By Hiroaki Kono
I am part of the class of 2020, who graduated with neither commencement nor a job.
I know people in the U.S. often don’t care about being unemployed very much, since many college grads are likely to say, “I need some time off.” However, I am a Japanese citizen. Japanese employers often see a blank period in a resume as a term of “doing nothing and making no efforts.” Being afraid of having that “no status” time, I started my job hunt last November.
This is my second week of not in a school and not in employment. I don’t even know how many people have told me that I would get a job before my graduation because I would receive my master’s degree from the best journalism school. I have proved they were wrong.
An article from the New York Times said more than 36 million Americans lost their jobs in the last two months. It is undoubtedly challenging for recent college grads to find a job because more experienced people are looking for a job too.
To make matters worse, having an opportunity to take an interview is also challenging. Business Insider calls the recent economy “coronavirus crisis” and compares the economic situations with ones from 2007 to 2009. The article says the pandemic erased the number of jobs created since 2009 in a month. It means not being able to find a job does not mean you have not found a company that matches your ability. You literally have almost no job opportunity.
Having done job hunting for more than half a year (and it is still ongoing), I have three things to say for international students who are looking for a job in the U.S. during the pandemic.
1. Plan ahead
Doing something in a hurry does not lead to anything good. Take the time to write your resume and cover letter. I also want to stress the importance of submitting the OPT application as early as possible. I filed the request on the first day when I was allowed to do so.
It seems that many international students think they can start doing an OPT job once the starting date comes. However, if you do not have an OPT card, you cannot work even if it is already after the starting date. I got the OPT card in early May, and my friends still waiting for a card envy me.
Quick action requires research and preparation. It is also essential to understand the OPT system and make yourself up-to-date because NBC News says President Trump wants to suspend the OPT program.
2. Make your LinkedIn profile perfect
I hate to admit this, but it is almost impossible that an international student applies for a job and gets an acceptance letter. All the interviews I have taken were because of messages from recruiters via LinkedIn or Handshake. Please update and polish your profile. Many more people see it than you think.
3. Think widely
If you are smart enough to complete your academic work in a foreign country, there will be a job opportunity in your home country too, especially if your country does not have a large population of English-speaking people. Getting a job in the U.S. is not, and should not be, the only goal.
You are not alone. The only thing I am sure about is that everyone hates COVID.
Hiroaki Kono earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in May.