It is not as that hard as you think
Students are sometimes required to finish internship(s) in their degree plans. It is always a little bit easier to get another internship if you had some previous working or interning experiences. However, if you are an international student (especially a non-English speaker) who never worked in the US before, what can you do to get an internship?
Get involved in student groups and activities
I bet you don’t like your resume to be only half a page because you have nothing to put in except for the education background. So, before you get any working experience, your involvement in student organizations and activities is the only way to prove that you are active and you are not shy. In my personal opinion, an international student needs to address the employer your ability to live and work in the US. Participating activities and groups is probably the best way to convince them. Moreover, if you ever have a chance to play a leading role, the experience will definitely add value to your resume.
Ask for help on your resume and cover letter
Are you 100% confident about your English writing of your resume and cover letter? Resume and cover letter are the “First Impression” when you apply for an internship. You don’t want to impress your internship employer with grammar mistakes and improper writing. Ask your native English speaker friends or go to the career center at your school for help. Sometimes, the problem of a cover letter is not about grammar, it is about the feeling that a native reader may have. My friend ever told me, my cover letter reads like an academic paper when I first asked her to help me look at it.
Learn to crawl before you walk
Everybody loves a paid internship at a famous company. I’m not here to frustrate you. However, being a new comer to the land and culture, it’s better to look for internships at smaller organizations for your first internship. As I’ve mentioned earlier, you need to convince your employer of your ability to work in the US culture and working environment. When you are applying for internships, do remember to apply for some smaller and probably non-paid internship opportunities. Once you had some experience on your resume, it’s time to try higher levels.
Stay updated by all sources you can fetch
Internship websites: It’s a technology based time. Sign up some internship websites with good reputation and keep yourself updated all the time. Also, look up websites that specifically targets your field. You may find the jobs posted on their website relate more closely to your expertise.
Social media: Follow some accounts that provide internship information. Probably you will spot a good internship opportunity while you are randomly browsing on Twitter.
Professors: Some employers keep good relationship with the departments or professors. They’ll send out hiring information directly to the departments or professors. Don’t forget to open up every email sent by the professors and departments. Golden opportunities lie in there.
Career Centers: Almost everybody knows what services the career centers provide. Make the best use of them.
Friends and connections: Let the people you know about your plan about the internship. There may be some information that your friends know but you don’t.
Get to know how CPT/OPT works
As an international student, you need to get permit from the government to legally work in the US. Get to know the general thing about CPT and OPT before you go to an interview. Explain how CPT/OPT works to your employer in your interview and reduce their concern about your legal permission. Your employers are not foreigners; they don’t know how these process works, they only know you need some permit from the US government. It is good to let your employer know about the paperwork so that when they’re making decisions, the “working permit” thing will not be a big concern.