Career Exploration for International Students

We are encouraged to improve our career exploration all the time. We find ourselves needing to look for internships, interview well, create strong resumes, etc. What if you’re trying to do all this when you’re from a different country? What does that look like?

Yonov headshot

Hope College senior Sasha Yonov is an international student, hailing from Nicosia, Cyprus. We asked him to write about his career exploration experience here in the States. Here’s what he had to say:

“International students in general have to jump across many obstacles to experience the same opportunities as all the other students do from the United States. Such obstacles include learning the English language to an advanced degree in order to keep up with the material being taught on a collegiate level. I was fortunate enough to have gone to an English school growing up, therefore, English was not the issue for me. A lot of international students do indeed learn the language to an advanced level however, the hardest thing that any of us has to do, is to leave our own families and learn how to survive on our own. Upon arriving to the United States, many of us, including myself, go through a cultural shock. A cultural shock is a phase, experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, and a set of attitudes where the feeling of disorientation is immense and at times hard to endure, but absolutely doable!

Another obstacle was applying for a Student Visa. It wasn’t as difficult to tackle as the cultural shock. The Visa process was straight forward because being accepted to attend a college, the US embassies receive all the necessary documents for them not to deny your visa application. In some special occasions, they do deny applications, but rarely! What I had to do is gather all of my personal and Hope College documentations, make an appointment with a US representative and “voila”, that obstacle is no more. I received my European passport with my visa, ready to book my flight to Grand Rapids, MI a week later.

As far as the CPT process is concerned, applying for it was not a difficult process either. The difficult part was finding the right internship and the right employer willing to hire an international student. A lot of employers do not hire international students because their internships are designed to see how well that particular intern will perform in order to be given a full time opportunity in the future. The problem is that international students need to be sponsored by the company/employer, which will cost them money to apply for the sponsorship.

I was lucky enough to have found two internships (one of them is a current internship) thus far, that have allowed me to gain experience and develop my skills. Part of that, I believe, had to do with that fact that I have been involved in many different events/activities around Hope over the years, including being part of the basketball team. Being part of the basketball team, even though only for two seasons, has allowed me to meet many extraordinary people that are still a part of my life. These connections have helped me learn more about life and guide me through the process of searching for employment opportunities.

There will always be people to help you, but at the end of the day, it is you as an individual that will have to ask, search, and pursue anything you want to. This does not only apply to international students, but to all students!

My first internship was with Zoro Tools, a subsidiary of Grainger in Chicago. It was a great experience to be challenged outside of the classroom. It made it even better when I was surrounded by amazing people in a great atmosphere. Currently, I am interning at Royal Securities and Investments in Grand Rapids. With Royal, I am responsible for the accurate and detailed documentation of information of clients’ personal information. Royal too has allowed me to mature more as an individual, [and] I am truly gaining more experience in a different industry than my previous internship.

I am not sure what my next chapter of my life will look like, but if I were to give advice to other younger international students, it would be to be involved in the community [as well as] Hope events and activities because at the end of the day, no matter where and what one may be doing, one will always be in an occupation to make the lives of others better. Regardless of the type of employment a person is part of, people and our relationships between each other are what make life so precious. With that being said, I hope one day the work that I will be doing is not only important, but truly makes the lives of others better.”

Philadelphia Fun

Interested in studying off-campus for a semester while getting a taste of independence in a big city? The Philadelphia Center offers an awesome program that does just that! Hope College senior and Career Advisor Jaclyn Van Dyk writes about her experience in the program:

Jaclyn enjoying a sunny day in Philly!
Jaclyn enjoying a sunny day in Philly!

“I had the opportunity to spend the past fall semester on the East Coast at The Philadelphia Center in which I took part in an off-campus, experiential learning program that was made available through Hope. My time in Philly consisted of working 32 hours a week at my internship, taking two classes, and exploring the city and surrounding areas. Experiential learning is at the heart of this program as you dive right into finding housing upon arrival to the city and securing an internship the following week. My internship took place at The SHARE Food Program, a non-profit in North Philadelphia that offered various programs that would promote affordable access to healthy food. I was able to gain incredible experience at my internship by bringing on of SHARE’s food package programs into four schools within the city.

My experiences went far beyond my internship as one day a week I had my city-seminar class in one of the Philadelphia County Prisons with half of the students being from our program and half being inmates. Outside of classes and internship hours I was busy exploring the city of brotherly love, the historic sites of Independence Hall, Penn’s Landing, The Liberty Bell, visiting museums such as The Franklin Institute, Eastern State Penitentiary, and the infamous Art Museum and Rocky steps. Outside of being an everyday tourist, I was able to get involved in a local church, visit the many neighborhoods of the city, attend improv shows, theater performances, grocery shop at the Italian Market, and take in all the art, culture, and history the city has to offer.

My semester in Philly was the most incredible experience. The forced independence allowed me to try new things, be pushed out of my comfort zone, and develop a great appreciation for all places, spaces, and people. To check out more about the program visit The Philadelphia Center.”

If you have any interest in learning how to fit the Philly program into your time at Hope, stop by the Career Development Office and we’d be happy to discuss possibilities with you. Experience the City of Brotherly Love!

Interview Attire: Dress to Impress!

Interview coming up? Scouring the internet searching for help?

Look no further. Or, at least, stop googling “Business Casual Attire [insert gender here].” We rolled up our sleeves, did some research, and checked with the experts. We spoke with a future CPA, a Hope College Education professor, and an Ad Agency Account Planner to learn their tips and tricks for interview attire. Here’s what we learned:

For an accounting interview (as well as healthcare interviews) you’re “selling your credibility,” so you want to project an image of professionalism and dependability. Our Career Advisor and experienced CPA Morgan recommends a suit for both men and women. Women should make sure their skirts fall at or below the knee. Conservative and neutral colors are the safest bet, and avoid anything that could be considered trendy or flashy.

Accounting and Healthcare:

accounting female attire accounting male attire

In education interviews (as well as most corporate settings, law offices, and engineering firms), a suit is still the clear choice for men. Depending on the specific job, colored or conservatively patterned ties can be acceptable, as can dress pants and a sport coat or sweater. For women, a suit is still a good choice, but a conservative dress or a pencil skirt with non-matching blazer are viable alternatives. Just like in accounting and healthcare, sticking to conservative colors and avoiding trendy pieces will help establish credibility and won’t distract potential employers from your skills.

Education, Engineering, Business, or Law:

engineering female attireengineering male attire

In the agency world (as in any creative profession) our Account Planner Ross emphasized being “memorable,” and appearing “professional without looking corporate.” His recommendations for men included dark wash jeans with a blazer and no tie, or chinos with a unique patterned shirt (remember not to cross the line from statement to novelty). For women, he said to keep it “a step above business casual” while “tastefully letting your personality come through.” He recommends staple business wardrobe items — pencil skirts, blouses, blazers, sheath dresses — in unusual colors or patterns. Ross told us that creative offices typically want to see if you’re “a culture fit,” and honestly stated “if you don’t look the part, you won’t get the call back.”

Agencies and Creative Fields:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcreative male attire

White House Black Market, Chico’s, Men’s Warehouse, and Joseph A. Bank are great places for both women’s and men’s interview apparel, so be sure to check out these local stores for some great options!

Overall, remember to research the field you are pursuing. If you’re uncertain about what to wear, ask a contact in Human Resources, or call us at the Career Development Center and we’d be happy to help you (616-395-7950). Make sure your outfits fits well, and get your clothing tailored as needed. Professionalism is key; just be sure to do your research and know about specific expectations in your industry.

Now go forth and get hired!

Special thanks to our experts: Morgan (CPA), Nancy (Education), and Ross (Advertising).

Jobs, Resumes, and Interviews, Oh My!

 

Having trouble finding jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities that pertain to your area of interest? Looking for resume assistance or interview help? Jobstop is an excellent resource for exploring multiple careers, learning about different organizations, and improving your resume and interview skills.

Jobstop is an online tool open to students and alumni that can help connect users with different organizations and career opportunities. After creating an account, you can click on the “Job Search” tab to explore hundreds of opportunities that could help you develop your career exploration process. To tailor your search, click the “Advanced Search” button, located to the right of the green “Search” button, and fill in some of the categories to specify your search. Be sure to clear out the “Post Date” box to optimize your search results. Add any positions that interest you to your Favorites, where you can access them with ease as you continue to select and search for jobs.

You can also upload your resume to Jobstop for online resume reviews, conducted by our CDC staff members and Career Advisors. We will offer helpful suggestions for how to improve your resume, and then eventually upload it to Jobstop so employers can easily view your experiences and qualifications. It’s a great asset that can help you reach the next step of the job search process!

Jobstop also has an awesome feature called Interview Stream, through which you can practice your interviewing skills through a video interview. The Interview Stream link, located on the lower left side of the page, provides typical interview questions and records you as you answer them. When you finish, you can review your answers by watching yourself on the recording. It’s like a mock interview in the comfort of your own room!

Jobstop is a super helpful website with so much to offer students during your time here at Hope. If you have any questions about Jobstop, please feel free to call us at 616-395-7950 or stop by our office, located in the first floor of Anderson- Werkman. Get started with Jobstop today!

Internships Shouldn’t Scare You

Do you have an idea of what you would like your dream career to look like, but aren’t sure how to get there? Or maybe you have no idea what career you want, but are looking for ways to find out? Either way, having an internship is a great way to open doors for future opportunities! Often paid, they provide great ways to earn money while getting relevant experience in your intended career field while networking with potential employers. They will not only offer glimpses into what certain fields are actually like, but will also allow you to meet both friends and mentors at the same time while exploring your career.

Career Advisor Gaby Vazquez commented on her internship experience, saying,

“I had an internship in Grand Rapids last summer which is what helped me land my dream internship in Chicago the following summer.”

There are many ways to go about obtaining an internship. One great way is by attending internship fairs. Internship fairs generally consist of multiple employers setting up booths in a relaxed environment where students seeking internships can walk in with a pile of resumes and walk out with a pile of business cards.

Internship Fair
Maas Auditorium

These opportunities are not hard to find. In fact, there will be an internship fair here on campus on Thursday, February 4th from 3:30pm-5:00pm in Mass Auditorium. No registration is required, so students can drop by and jump in on the networking. Business casual is the expected dress code for this event. Come with a few printed copies of your resume to pass out to select employers, and don’t forget to prepare a couple questions to ask while networking with the professionals. We at the Career Development Center would love to help you with the preparation and follow-up processes, so stop by today and talk to us!

See you at the fair!

Steps to Exploring Out of State Careers

Is there a city you’ve always wanted to live in? A town that you can totally see yourself living and working in, but you have no idea how to make that happen? Starting a career in another state can be a scary yet exhilarating time. Being away from the security net of your home and school can offer a new found independence which can allow you to grow. Although it can be challenging, it can prove very beneficial.

Diving into it is made easier by the many wonderful resources that Hope College provides us. The Career Development Center (CDC) offers resources such as Job Stop, externships, and career fairs that enable us to tackle the challenge of finding a job.

The CDC offers numerous events for students to explore out of state opportunities for a variety of majors and interests. For a list of all the events the CDC will be hosting soon, follow this link: CDC Events. The CDC has also created a handout outlining suggestions for how to prepare for career fairs (which often can lead to out of state opportunities) which can be found here: Career Fair Handout

Although a lot of these resources initially connect you with in state opportunities, sometimes the companies you get to know in state also have offices out of state. Building relationships with them can be a great way to build your network, as they can put you in touch with all the right people in the state of your choice.

Keep in mind past connections, and use social media sites such as LinkedIn to get in touch with recruiters outside the state. Although may seem daunting at first, LinkedIn can really help your networking.

Internships can also open doors for out of state experiences. Hope graduate Abby Wilhelm of the class of 2015 is currently working as a Project Coordinator for an organization in Washington D.C. She commented on her out of state career exploration, offering a little advice for current students, saying

It was the professional and social connections I made during the Washington DC Honors Semester [while at Hope] that made it possible for me to return here after graduation. I could not have found housing, job opportunities, etc. if I had not had a a supportive network to reach out to at graduation. Taking advantage of internship experiences and networking relationships, especially ones that are fostered in new places and during your time at Hope, will make for an incredibly smooth transition into a new state and a new season!

There are many resources in the Career Development Center website to help improve your out of state career search, or you can also meet with a staff member.

Taking risks is a part of life, and although starting a career in a different state can seem unsettling, there is no better time to do it than when you are young. Being willing to fight for what you really want will set the tone for the rest of your career.

Steps to a Successful Interview

Dale Austin conducting a mock interview.
Dale Austin conducting a mock interview.

How do you sell yourself to a company and answer difficult questions about yourself and your experiences? Interviews can be overwhelming, whether it’s for a full time job, internship, or on-campus role. However, interviews are also incredible opportunities to reflect on your strengths and unique abilities when applying your experiences to a given role. Most importantly though, an interview is a great chance to be yourself and have a conversation about how you may fit with an organization. Dale Austin, the director of Career Development, splits interviews into three pillars:

  • Practice the Process
    • Put in work ahead of time and understand the process. Know and understand the organization and role. Do your research and know the job description inside and out.
    • Schedule a mock interview with a staff member at the Career Development Center.
    • Use Interview Stream, an online resource that can be found through Jobstop. It’s an automated question and answer system that videotapes you through your webcam and allows you to re-watch your interview. You can also use Interview Stream on your phone if it has a camera. It’s a free system and there are various question sets, dependent on your major or area of interest! Simply login to Jobstop and you’ll find the Interview Stream icon on the left side of the webpage. Click here to login and get started with Interview Stream: Jobstop Login 
  • Have Confidence
    • When an employer realizes you’re confident in yourself and your abilities, seeing that you know you would be a great fit, he or she will make that connection. 
    • Know yourself and be authentic. Reflect on your background, values, and experiences to build a connection between you and the company.
  • Take Examples from your Experience
    • Understand how your experiences have shaped you. Be able to give concrete examples of how they apply to the role or organization.
    • Context, action steps, and results. Offer the context and background surrounding your experience, the steps involved, and the overall outcome.

Once you take the time to go through these three pillars and fully understand them, you will be in great shape to wow whatever organization with which you are interviewing! Lastly, don’t forget to send either a thank you note or email to follow up with an interview. If you’re looking to schedule a mock interview or want to learn more about interview prep, please call our office and schedule an appointment at (616) 395-7950, or stop in for a drop-in appointment between 3:00pm-4:30pm any weekday. We can’t wait to work with you!

Networking Works

Networking works. However, we know it can also be a little intimidating. Hope has thousands of alumni, and you probably know hundreds of professionals!

How do you sort it all out?

First off, take advantage of the resources you have! Know some professionals in your potential field? Shoot them an email saying you’re interested in talking to them about their careers and asking what insight they would like to share with you. Also consider creating a LinkedIn account. The “Connections” page on LinkedIn is a helpful resource for connecting with alumni. Networking can lead to some pretty fantastic opportunities while pursuing your career exploration path.

Not sure about your own resources? Make an appointment with the Career Development Center! We’ll help you link with alumni and other resources to build your professional network. Megan Fisher is the go-to person for any and all networking questions, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment with her to get started in the networking process!

Career Advisor Hadley Roy speaks to her own personal experience with networking here at Hope:

 Last week I made an appointment with a Career Development staff member to talk about internship possibilities. That appointment got my name on an email list with the Office of Alumni Engagement, and that email list got me to a lunch with Hope alumnus who is a successful businessman in international travel. That lunch got me connected with staff in Alumni Engagement, who got me in touch with a Senior VP at a major ad agency back home. All because I made that appointment and talked to someone in Career Development about networking.

When it comes to networking and informational interviews, there’s one thing you have to remember: you can’t gain information unless you ask for it.

So get out there.

Start asking questions.

Start making connections.

You’re on your way to amazing things.

Judge a Book by its Cover.

First impressions matter. Whether you’re applying for a year long internship, a summer job, or a potential future career position, it’s essential that you make a good impression on your potential employer.

There are several factors that contribute to making a good first impression, such as having an impressive resume, strong interviewing skills, and a well-prepared outlook and overall sense of confidence. One factor that you should always take into consideration is your wardrobe. Although this may seem frivolous and insignificant, the manner through which you present yourself with your clothing says a lot about who you are and how much you value this potential position. Career Advisor Hadley Roy knows a thing or two about this topic, and has offered five tips to help you make a great impression with how you dress.

1.) Be professional.

Wear office appropriate attire. No flip flops. No jeans. Nothing torn. Nothing dirty. Make sure your hair looks nice and avoid distracting jewelry or makeup. Also avoid wearing any strong perfume or cologne, as this can be distracting for your potential employers as well.

2.) Dress for the job you want.

This is partially an extension of tip one, but there’s more to it than just looking professional. Read up on the office culture, check out LinkedIn profiles of higher-ups at the company or organization. Use your attire to mirror the values you see the company projecting. If you’re applying for an accounting or engineering position, a dark suit and conservative tie are always a good choice. If you’re applying to be a copywriter or designer, maybe consider something a bit more adventurous. My go to is a black sheath dress with a colored blazer, but always keep it professional.

3.) When in doubt, ask Human Resources.

Seriously. Ask. Don’t show up in a gray suit if you should have been wearing khakis. Don’t show up in jeans if you should have had on slacks and a blazer. Ask.

4.) Make sure your footwear is up to standards.

That means a conservative heel (if you can’t walk four blocks in them, leave them in the closet) or professional flats for women and dress shoes for men. Even the most casual of offices don’t call for sneakers at an interview.

5.) Make sure you feel good in the clothes.

If that means getting something tailored, do it. It’s a little extra expense, but it is worth it. Clothes that don’t fit don’t make a good first impression.

For more information check out these links:

Forbes “How to Dress for Your Next Job Interview”

Forbes “What to Wear for a Job Interview”

Be sure to check out our Pinterest page for even more tips! CDC Pinterest

If you’re ever in doubt about how to dress for an interview or how to make a good impression, stop by the Career Development Center. We want to help you build upon this foundation of making a good first impression by helping you with the entire interview process, so stop by today or call us at 616-395-7950 and we’d be happy to talk to you.

Gap Year Fair

Whether you’re a freshman, a senior, or anyone in between, graduation will sneak up on you before you know it, and we want you to feel prepared and ready to take on the next adventure life throws at you after Hope. The only question is, what will that adventure be? The Gap Year Fair is the perfect place to explore what opportunities and careers are available to you once you graduate from Hope. Over twenty different nonprofit organizations and programs will be represented at this event, which will be held on Thursday, October 29, from 10:30AM to 3:00PM in Maas Center. This is a great event the Career Development Center hosts that really showcases a variety of options for what to do after you graduate and are looking to take the next step in your career exploration process.

What’s a gap year, you ask? A gap year is a one to two year long time period, in which students who recently graduated take some time to explore different career options and vocations by getting involved with some type of non-profit organization or program. Sometimes participating in a gap year program can lead to potential employment opportunities, but even if it doesn’t, students usually benefit from this post-grad time, as they learn more about themselves and what types of careers they want to explore and pursue.

Hope College senior and Career Advisor Hannah Cutshall writes about her personal experience with the Gap Year Fair:

Other than internships, I have begun considering post-graduation life as well, which has lead me to the Gap Year Fair!  I studied abroad during my junior year, allowing me to appreciate the beautiful cultures of the world and instilling in me a true feeling of “wanderlust.”  If you are like me and want/need to travel and explore more, than Gap Years are a great option for you.  Hosting over 16 organizations that want to give you a chance to look further than Holland and gain real experience, potentially in a field you hadn’t previously considered, this event is catered around your needs!  Although I think I know where I’m going after graduation, I attended the event last year, skyped with women in Australia about their opportunities, saw how various organizations working in the nonprofit realm, and got to communicate with various teaching abroad agencies!  If I didn’t have a plan, I know I would be returning to find a new, incredible adventure and culture with which to spend a few years after graduation! 

This is an excellent event, chocked full of exciting opportunities for any and all students to explore. No prior registration is required. All are welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!

For a full list of organizations and employers, follow the link, or call the Career Development Center at (616) 395-7950. Gap Year Fair.