Majority of the students who study in the US are abroad for the first time and have never lived away from family and friends. It’s natural to look for a support system comprising of students who speak the same language or are from the same country. But often times, we tend to get way too used to this group that it’s tough to go out of that comfort zone that limits you as an individual. Based on my observance, unless your group doesn’t believe in what you believe in, which is often the case; your boundaries are determined by the group and not you.
Forget getting jobs after graduation, most students want an on-campus job as soon as they get to the campus if not even before. I understand that the sooner you get a job, the easier it is for you as you can manage your own expenses and it’s a load off your parents. But do students really try hard enough? Talking to fellow students from India may help you get a reference, but if there is something better out there, why not go for it?
Say your name is Sid. Imagine walking into an administrative office at your university and being greeted to “Hey! How may I help you?” Now picture yourself walking into the office as a student and imagine the prospect of “Hey Sid! What’s up? *fist bump*” Feels good to feel important and known right?
Most of the international graduate students on campus talk to people with the sole idea of getting an on campus job. Don’t do that mistake. Talk to people and make friends with people in the administration and domestic students with an intention to get to know new people and learn from them. You never know what doors they will open for you. But don’t bank on the fact that they will do so.
Here is what you need to know when it comes to powerful networking.
- Know who to network with. Once you get to the university, get to know who’re the important people on campus. Talk to somebody who’s active on campus. This person will be your book for Who’s Who on campus.
- Get to know what they do. Most of the important people have been on campus for several years and carry a lot of clout.
Tip: They work in the international office. Office of leadership and activities. The diversity office etc. Get to know what that they do and if they’re involved in something you like.
- Get involved. Be a part of various social events. Get a feel of it. Get comfortable and volunteer at these events for the important people from point #2. Add value to them and their events and don't expect anything out of it. That is when you get noticed. Once these people know that you exist, they’ll call on you for volunteering for other events, eventually you’ll manage the event and you never know, you might end up planning their events as their GA or a student worker in their office.
This point is every relevant to me. I volunteered for the international office for a year and a half. I like volunteering for events that involved international students. Right after my RA ended, the international office offered me a GAship for which engineering students aren’t hired. They made an exception for me. If this happened to me, it can happen to you as well. (Feel free to reach out to me to get to know my story!)
- Use your secret advantage. Wondering what it is? It’s something that all your international students have. DIVERSITY! Universities in the US and offices at these universities want a diverse group of students being a part of whatever they do. Diversity can be in terms of your language, race, nationality etc. Realize that you can are bringing value to the university just by studying there. Use this in such a way that the university can give you back for the value you are adding to it.
- Easy work life. If the networks that you make during your time on campus don’t really help you get a job, that’s okay. You now know what it takes to meet new people from various backgrounds and cultures and interact with them. It’s gonna be easier for you when you graduate and start working. Those of you who have stuck to your group of people from the same country will only have a minimum interaction and you’ll have to start from scratch when you are thrown into work life when you graduate.
Our support group is important. No doubt. But limit yourself to it. Don’t network with people with an only intention to get an on-campus job. Do so to grow as a person, to develop as an individual. This sort of networking may or may not open doors for you but you’ll thank yourself later for this investment and all the memories that you will take away from the university apart from your degree.