Career Q&A for International Students: Recruitment Jumpstart


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Photo of Rachel Garson Taylor, M.A., LPC, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.By Rachel Taylor, NCA Assistant Director, serving students in the Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates

Welcome to the International Student Career Advice blog series! Each month, NCA will feature a Q&A with current and/or former Northwestern international students about their experiences navigating the U.S. job/internship search process. In this month’s edition, NCA solicited feedback from three current international students:

  • Chinese undergraduate in Industrial Engineering working in financial services (sales & trading)
  • Indian undergraduate in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences and Economics working in consulting
  • Chinese undergraduate in Computer Science and Mathematics working in technology

Here are their responses to questions related to preparation for the U.S.-based job/internship search:

What is one thing that surprised you most about the recruitment timelines for your industry?

  • One thing that really surprised me is how early you have to prepare for recruitment. The timeline keeps moving up and the diversity recruitment/accelerated process can happen even earlier. Once the interviewing starts the spots can fill quickly, and there’s only a handful of firms that hire international students. It’s helpful to submit application early and check in with recruiters periodically to get a sense of how far along in the process they are.
  • The timeline for consulting is very regimented and easily discoverable through CareerCat. It is imperative to compile the timeline early so that you know which companies will be on campus on which dates.
  • I recruited for two industries at once in fall quarter, which is something that not most people would do. Tech industry’s timeline starts early in the summer – I unfortunately started a little bit late in the fall. Consulting industry timeline is pretty much what I expected so no surprises there.

When and how did you prepare for recruitment?

  • I started my recruitment preparations fall quarter of junior year, which in hindsight was late. I ended up being lucky but most people actually start to network and prepare their sophomore even freshmen year, which is now even more important given the shift in recruitment timing. When I was searching for junior year summer internships I didn’t really have a clear idea about which specific area in finance I wanted to pursue. It took me a lot of time to figure that out and then prepare for my technical interviews in the specific division. I think it’s good to join some finance clubs on campus, talk to the people in the industry and get a sense of what the career really is like early on. I also started following the markets in spring and that helped with the market questions during interviews.
  • I attended any recruitment events that were organized by firms I held an interest in during the spring and fall quarter. During summer break, my preparations predominantly focused on reaching out to former and potential connections at firms I was interested in in order to learn more about the nuances of the firms and build my network.  In addition, I did case prep to brush up my skills.
  • I started preparing for both tech and consulting in the summer. I studied really hard on the technical for software engineering internships, such as algorithms and data structures. For consulting, I did finish the whole Case In Point book and a few practice cases from Kellogg’s MBA casebook.

How did your preparation give you an advantage in the search process?

  • Talking to people and having a genuine interest about the business really helped. I think it’s something that takes time to build up and it really shows during the interviews. Also for S&T a lot of the preparation is following the markets, interpreting information and being able to talk about it. I got a lot of market related questions during the interview and it would have been hard to give solid answers if I hadn’t been following along for months.
  • Understanding early that networking was the most effective way to an interview selection allowed me to focus a substantial amount of my time and effort in the right place, instead of going overboard with interview prep too early in the process.
  • Because I had prepared for interviews over the summer, I was able to use the time during fall quarter to maximize my time at events that allowed for networking and information gathering.

What advice do you have for undergraduates about using spring and summer to prepare for recruitment?

  • Finance is a very competitive industry, especially for international students, so if you think this is what you want to do you have to start early: researching, networking and prepping for interviews. It’s also important to talk to as many people as you can during spring and summer to get a sense of the different divisions. Because the recruitment process can be so different for each division, I recommend first figuring out what’s better suited for you, then focusing on that specific area.
  • Take time in the spring and summer to zero in on the firms that interest you, and build your network at these organizations. This is a down time for recruitment at these firms, and as a result, first and second years are very open to speaking to prospective candidates, either on the phone or in person over coffee.
  • Know what industry you want to recruit for. Don’t spend time on industries that you are not interested but feel compelled to apply due to peer pressure. Use summer time to brush up your skills on the technicals because once fall quarter kicks in there will be very little time to spare while managing your classes and activities.

How to Break into Arts Administration


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How to break into arts administrationBy NCA’s Arts & Media Industry Team with the help of LaWanda May from the Chicago Children’s Museum and Darius Epps from the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Have you been thinking about pursuing a career path in arts administration? Perhaps you aren’t completely sure what working for an arts organization entails and want to learn more. We’ve got you covered with expert advice from two professionals in the field: LaWanda May is the Human Resources Manager at Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) and Darius Epps is the Internships and Community Programs Manager at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts (WT). We interviewed them to give you this insider’s perspective.

What exactly is arts administration anyway?

Also known as arts management, professionals in this industry work behind the scenes to operate the business side of an arts or cultural organization. Arts administrators are the bridge between art, artists, and audiences. Arts administration roles can be found within orchestras, theaters, dance companies, museums, galleries, educational institutions, arts centers/agencies, arts festivals, operas, and more. If you are interested in reading a bit more about this you can find more information on NCA’s Arts Industry page.

How can students break into the industry?

CCM: “It really depends on which institution you are interested in. Some arts institutions are only interested in artists that are working artists and that show work, while institutions like CCM, have interests in those who have more of education-based job experience. Also, involvement is the best way to break into any industry. A lot of working multiple part-time jobs and doing contract work.”

WT: “Take advantage of opportunities when they’re presented. Being open to exploring new possibilities can expand your network and provide you with valuable information and skills. No one’s career path is ever linear, so remain open to change and growth.”

How can a resume stand out when you are reviewing so many?

CCM: “List specifics. Pull out the little pieces that relate to the job description that you are applying for. Do your research and customize your resume so that it reflects the same values and skills requested for the job. Proofread your resume. Have someone with fresh eyes look at it as well.”

WT: “Any additional experience outside of the workplace (i.e.: service organizations, community groups, etc.) are always great to see. They can often provide insight into leadership qualities, the ability to work on a team, and willingness to show initiative.”

What is your process for reviewing cover letters? How important are they in your decision to interview a candidate?

WT: “Cover letters are a chance for applicants to share their story and convey their passion or interest in our organization. This gives an added personal touch to the application that simply cannot be communicated through the job experience listed on a resume.”

CCM: “Use the cover letter to express your interests and to highlight your past experiences and what you can do/learn in the new role that will enhance the position. With the cover letter, it never hurts to do your research and to mention specific attributes the institution has and how that complies with your career choices. Write a cover letter and cite how you are suited for the specific job and organization you are applying for. Being detailed oriented (not just creative) goes a long way.”

What does your interview process look like?

WT: “Interviews for our internship and apprenticeship program are conducted over the phone with a hiring supervisor, and sometimes a few colleagues within the same department. Questions can vary depending on the position, but generally cover work experience, interest in the program, professional goals, etc.”

CCM: “For our organization, we typically phone screen first (HR), if the candidate moves on, they are invited in for an in-person interview (HR and Hiring manager – in some cases an interview team). Some common questions include:

  • Why are you interested in our organization?
  • What is appealing about the position that inspired you to apply?
  • How has your experience prepared you for this role?
  • What are your strengths that would help you succeed in this role?
  • What do you feel are growth opportunities/what can you learn from this role?
  • What are your short and long-term goals?
  • What would you expect to gain from this opportunity (expectations)?

What advice do you have for students about interview preparation?

WT: “Prepare for your interview by practicing answers to standard questions, as well as researching the hiring organization. With the technology available today, it’s very easy to find information about current and future endeavors that are sure to impress during an interview.”

What specific skills and qualities do you typically look for when hiring for internships and entry-level positions?

CCM: “A willingness to learn, assist the supervisor in their development (open communication, letting them know what they are hoping to get out of the experience), enthusiasm about the opportunity, [and] flexib[ility] with the learning process.”

WT: “It can vary from position to position. Overall, we like to know how the internship/apprenticeship opportunity will encourage your professional growth. The opportunities offered at Wolf Trap for interns and apprentices place education at the forefront with an emphasis on professionalism and fun. Hired applicants can expect to leave their internship or apprenticeship ready to enter the workforce.”

Learn more about opportunities at the Chicago Children’s Museum and Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts by visiting their websites and keep an eye out for upcoming NCA programming to learn more about the arts administration industry. Remember, you can always make an appointment to meet with your career adviser or counselor via CareerCat!

How to Network as an International PhD


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Elysse Longiotti is an assistant director of student career advising serving doctoral students in The Graduate SchoolBy Elysse Longiotti, M.A., M.S., Assistant Director, Student Career Advising, serving doctoral students in The Graduate School.

Note: This post is part of NCA’s blog series for international students, but the following networking advice is relevant for all PhD students.

In the last two Q&A blog posts for international students, advisers and alumni discussed the importance of networking in the job search. Just as networking plays an important role in securing a postdoctoral fellowship, it is essential to learn more about different industries, career pathways, and positions outside of the academic job market. This can seem particularly daunting, as many enter into networking situations feeling as though they need to make an inauthentic sales pitch for themselves with the goal of getting something explicit from a conversation. However, this is a misguided approach to networking that will seldom result in successful relationship-building.

The first challenge to overcome when approaching networking is to re-frame what you hope to accomplish. Conversations should not be viewed as transactions intended to gain an immediate referral, interview, internship, etc., but instead, as the first step in developing a professional relationship. Chances are, contacting a random person on LinkedIn at a company of interest with a transparent goal of securing one of the aforementioned opportunities will yield little response. There needs to be a deeper intentionality and connection when you reach out to professionals. For example, contacting individuals with whom you share something in common – your department, your graduate or undergraduate institution, your field or discipline – and calling immediate attention to those commonalities will only increase your chance of receiving a response. Keep in mind, those you choose to contact are potential peers and colleagues in an industry or at an organization you hope to, at a minimum, learn more about.

The first thing, then, is to consider how to be authentic and maintain your values when reaching out to strangers. Though the bulk of initial networking conversations will be focused on your contact, you should have your own narrative prepared – commonly referred to as an elevator pitch. Crafting your elevator pitch requires you to take time to think through how your research and other professional experiences have led you to explore whatever opportunity you’re hoping to learn more about. Your pitch does not need to sell yourself, your awards or your accomplishments, nor does it need to go into the same type of technical detail with which you might provide someone from your field at an academic conference. You should instead tailor the story you want to tell based on the individual you’re reaching out to, or the industry you’re hoping to explore. Consider some of the following: what have you enjoyed most about your research?; how does that tie into what you hope will be your next professional role?; what (if applicable) experiences do you have in the industry you’re hoping to enter – past positions, internships, contract work, etc.? Preparing a thoughtful professional narrative helps set the tone and direction for initial conversations.

Equal consideration needs to be shown to those you connect with. Devoting time to think about your interest in the person you’re contacting is essential to facilitating an authentic exchange. What do you hope to learn from the person on the other side of your LinkedIn request, email, or phone? Think about questions you have about their day-to-day work load and projects. How and with whom do they collaborate, what is their work environment like, etc.? See the NCA Career Guide for more examples of potential questions. As a PhD, you may want to target employees with PhDs in an industry or company you’re exploring. You can then ask further tailored questions about challenges they encountered transitioning from academic research, primary differences, and ways they continue to apply training and experience gained during graduate school. Notice – all of these questions are focused on gleaning advice and insight, not an interview. When you engage someone with a genuine interest in the information and expertise they have to offer, you set yourself up to have more points of contact in the future.

The most important thing to keep in mind when approaching networking is that it is through relationships from which referrals are made, not stand-alone conversations. As Joseph Barber from the University of Pennsylvania wrote in his recent article, A Networking Rule to Live By, “[n]etworking is not the process of reaching out to people. Networking is the process of thinking about whom to reach out to, why, with what goal.”

4 Considerations When Selecting a Writing Sample


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By Taylor Kinn, NCA Assistant Director of Student Career Advising, serving students enrolled in the Harvey Kapnick Center for Business Institutions MinorBy Taylor Kinn, NCA Assistant Director of Student Career Advising, serving students enrolled in the Harvey Kapnick Center for Business Institutions Minor

If you are in the process of applying for an internship or full-time position there is a chance employers may request a writing sample as part of your application. Ultimately, an employer wants to know more about your written communication and evaluate your ability to perform in the role. Below are a few questions I recommend you consider when selecting a writing sample:

  • Who is your audience? Consider what you know about the employer: the industry, client focus, or other aspects of the employer’s work can provide guidance on selecting a topic for your writing sample. For example, if the organization focuses on public policy in urban areas and you’ve written a course paper about the impact of educational policy in Chicago, this could demonstrate both your interest in the employer’s work and the knowledge that you’ll bring to the role. This is an example of how industry and employer research can help to inform your application.
  • Why are they requesting a writing sample? You also want to consider the style of writing the employer is interested in reviewing. Consider the role and how writing and communication play into the tasks you will be asked to accomplish. For example, writing press releases, blog content, and client reports may require three distinct styles.
  • What do you hope to share? The content and style of your writing should ultimately showcase your Both the topic and style of writing are ways for you to demonstrate the knowledge and skills you can offer the employer. For example, if an employer wants to see that you can analyze information, this skillset may be better showcased in a research paper rather than an opinion based essay or non-fiction piece of work. Or, if creativity is important, sharing a piece that clearly conveys your ideas and point of view will be most effective.
  • Should you draft a new sample or use an existing one? There may be a situation in which creating a writing sample specifically for the application makes the most sense. The employer may even request this. For example, an employer may want to see how you communicate professionally and request that you submit a mock email. However, just because you haven’t written a course paper or other piece about the industry to which you are applying doesn’t automatically mean you need to create a sample. Still, you may decide that tailoring the content and/or style of writing to a given employer or industry is most effective for your application.

Keep in mind that most writing samples will be 2-3 pages, unless otherwise specified, and a section of a larger work can be used. Be sure to follow instructions about the requested writing sample and always proofread. Your ability to follow instructions is another way employers assess your attention to detail.

Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your career adviser (for job/internship applications), or career counselor (for graduate school applications) if you have any additional questions about how to select a writing sample or other aspects of the application process. The Writing Place can also provide you with guidance and feedback. Best of luck selecting your next writing sample!

#InternsofNU: Emma (Medill ’20) @ Taste of Home Magazine


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Emma Kumer is a sophomore in Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. 

Emma (Medill '20) interns at Taste of Home Magazine

Photo credit: Taste of Home Magazine

Describe your summer internship. 

This summer I was fortunate enough to work for Taste of Home Magazine, America’s #1 Cooking Magazine and an affiliate of Trusted Media Brands, Inc. (although you might know them as the Reader’s Digest Association!). My official title was “Digital Editorial Intern,” so I worked mainly for the website staff on In a typical day, I researched and wrote roughly two food-related articles, prepared past content for social media, and curated small graphics for stories using Illustrator. Oh, and how could I forget? We also had two optional taste-testings each day!

How did you learn about the opportunity? What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I actually stumbled on this job on Working at a magazine has been my dream since I published Emma’s Word in elementary school, so knowing there was an open slot only 20 minutes from my house seemed ideal.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

This was the first time in my life when I received immediate anonymous feedback on my writing. At first, it was depressing to read the hateful comments and see the glaring Facebook dislikes on my stories from people who didn’t even know me. Soon, though, I realized that for every furious commenter were probably a few quiet admirers who looked at my stories and learned something new about the food industry. A few times I even received gifts from companies who wanted me to review their products. Putting your work on a public platform is scary, but there are unexpected benefits.

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

When you run out of things to do, don’t ask for more work. Find it yourself. I think I annoyed my bosses in the first couple weeks when I constantly asked for more article assignments. Eventually, I learned that they really appreciated when I suggested my own ideas instead of waiting for them to come up with some. This worked in our favor when I wrote and published a piece about Teavana closing before our biggest competitor,! 

Oh, and when you work at a food magazine? Eat a big breakfast because every single thing you write about will make you hungry!

Emma (Medill '20) interns at Taste of Home Magazine

Photo Credit: Taste of Home Magazine

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

Don’t let the job requirements scare you if you think you have the necessary skills for a job. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or your major is not exactly what they asked for—no job is going to be perfect. Taste of Home was looking for an intern who was at least a junior in college. At the time when I applied, I was a freshman. If you can fill out 80 percent of the application’s requirements, you can prove that you’re worth that missing 20 percent.

Alumni Career Q&A for International Students: Job and Internship Searching


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Photo of Career Adviser Brett, author of this blog postBy Brett Boettcher, NCA associate director of professional program strategy & management, serving students in the School of Professional Studies and master’s students in The Graduate School.

Welcome to the Alumni Career Q&A for International Students blog series! Each month, NCA will feature a Q&A with former Northwestern international students about their experiences navigating the U.S. job search process. The goal of this series is to help current international students understand what they can do to successfully plan their career and excel in the job search.

In this month’s edition, NCA solicited feedback from three international student alumni:

  • French master’s graduate from civil engineering program working in structural engineering
  • Chinese master’s graduate from analytics program working as a data scientist with an insurance company
  • Korean undergraduate from electrical engineering program working for a financial software, media, and data company
  • Chinese master’s student from integrated marketing communications program working for a marketing strategy company

Here are their responses to questions related to interviewing and networking for positions within the United States:

What challenges did you experience with the U.S. job search and how did you handle those challenges?

A lot of employers do not know the process to hire international workers and are afraid to look into it. A good way to prepare employers to that process is to give them a brief summary of how it will go, and to reassure them that nothing is asked from them while you are on OPT.

I got a lot of rejections. Also it was quite unclear to me what I did during the interview [that] was wrong. So I talked to a lot of alumni, asked for referrals, and asked them to help me (with) mock interviews.

Many challenges are regarding immigrant status. I dealt with them with people skills and tactical skills.

What advice would you give current international students who are seeking jobs in the U.S.?

Practice your networking skills. Build your network and get referrals.

Networking is the key no matter what position or industry it is.

Read the job description carefully, find the ones that MATCH your training background the best.

What resources did you use since the start of the school year for your job/internship search?

LinkedIn, CareerCat (NCA), Glassdoor, personal network.

NCA (Northwestern Career Advancement), ECD (Engineering Career Development), Department (MSiA) alumni network, online applications, etc.

Stay tuned for next month’s blog post on the non-academic job search for PhDs!

Pay attention to “the little things” in your job/internship search


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Photo of Rachel Garson Taylor, M.A., LPC, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.By Rachel Garson Taylor, M.A., LPC, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.

At some point, you have probably heard a cutesy saying about the “little things.” It is the little things in life. It is the little things that matter the most. Little things make big things happen. There are too many to list and you get the point. The applicability of these phrases is widespread, including your approach to the internship and/or job search.

The little things that make a big difference on your resume:

  • Size of your name – If you make it too big, it may say something about the size of your ego or be perceived as filler. If you make it too small, it may make your name less memorable.
  • Relevant course list – Select courses that give additional information so that an employer understands what relevant knowledge and skill base you have to offer.
  • Order of bullet points – Be strategic about the order of information you present. Lead with the strongest and most relevant skills as they align with your pursuits. If you are applying for an analytics job, lead with analytics skills; if you are applying for a communications internship, lead with your communication skills.

The little things that make a big difference on your cover letter:

  • Correct position title – While this sounds obvious, this error happens with great frequency. Use of the incorrect position title may communicate to an employer that you are either not detail-oriented or you did not invest the time to write a letter for them specifically – neither of which will support your candidacy.
  • The why you need to know – The body of the cover letter is intended to demonstrate to a potential employer how you have used your skills in other experiences to make an impact. Take this one step further and articulate why this adds value to the position you are pursuing. This demonstrates understanding of the role and directly aligns your experience to the position you are pursuing.

The little things that make a big difference in your interview:

  • Your chair – Although you may know where to sit, wait until offered a seat. This demonstrates respect and good manners.  Both are important as employers think about your potential to interact with other staff, clients, and leadership.
  • Their name – As you are saying goodbye, use this opportunity to thank them personally using their name. This adds a layer of familiarity and warmth to the impression you are hoping to create.
  • Thank you note – Write one! Because not many applicants are doing this, I can’t think of a better way to set yourself apart. Additionally, if you are going to write a thank you note, personalize it to your conversation with that specific interviewer.

The little things that make a big difference on your job/internship search attitude:

  • Potential – See the potential in yourself and the opportunities available. When you see the potential, your excitement will be conveyed in your commitment to the search, the effort you exert, the application materials you submit, and the way you present yourself.
  • Success – While your ultimate goal is to secure a job/internship, celebrate each success along the way of making this happen. For example, an invitation to interview is a huge step forward and one that you should acknowledge as it means the employer sees your potential.

I encourage you to embrace the “it is the small things” mentality as you approach your search. The little things will help you to stand out as a candidate. All these little things will add up to make a positive impression with employers and ultimately a difference in your search. For more guidance on the job/internship search, schedule an appointment with your NCA career adviser.

Transferable skills: What they are and why they matter


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Laura is an associate director of student career advisingBy Laura Myers, associate director of student career advising, serving students in the School of Communication and Bienen School of Music.

Leadership. Ability to work in a team. Communication. Problem-solving. Strong work ethic.

Are you surprised to learn that these are the top qualities employers want to see on new college graduates’ resumes? (National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2016). I often meet with students who undervalue their experiences, or think that if their experience isn’t directly relevant to the industry they’re applying for then it’s not worth listing on their resume. The qualities listed above are not “hard skills” such as computer programming or foreign language proficiency. The qualities listed above are what we call “soft skills,” or transferable skills, and they are incredibly important to articulate not only on your resume, but also in interviews and when networking. We call them “transferable” because they are skills that can transfer to future work settings.

Transferable skills are sought after because they are often a reflection of your personality, work ethic and interpersonal skills, which can’t be taught. Hard skills can be taught. People can be trained in them. However, it’s much harder, and some might say impossible, to teach transferable skills. But the good news is transferable skills can be developed over time.

So how can you develop transferable skills? Through your experiences, whether that be in extracurricular activities, internships, volunteer opportunities, on-campus jobs or the classroom. The first step is understanding that you are gaining transferable skills all the time, but since they are hard to measure, you need to be able to articulate where and how you are gaining them.

Follow these steps to help you identify where and how you’ve gained transferable skills:

  1. Start by making a list of the top skills desired (leadership, ability to work in a team, communication (written & verbal), problem solving, and strong worth ethic).
  2. For each skill, list specific examples of where and how you used the skill (think extracurricular activities, internships, volunteer opportunities, on-campus jobs, the classroom, etc.)
  3. Keep this list and turn your examples into strong resume bullet points or to answer behavioral questions in an interview, which are both places you will need to articulate transferable skills.

Here are some ideas for each skill to get you thinking:

  • Leadership (think about a time that you):
    • Delegated tasks
    • Initiated a project
    • Supervised or trained staff (student staff counts!)
  • Ability to work in a team (think about a time that you):
    • Brainstormed ideas for a group project
    • Listened to others’ ideas
    • Collaborated with others
  • Communication – written & verbal (think about a time that you):
    • Presented information
    • Wrote or edited material
    • Interacted with customers
  • Problem solving (think about a time that you):
    • Researched information
    • Analyzed data/materials
    • Enhanced content
  • Strong work ethic (think about a time that you):
    • Promoted in a job/internship
    • Showed determination
    • Received an award or recognition

Please keep in mind that if you haven’t developed these skills yet, that’s ok too! You still have time and plenty of opportunities. You also don’t have to go at this alone. Make an appointment to meet with your NCA career adviser or counselor and we would be happy to help you!


Alumni Career Q&A for International Students: Networking & Interviewing


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LarryBy Larry Jackson, NCA Assistant Director of Student Career Advising, serving students in McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science and the science fields in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Welcome to the Alumni Career Q&A for International Students blog series! Each month, NCA will feature a Q&A with former Northwestern international students about their experiences navigating the U.S. job search process. The goal of this series is to help current international students understand what they can do to successfully plan their career and excel in the job search.

In this month’s edition, NCA solicited feedback from three international student alumni:

  • Chinese Master’s graduate from Biotechnology program working in consulting
  • Indian Master’s graduate from Mechanical Engineering program working in engineering
  • Turkish undergraduate alumnus from Industrial Engineering program working in consulting

Here are their responses to questions related to interviewing and networking for positions within the United States:

1. As an international student, what cultural differences did you experience during the U.S. interview process?

“Nothing significant during formal interviews, but I found small talks were very challenging as I felt it’s the key to establishing a connection / chemistry with interviewers.” 

“In the U.S., engineering recruiters focus on your technical expertise as well as how good of a fit you would be for the team. Most of the interviewers will ask you about your hobbies to understand if you could jell with other people or if you are a well-rounded person.”

“The entire interview process in the U.S. is so much more competitive and intense compared to my hometown Istanbul. For consulting recruiting specifically, I recognized that case studies in the U.S. are focused on measuring a candidate’s ability to apply specific examples to overall industry trends. I also found the U.S. interview structure to be much more punctual and organized. This speaks to overall cultural differences between the two countries.”

2. What resources did you find helpful in preparing for U.S. job interviews?

“NU Career Services (i.e. Northwestern Career Advancement and Engineering Career Development) and peer feedback on top of practice, practice, and practice. Because I was preparing for consulting interviews, I also found the book Case in Point to be extremely helpful.” 

“Engineering recruiters focus on your resume unless you are going for consulting interviews. The key is to know the stuff mentioned on your resume thoroughly.”

“I used the Case In Point textbook as my main print source. I paired up with one of my friends who was also going through consulting recruitment and we went through all example cases in the book as if we were doing a real interview. I also tapped into the Harvard Business Review case examples online. Additionally, I made use of NCA for overall recruitment guidelines and tips.”

3. How did you use networking in your job search as an international student?

“I believe networking is the only effective way for international students like me who didn’t have a robust background [in the field]. I mainly used LinkedIn and local professional associations to network with people. I connected with a few hundred people working in consulting and requested an informational interview. I probably talked with 30 of them and one of them helped me land my current job. Networking could let people know you beyond your resume. It’s like you setting up your 1st round interview by yourself and you can also get a lot of great information to tailor your resume and cover letter.”

“The key to a successful job search is networking. Knowing the right people can make the process faster and successful. I would contact friends you make in classes, your professor and try LinkedIn.” 

“Networking is so important both before and after recruitment. During the job search process I reached out to consultants and expressed my interest in the profession. I also connected with recent Northwestern graduates who became consultants. This helped me learn firsthand what it meant to become a consultant right after college. Networking also allowed me to introduce myself, build relationships, and help recruiters put a face to my name before the official recruitment timeline started.”

4. What advice would you give current international students about networking?

“Be tenacious, patient, and genuine. About being genuine, networking is not about finding someone who can pass your resume to HR (it should be a natural outcome). It’s about learning about the job and figuring out if it’s a mutual fit. So if you are not genuinely interested in the job, then don’t your waste time there. You will have a much better chance when applying for a job you truly like.”

“If you are invited to any event, make sure you never say ‘No.’ Go and meet people.”

“Always network. Meet people wherever you go. You will learn a lot from them. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Get your name out there and make the recruiters remember you. Networking will make you stand out in a pile of very competitive candidates.”

Stay tuned for next month’s blog post on job and internship searching!

#MySIGPStory: Numaya (WCAS ’19) @ Mission Measurement


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Numaya Shahriar is a junior in Weinberg College, majoring in psychology with a minor in business institutions and a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Numaya was a 2017 Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) recipient.

Describe your summer internship. 


A photo of Numaya and fellow interns on the last day of their Mission Measurement internship, making an “M” sign with their hands.

I was one of two advisory interns on the advisory services team at Mission Measurement (MM), a company that advises corporations, governments, and nonprofit agencies on their social impact and furthers the research on measuring impact. I worked as an intern for one of the analysts and provided support to their projects. My primary responsibilities involved conducting primary research on the client’s field, sorting and analyzing survey data, brainstorming solutions to key issues and contributing to the development of client deliverables.

How did you learn about the opportunity? What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I came across MM when looking for Northwestern alumni working in the social sector. I reached out to an NU alum who was a manager there through a friend who had previously interned at the company. After a great conversation over coffee, I followed up to express interest in interning at MM and he forwarded my resume to the operations manager.

LinkedIn was crucial in finding contacts to reach out to, and NCA in developing my resume and cover letter. Looking at the Chicago Field Studies website for previous organizations and firms where students worked was extremely helpful.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

The people at the company – employees and my fellow interns – were integral in making my internship memorable and enjoyable. I particularly appreciated the collaborative nature of consulting work and learned how teams work in corporate environments. Everyone was extremely willing to answer questions at all times, and the effort made to design clear tasks and instructions helped me feel ready to tackle any work I was assigned. Also, I loved getting to know the other interns – through lunches in the Loop, after-work activities and random snack breaks in the office.

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

I was able to provide support on a range of projects and get exposure to various client problems, and this was a huge area of learning for me. From an understanding of how schools can measure their impact to how foundations can be more effective in their charitable donations, I obtained a lot of insight into the social sector. As a result, I am more sure of my decision to pursue a career in education, particularly due to my work on a project for a school, helping them develop their impact measurement and reporting methods.

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

I think the most important thing is to ask a lot of questions and keep checking in with supervisors to make sure you are on the right track. Having confidence in your abilities is important to succeeding and making an impression on others in the workplace.