How to Survive in the American Job Market?

Dinah Chen is a graduate student in University of Southern California. As an international student majoring marketing communications, Dinah has decided to seek for a job in the U.S. after her graduation. She started her adventure with an internship with American Lung Association in California, helping the organization with outreaching and fundraising issues. She’s currently interning with Asia Pacific Arts magazine to write news bites and introductive articles of Asian pop arts. Additionally, she’s working for Testmax as a marketing intern to expand the LSAT prep software provider’s customer base to pre-law societies around the country.

As it is recorded by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau in 2014, over 900,000 international students are now studying in American higher education institutions. For universities such as University of Southern California, and New York University, and for certain programs such as computer science and marketing communications, professors would be surprised if nobody in the class speaking with an exotic accent.

College life in the U.S. seems all fun and colorful for most internationals at the beginning. Friendly classmates and helpful faculties, excitingly awkward mixers and parties from time to time, advanced knowledge from the frontier of the discipline… compared with most programs abroad, studying here is close to living in the heaven. However, for students who do not want to answer the patriotic call and go back home after the graduation, the heaven closes off the door on the graduation day. Without the warm shelter of the alum mater, international students find themselves step right into a wild woods compassed by competitive candidates seeking for the same paycheck. Given the dwindling economic situation, securing a promising career is not easy for domestic graduates, let alone for those outsiders. Glass ceiling or invisible wall is no longer a popular venting topic. Everyone understands that it is something that he has to get used to and continuously work on to break through. To most international students, the American job market is like a real-life hunger game, only the most competitive, the toughest, the bravest, in one word, the excellent of the excellent, will survive.

However, how many people on earth are the elite of the elite, the lion king of the prairie, the Zeus of the universe? Not many. Most of us are just ordinary people with some fair talents, holding a little dream and seeking for a better life. We’re not born with a golden key, have no powerful family networking to rely on. We’re not scientific geeks, definitely not mathematics geniuses and have no interest in making a difference to the human progress one way or another. All we’re looking for is a decent paycheck, a meaningful job, enough leisure time for family and hobbies, maybe a little ambition in career too, maybe. Perhaps our dream is pragmatic, but not menial at all. For years I have been reading blogs and articles from successful students, and most of the time I couldn’t find myself related to them. They are just like wild anecdotes to me. I admire their life and occasionally feel jealous about that. But as I move on in my own life, the willingness of writing something for the real ordinary students grows bigger and bigger.

This is just the introduction of the series of blogs I’m trying to write about in which I’ll ramble about my on-going personal experience about how to move from unpaid internship to paid internship, and hopefully to a part-time, a full-time job later on. My stories won’t be bright all the time, they face flops from time to time. However, they’re real stories and real thinking. As an international student determined to grab a piece of cake in the American marketing communications industry, where I have no leverage power in terms of the working experience and langue skills at all, I invite you all to witness my constantly stumbling but rewarding path. If I could survive the hunger game, you all should.

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