by Lynn Maarouf
While finding post-graduate work can be challenging for anyone, it can be extra tough for international students who have to deal with things like visas, sponsorships, extra costs, stricter deadlines and even discrimination from potential employers. Though the process can be intimidating, Dinesh Dave, an alumnus of SCAD who graduated with a B.F.A. in graphic design, had a lot to say on the subject. Dave, who is originally from the United Kingdom and currently works for Apple, was happy to share his experiences and perspective to help guide international students who are struggling with finding a job.
The biggest struggle international students will face is maintaining or obtaining a visa. In general, as an international student you will have 60 days after graduation to either enroll in another college program for further studies or enroll in an Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to gain employment after you graduate from college on an F-1 visa. The OPT program allows you to extend your F-1 visa status for a year while you work, train or intern in your area of study. Applying for an OPT program can take several months, so you should apply well in advance of your anticipated graduation. If you want to stay in the US for a longer period of time, you will need a company to sponsor you for an H-1b non-immigrant visa. This visa will allow you to remain employed at that company for at least three years.
For Dave, the obstacle of getting a visa was a big factor in the hiring process. “My struggles were a lot to do with companies and getting a visa extension and knowing that they can help because for companies and agencies, people want to hire amazing designers out of college but really cheap,” said Dave. “As soon as they see that they need to add an extra expense for your visa, it’s an automatic turn-off.”
Dave believes that while some companies may initially be turned off by the idea of hiring someone requiring visa sponsorship, international students can be very beneficial to companies. The biggest strength international students bring to the table, according to Dave, is culture and perspective.
“It’s strange how a lot of Americans do not have as strong a culture or understanding of other cultures outside of America,” said Dave. “A good example is that for companies like Apple and many other large tech and retail companies, the largest market right now is China and India but Americans don’t have a clue about working in the Chinese market, or their culture or way or working. International designers bring a sense of understanding and knowledge to companies that need that guidance, and you could be a large asset to the company if you can bring those skills.”
The most important thing, according to Dave, is to share your passion with potential employers.
“I believe success for international students is breaking rules, meeting people and showing that passion you have for design, your ambition for changing the world,” said Dave. “It goes a really long way.”