How international students can adapt to the new normal

One of the biggest speculations around 2020 has been “when will things go back to normal?” A reasonable question during one of the hardest years many will have experienced but, perhaps, it’s more useful to use this time to look for opportunities for change and how to turn a year of lemons into some lemonade. The likelihood is that things may not be exactly the same once the effects of the pandemic have ceased, however there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. In a year where it’s been incredibly difficult to plan, many will have found new coping strategies and learnt new ways to adapt to life and the challenges it can bring.

What will become important is how we react to these changes, if we can learn to find new opportunities that emerge from the disruption. For most international students and graduates, finding a graduate role and creating a meaningful career path is still a priority. So, how can you still achieve your goals in the current world scenario? Look at the lay of the land in your industry, how are things changing? Where are there gaps in the market and how could your skills be the solution to these gaps? Be a disruptor to the status quo and think outside the box. Make yourself part of the conversation, so that when you apply for roles, you’re already involved. Here are some tips to help you adapt and be prepared for your career.

Start getting work experience

Sourcing work experience during your studies dramatically increases your chances of getting the job you want after university. Start building a portfolio, ideally from your first year so that by the time you have graduated, you have a collection of experience relevant for potential employers. Not only will this increase your contacts which will be vital after graduation, but will also increase your skills in multiple areas. Work experience in your chosen industry will help but don’t discount other opportunities that could aid your development of other key skills and enhance your resume. Volunteering roles may not be your first thought, but can provide these skills in a way that still allows you to study.

 Connect with your university careers service ASAP

When you start a degree in the UK, you will have free access to your university’s careers service. Ideally, you’ll start making contact in your first year of study. This way you’ll be able to start creating a portfolio with the team for your career progression, from work experience to writing your CV and preparing for interviews. The service is usually available for a period after graduation too, but we suggest getting to grips with your career path with them as soon as possible.

Target the right employers

Here’s your chance to think creatively about your career. Think about the key questions that could put you in a strong position, here are some examples to get you started with looking for work in the UK.

Is the job a shortage occupation? See Home Office’s shortage occupation list. These are occupations where graduates are likely to be in higher demand.

Does the company have specific graduate programmes for international students? Some companies run schemes that allow graduates to train in the UK offices for 1 or more years, and then relocate to the organisation in their home countries, subject to the needs of their business. Knowing this information can help you plan for longer-term career goals.

Does the employer know you - through you're having done a placement, work-shadowing, volunteering, or project with them? Hence, the huge advantage of gaining work experience (paid or unpaid) with that employer. See our above section on getting work experience. Most international students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during vacations. Check your visa conditions at the UKCISA website.

If you’re looking for a job in your home country or another location outside of the UK, see the latest news with GradLink where you’ll find information to support international students and graduates from a global jobs board, top employers and advice, all for free!

By Jen Garmston Published: Oct 30,2020

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