Struggle of Indian Immigrant students in US

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This is the second part of an ongoing series. Check out Part 1 of ‘Brain Drain Series’ the Great Indian Movement where readers like Sunil and Dan voiced their opinion.

Last week we talked about the trend of Indian students migrating to the western land with dreams of a higher quality education and a promising career.  But most people don’t  know the reality and the hardship that they go through in their life.

Well, past few months ago I interacted with few Asian immigrant students in a networking event here. Speaking to them made me realize that the fairly tales of studying in USA and then landing a job that is related to their education often take a bitter twist for a few. And for some others the burden of educational loan that they take before coming to US keeps them under a constant strain through out their education at school and until they get a job.

While at school they have the option of Curricular Practical Training period (eligible to work for 20 hours per week, part-time, during Fall and Spring semesters and 40 hours per week, full time, during the Summer semesters) and an Optional Practical Training (OPT) period after they graduate. The two options allow them to work legally for a stipulated period in US and to make a living. OPT provides them an opportunity to gain employment experience after the completion of the student’s field of study. But if they don’t get a job within this OPT period (29 months) they would have to ultimately return back to their homeland.

29 months seems to be a long period but often the economical situation and the job competition puts them in a tough situation. Graduates, that are pouring out from good universities with outstanding career advice centers, often get help with campus recruitment programs and references from their professors to companies in their alliance. But what happens with those who don’t have these facilities.

So its not like you study abroad and there is a guaranteed job that awaits you. You have to work for it and earn it.

I have attended nearly 11 interviews and not got a call back from them. I even don’t have money to travel for job interviews now. I work from night to till morning in the gas station or local motels (which is illegal) to earn few bucks to survive here.

Says a Mechanical Engineering student from University of Texas at Arlington.

I worked as an intern in software development company till my OPT expiration period is due and after checking with them I got to know that they are not ready to sponsor my work VISA. This put in me a tough situation that can jeopardize my continued stay in US

Says an Industrial engineering student from University of North Texas.

This uncovers the surprising but often known fact that quite a few students sacrifice their dream job and choose to work for consulting firms as an IT consultants after getting trained by them. And they get their work VISA sponsored by these consultancies.  And what is more surprising is that they often apply and get jobs pretending to be an 8-10 year experienced professional (which is totally unethical and unfair). This practice set off a storm recently with this controversial news that talks about “No Americans Need Apply” in US job market. Recently there has been quite a backlash from Americans here over immigration and movement of tech jobs overseas and practices like this do not help the cause of the Indian student community here.

What these students can do differently:

Use CPT and OPT wisely: Instead of working in motels or gas stations, which is illegal, look for companies that hire you as an intern and can possibly pay you. Choosing internship opportunities which is related to your field of study will help you to showcase your expertise and convince that company to offer you a full time position. Make it clear that you require visa sponsorship before you work authorization period expires.

Maintain Relationships with Professors and Career centers: Helping your professors and maintaining a relationship with your career advisor in your school’s career center will help you to get referred by them when they know of an opportunity within their circle. They may even introduce you to companies in their network that could possibly have an open position.

Choose Volunteer work: Volunteering might not bring you money but can gain you some experience in doing a particular job and can add value to your resume. Volunteering help you to expose your skill set to the organization. “Volunteering in Career center and helping my professor in doing his research has helped me land a job” – Supply chain student from Univerisity of Texas at Dallas

Network with Recruiters & Alumni: You might have collected the business cards of all recruiters and placements firms that participate in your school’s job fair. Connect with them and if possible attend networking events of recruiters which can  help you get more job leads. Maintaining a relationship with your school’s alumni will help you know about the job openings in their company. And they might refer you to their HR department.

Maintain LinkedIn Profile: Having a well maintained LinkedIn profile that explains all of your expertise with the recommendations from  the professors, mentors in the university career center and managers you worked with during your internship will aid in your job search and job interviews. Engage with potential employers through their social media websites.

What do you think immigrant students could possibility be doing/ not doing in order to make a good living in US after their studies?

Click here to read the full series.

Next week we will talk about the cultural shock in our Brain drain series. Stay tuned.

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