You are packing bags for pursuing a Masters degree abroad. You are excited, nervous, a bag of mixed feelings. You have read my earlier blog on making the most of your LL.M. year as an international student, done your ‘homework’, read the university/college website thoroughly, checked out the Professors, activities, organizations that you want to get to know once you land. You are ready to hit the ground running. But the one thing BIG on your mind is about finding a job after you finish your Masters. Most of you may have taken up the Masters course as a stepping stone to the job of your dreams. You might have been told that a Masters degree has much more to offer in terms of exposure and experience and that treating it as a means to a job may not be the right approach. You understand that, except you still want to find a job! So here are a few tips to help you find and land a job abroad after you finish your Masters. I have written this blog piece with the LL.M. international students in mind but a lot of tips here will be useful for international students pursuing a range of Master degrees abroad.
The Aim : To Find One Right Person
You are prepared to do the spade work and you have a rough idea of the path that will lead you to your dream job (or at least a job!). Find out and prepare a list of places where you want to apply. Exhaust the career service resources at your university to make the best application. Participate in the Job Fair. Make hundreds of applications, giving your best shot to each. Keep track of them, follow-up adequately. Hear back from some. Appear for Interviews. Succeed and Join!
So what’s new? While you undertake this journey, it’s easy to be lost, discouraged and feel out of patience. That’s normal. You will find many inspirational stories along the way that will keep you going.
Okay, so what am I telling you? As you undertake this journey, remember one key thing : your best bet as an international student is to find 1 right person! I call this tapping into the human factor. Who’s a right person? Someone who will take interest in you, in your work and help you find out the right opportunity. What’s a right opportunity? An opportunity that is specifically suited to the unique set of facts that you have - your nationality, your specialization area, your career trajectory etc. You need to find a place that needs ‘you’ and will prefer you over home trained students. So what makes you different and why should an organization/firm prefer you over someone who has more experience in their jurisdiction? There is no clear cut or one answer to this question. The difficulty of the answer explains why the job market for international students is a tough place. There are only so many spots for international students and it’s as much luck as about hard-work and smartness, that will land you the job. No amount of internet search can help you find the exact place that needs a profile like yours. That’s where the human factor becomes important. So you will need to connect with as many people as possible, who through leads will help you find that right place. So be in search of finding that key contact, who will show faith in you and go out of his/her way to help you land the right opportunity. You may not find ‘the one right person’ but may be a series of right people will take you to the destination - dream job! They will do so by providing you information about places which are hiring, key personnel to speak with, culture of the work place, profiles that the hiring organizations are looking for, connect you with people working inside those organizations etc.
The Right Person May Not Necessarily Be From Your Existing Contacts
First, scan through all your existing contacts. Speak to people, related to your profession and outside it. Even your relatives and friends in the foreign land who have nothing to do with your field may either know people or give you beneficial leads. So speak to everyone you can. The search of the right person is an arduous one and you may be surprised with where you find that person. He/she may not be from your existing contacts but someone who you have connected with after a series of leads. So keep looking, far and wide, but also close and near.
Create An Excel Sheet Of Contacts
A task for you dear reader : come back from your Masters year with an excel- sheet full of contacts of professionals, mostly from your field but also others across the world. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, networking is crucial and having an excel-sheet will be a constant reminder of how well you are doing on that front. Also having all the contacts at one place will help you in seeing the links, and giving you ideas of people you can write to when you are exploring a particular job related question. Keep this list growing, and keep it active by writing to people on it every once in a while. This is your community of people with whom you should have a two-way professional relationship. Invest in their growth, think of ways that you can help. Always bring something on table. This process will help you not just with your job search but also by introducing you to right opportunities for your personal and professional development.
Use Letters Of Introduction
Remember reading autobiographies (I am thinking Gandhi’s: My Experiment With Truth) and the mention of ‘Letters of Introduction’ that people who travelled abroad in old times received from people they knew. It was basically a way of giving the person who is travelling abroad, meaningful contacts, so that when he/she lands, there is someone that the person can turn to. In today’s well connected world, we may think of requesting our friends family and contacts for emails of introduction. This will help you give a network of people even before you have landed. Although most students get in touch with their future classmates through facebook or whatsapp groups in advance, it’s a good idea to know a range of people across age and professional spectrum. Being introduced to some well settled people in the city you are going to (both of your country’s nationality and others) may help you find an enriched community who can give you meaningful insights into the culture of the country and some of the people in the city you are headed to. This will ulitmately help you in your job search, alongside giving you an exposure that your international friends cannot give you. Local knowledge is a trump card in the job search.
What’s In The Jugaad? It Works Everywhere, Not Just In India
‘Jugaad’ is a popular word in India which is hard to translate but means a hack or an innovative way to fix something. It can also mean using contacts to achieve something. It can have a positive and a negative meaning. In its negative connotation, it leads to corruption but in its positive form, you can harness the power and insights of your network to find the right opportunity. They say that even the President of the United States is seven handshakes away. So don’t hesitate to tap into the positive aspects of networking to find the right people and the opportunities. What should give you the requisite confidence is the knowledge that you do have merit, that you have done hard-work and are prepared to do more, that you are an eligible candidate. You are not requesting someone to take you in when you don’t deserve it. Rather you are reaching out to people to find out the right opportunity in this information laden world.
Don’t Hesitate : Think Of What You Can Bring On Table
You should ideally aim to meet one professional contact per week. For instance, if you are looking for finding a job in a law firm, meet at least one partner of a law firm or an associate every week. Try and get a meeting set up with the boss if you can, but if not, anyone who can give you an insight in the firm will be helpful. Also, don’t hesitate in reaching out to the boss straight away. They will either direct you to the right person in the firm to speak to, or give you an appointment to meet, or at worse not reply at all. In either case, you are not to lose. However, remember to do your ‘homework’ before writing to a Partner or for that matter to anyone you seek to meet with. Write a brief email, explaining why you wish to meet, a little about your background and what you hope to achieve from the meeting. The more specific you are, the better the chances of getting a meeting and making the most of it. But saying that you have researched about the firm, spoken to a few associates and want to find out a little more about the firm may be absolutely fine with a few partners. With others, it may not be sufficient. The thing is you never know, which door will be answered, so you really have to keep knocking. Do so appropriately, after your homework and as professionally as possible. However a little personal touch does not harm. Understand the culture of the country and the place you are, and keep the cultural norms in mind when writing to people. In USA, a lot of people are comfortable to address each other on a first name basis. So when writing emails, avoid using Sir or Madam. Pay attention to the details in all your dealings.
Let’s say you have got an appointment to meet a partner, but you are thinking what could you possibly tell the partner about you that’s different? Or you have not written the email yet and you find yourself thinking – well, why will the partner be interested in me? See, here’s the thing. No communication or relationship needs to be one way. Yes, the partner is way higher up on the hierarchy, knows much more about the legal field than you do, certainly in the areas that he or she is working on. But there is always something that the partner can learn from you, about your country, about the markets that you have been working on. So go for the meeting with a humble attitude but not necessarily with empty hands. Go with a thought that you may have something to contribute to the conversation. Think of what it can be. Make it a two-way conversation. Avoid having ‘a pick my brain’ conversation where you relentlessly ask questions to another person. Make it interesting, both for you but also for the other person.
Start in Early September Not In January of Your LL.M. Year
Now to the most important tip – start working towards finding a job soon after you start the LL.M. course (usually early September) rather than waiting till January next year. Most job fairs take place mid way during your course. You want to take a leap as compared to others by beginning early than most others. Have the basics like an updated CV, cover letter, list of places to apply ready. Set up meetings early on. Basically start running on Day 1 of your course. Hit the ground running and finish up as a winner. And whenever you find yourself lost in your search for landing the dream job – remember to tap into the human factor. So pick up the phone and set that meeting or write an email instead. But always, always remember that there is someone out there who can help you get where you want – you just need to ask. This world is full of amazing people who will help you without wanting anything in return. They will help you because they will see your struggle, identify with your story and believe in your potential. You just need to find those people. Keep looking! They are not as rare a species as you think.
But if you seriously want my advice : come back home for that’s where you are needed most!
Write to me at email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.