How To Network For International Students
International students not only have limitations to find jobs, we also have language, customs and culture barriers that make our interactions with potential employers more difficult. However, if you want to succeed, you need to overcome those barriers and network as much as you can. I was able to do it, and now I have +1000 LinkedIn connections, friends in companies like Google and Facebook, and I have worked for 100 Fortune companies.
As I mentioned in another article, taking a Public Speaking class will help you become more confident and improve your communication skills significantly. Besides that, the following 3 points are key to improving your networking game.
1. Know yourself
Before you can establish any kind of relationship with others, you need to know who you are, what your strengths are, your weaknesses, your top skills and most importantly what makes you special or unique. This applies to your professional career but also to your personal and dating life.
Almost every employer will ask you this question at some point before or during the interview: Tell me about yourself. Make sure you have a strong and outstanding answer because this could lead to an exciting and beneficial conversation or just to a boring conversation that will not last more than 3 minutes.
Take advantage of this question to communicate your international background, languages, side projects and key experiences that make you an interesting person. Also mention what you love, for example, I always mention that I love traveling and entrepreneurship. Most of the time this leads to more related questions where I can talk about my leadership skills as an entrepreneur or my adventures in other countries which are things that help create a connection with the other person since most people like to travel.
So before going to a networking event, practice answering the “Tell me about yourself” question and make sure that you are convinced is a great answer. Because if you are confident and really know who you are, other people will notice it and would like to know more about you.
2. Know the environment
Most of the time is hard to know who is going to be at the events you attend, but if you are going to a career fair and know the recruiters that are going to be there, do some research on Google to know a little bit more about them and their companies. Since most of the time you will not know who will be attending, I recommend understanding the environment in which you are going to be.
For example, if you are going to a mixer for international students, then be prepared to talk about your background, country and fun facts about your international experience. If you are going to a company information session, be prepared to talk about the challenges and opportunities at the company, about their management and work style, and most importantly about how you can help the company grow. If you are going to a startup or tech meetup then be prepared to talk about your interests, about your projects, ideas or whatever you want to create or get involved with.
If people know what you are looking for, then they will give you recommendations, connections and help you get there. But for that to happen, first you need to have a clear goal and know how to explain it! Remember this quote:
3. Be natural and have fun
People always notice when we are acting or trying to be somebody we are not, so always be yourself. Do not be afraid of what others may think, or if they are going to judge you or not. Most likely they will judge you anyways so show them who you truly are.
It does not matter if you have an accent, if you are from a certain race, if you are short or tall, etc… As long as you can communicate your passions, skills and what makes you unique people will pay attention to you. They will pay even MORE attention if you tell them exactly how you can help them.
From my experience, international students who are not shy and create connections during networking events tend to get jobs faster. There is no reason to be shy, people attend networking events, information sessions, meetups, mixers to MEET people so just talk with them, have fun and be happy!