assistant at the School of Journalism and Communication. Later, Boyuan joined the International Business Association (IBA) and was promoted to vice president of the investment department. With his interest in investment developed in the IBA, he joined the University of Oregon Investment Group (UOIG) as a senior analyst and was elected to be the consumer sector leader. During college, Boyuan strived hard to expose himself to different potential career paths. After networking with professors and alumni about different career paths, he finally decided to start a career as an Audit and Assurance intern at the Deloitte. The internship experience helped Boyuan confirm his career interest, and now he works as an Audit and Assurance Senior Assistant at Deloitte.
Nino is pursuing a concurrent master’s degree in International Studies and Nonprofit Management at the University of Oregon. Before going to graduate school, she completed her undergraduate degree after studying at three universities and developed a keen interest in international studies and human rights. Nino also worked as an information and media intern at the IREX and research fellow at Mellissa Network. The internship experience helped her develop practical research experience that bridged the gap between her thesis and research. Nino currently works as a World Languages Study Abroad Graduate Assistant at the Global Education Oregon. She advises and promotes opportunities for UO students to study abroad, which allows her to devote time to her interest in international studies.
I asked these three UO international alumni questions about what made them successful in their career paths. Here are their great words of wisdom for all international students.
If you were to go back in time to your college experience, what would you do differently to boost your career?
Career fairs are an excellent place for you to practice your communication skills with recruiters. Yichi mentioned that if he were to go back to his college days, he would visit career fairs more often to gain practical communication experiences. Besides, international students should think outside of the box since there are many off-campus resources that you overlook. For example, there are career fairs available in downtown Eugene as well as online resources such as virtual career fairs.
On-campus jobs allow international students to launch their early-stage career. There are open opportunities on campus listed on the University of Oregon Human Resources website. This site contains employment opportunities announced early. For Boyuan, he would like to try more creative on-campus jobs that shape his transferable soft skills. He recommends when finding on-campus jobs, you should identify a job that challenges you to creatively utilize your time and develop your skillset fully.
Networking is a process to build relationships and learn from others. Also, it gives you a wide range of exposure to different career paths to preview and determine if you would like to pursue them. Nino would like to connect and intern for as many organizations as possible. She advises you to connect with professors and alumni to get in touch with more people and organizations. There are internal opportunities in organizations for students who show their interest in these positions and who put effort into networking.
While you were a UO student, what kinds of resources on campus did you use to help you develop your career path？
Career Center is one of the most important resources where international students can consult with career readiness coaches corresponding to their major. Moreover, the Career Center is conducting career boost programs that help international students to explore their career paths. Yichi attended the Career Empowerment Program organized by the UO Career Center to help him accumulate professional experience and have an outlook on the work environment and culture while shadowing UO faculty.
For those international students who recently graduated from UO, you should attend an Optional Practical Training (OPT) workshop if you secured a job or plan to work in the U.S. The workshop provides you with general preparation and important timelines when applying for OPT before you graduate. Boyuan mentioned the OPT workshop informs you of all the information you should know and offers consulting advice according to your situation.
What do you consider to be the most important job search strategies?
International students should properly use their interests to connect them with their career plans. For example, Yichi enjoys communicating, inspiring, and educating others. These interests first led him to find part-time jobs on campus as a tutor of Chinese and mathematics. After combining his interests and skills, Yichi found an internship as a skills trainer for the Arc of Lane County. He believes that in job search strategies, it is essential to develop personal interests into different career plans.
Boyuan considers networking the most important in job search strategies. He was inspired by networking with professors who gave him an outlook on several career paths and discussed the nature of work in the accounting and finance field. It indirectly helped him determine his current career in the accounting industry.
Moreover, Nino considers the on-campus job the most important. She worked as a graduate employee in the school of Planning, Public Policy, and Management and special project managers at the Mills International Center. Nino points out that an on-campus job gives you opportunities to build personal connections and get internal referrals for other positions you are interested in.
What is the best career advice you have for international students graduating from UO?
Yichi’s best career advice for international students is to get at least one on-campus job to build experience and practice communication skills. Also, attending student clubs and finding a summer internship can help you acquire transferable skills before graduating from UO.
Boyuan advises you to plan your career before graduation. It is often too late to think about your career once you have already graduated. On-campus resources, such as the UO Career Center's career readiness coach, help you plan your career and prepare before graduation.
Nino’s best career advice for you is to engage with an internship at an early stage. Internships give you exposure to industry insights and help you decide whether or not you are interested in those careers. To sum up, it may help you to find your right career path or rule out the wrong career path for you.
What skills are you using in your current job that you transferred from your college
Communication and interpersonal skills are some of the most important transferable skills developed during college. These are obtained not only from the classroom but also from campus work and other extracurricular activities.
Yichi encourages international students to participate in campus activities--especially in career development programs such as career centers--and to participate in student organizations to develop and practice soft skills such as communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills.
Boyuan states that some of the hard skills were not the most important when launching his career, but rather that communication has been the most important skill for his current position—different communication styles and interpersonal skills are necessary to work with different people in various positions.
Finally, Nino points out that the skill of analytical thinking that she acquired through her graduate studies is critical. She mentioned that incorporating analytical thinking into data analysis helped her make innovative decisions in her research.
Career Readiness Coaches are ready to meet with you and to help you develop and implement your career plans. For more information about appointments and virtual drop-in hours, visit the University Career Center website, or call 541-346-3235.Follow us on social media to stay connected@uocareercenter