by Stefka Gerova
Getting a job in a foreign country is one of the toughest challenges
of living away from home. Yet, most international students in the United
States inevitably face this challenge in order to make ends meet.
Knowing a few things in advance might ease the difficulties
and spare you serious disappointments later on.
The First Job on Campus
Most international students start their working
career with an on-campus job due to their visa status.
Most colleges and universities offer a wide variety of on-campus
job opportunities, often making it hard to choose, especially when
you do not know enough about the people who you will be working
under (your boss) and working with (your colleagues).
The best way to start is to find something easy in the beginning
and move up to a more thrilling/rewarding job when
you gain enough experience both with your surroundings and with the
expectations of employers. Library jobs are particularly
suitable for this purpose: sitting at the front desk or
shelving books are quite straight-forward endeavors with
the appropriate training before starting the actual job.
Positions in various college / university offices or
departments, on the other hand, may be more difficult at first
because they often require you to have specific knowledge
about school policies and practices. And even though your
employer will explain more or less everything before you
start working, sometimes the new responsibilities can be overwhelming,
leaving feelings of frustration and guilt that you can't cope with
The first job I got myself was in an office responsible for all social and
college events along with hiring students for other jobs
and doing payroll for a number of different offices, and
it was one of the most exasperating experiences in my life.
I had no idea how hiring and payroll were done in the U.S.,
as much as I had no clue what most events on campus were
all about, so it did take me a lot of time just to get
used to how things were handled. Well, for many months
that wasn't fun at all!
Another caveat is getting a job during your very first semester in college or university.
While it might be tempting to have some extra cash in your pocket, you would be still getting
used to the place and to school practices. The first semester is always a time of intense
intake of information about the surroundings, school policies, classes, professors, and
fellow students. You will be quite overwhelmed as it is, and getting a job will
result in additional stress. Besides, you can always compensate with working more hours
during the second semester when you'll already know enough about the place you are at.
Working in the U.S. will certainly be drastically different from working in your home country,
so just expect a totally novel environment.
1. Hi Boss, I'm here!
The number one rule is don't show up late at work. American
people are extremely particular about this. Even if your supervisor or employer doesn't mention
anything directly to you, you will not be making a good impression.
2. "How much do they pay you?"
Discussing your remuneration is also prohibited. Some companies may even ask you to sign
a confidentiality agreement which, among other things, prohibit you from discussing your
compensation with your colleagues. Most on-campus job listings provide information about the rate of pay,
so you should be well-informed before inquiring about a specific position. Moreover, getting
a raise for on-campus jobs might be problematic. Each educational institution has very strict
guidelines regarding increasing student's payment (e.g., working at the same place for a certain
amount of time). Therefore, your boss may not be able to give you a pay increase,
even if he or she seem to be satisfied and pleased with your work.
3. How rude they are!
A word should also be mentioned about friends at the workplace. Unlike in other parts of the globe,
relationships at the workplace in the U.S. are considered highly 'professional.' Therefore, you
should not be disappointed if none of your co-workers gets beyond that "friendly" smile – it's
certainly nothing personal! Moreover, some places do not encourage friendship among employees
because they believe that employees will be more productive if they don't have the typical
4. That's it, I'm gone...
If you don't like the job or feel that it is not personally rewarding enough, feel free
to quit. Most of the time, American bosses are cool about their employee's departure.
Also remember, your job should either let you learn something useful or let you enjoy it.
Boring work can even be detrimental, while you could be doing something much more beneficial.
Due to some cultural aspects, it is hard for most international students to quit their jobs.
You may feel uncomfortable to tell their boss. Or, you may also feel that it is your obligation to
keep working for your boss. The fact is you also have obligations to your own welfare.
If you feel uncomfortable
about telling your boss that you want to quit, the easiest way out is to say that your
class schedule has become incompatible with your job – school always comes first and
your employer knows that! Another valid excuse is finding a job that is more relevant
to your major, for example, doing research for a professor. However, it is important
that you notify your employers or supervisor in person and in a timely fashion, typically
about two weeks in advance. If you still don't know how to approach the question of quitting
a job, write to us and our experts will help you!