International Student Job Search FAQs

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student and staff working together

Information is correct as of October 2022

These are the frequently asked questions that all careers advisers/consultants who work with international students get. Here are my answers to these questions.

1. How easy is it to get a job in the UK?

Getting a job is competitive in the UK at internship, placement and graduate levels, particularly for international students. However, if you start your job search early enough and expand your experience, it is possible. With the introduction of the Graduate Route, opportunities have expanded for students, especially for short-term and project work.

If you are looking to stay in the UK after graduation, then you need to understand your visa options and how they affect you. The more you understand about your visa options, the more empowered you are when being questioned by potential employers, especially those interested in hiring you but with little knowledge of the visa process. You can find out everything you need to know regarding visas and working in the UK after study by going to the UKCISA website:

UKCISA is a great site created specifically for international students and explains the various visa rules clearly. In addition, the UK Government website has more information

The students that succeed in getting jobs in the UK and overseas, work just as hard on their job search strategy as they do their degree and learn to balance their priorities.

Successful students do the following:

  • Start their job search early – Undergraduates when they arrive in year 1, and postgraduates as soon as they arrive in September/October.
  • Attend employer events, networking sessions, skills sessions and open evenings on campus, online and in the employer offices. If you sign up for an event, then you need to attend as cancellations can reflect badly on your institution.
  • Engage with employers at events online and on campus, and ask questions about the recruitment process: what are they looking for in terms of skills, knowledge and experience?
  • Get additional experience through internships, part-time work, volunteering and insight weeks, student societies and sports clubs.
  • Join relevant industry clubs such as the marketing club, business club, engineering club, etc.
  • Attend fairs and prepare for the fairs by researching the employers attending so that you can have confident conversations with employers.
  • Engage with your Careers Service to ensure your CV and applications demonstrate your skills and experience effectively, including those transferrable skills from extracurricular activities.
  • Attend careers events online and on campus such as CV sessions, skills workshops and psychometric test sessions in order to prepare effectively for job hunting.
  • Attend alumni events on campus, including panel and networking events to make professional connections.
  • Research thoroughly the sector and the companies you want to work with, including checking the sponsor register if you are looking to be sponsored on the Skilled Worker Route. Check the list of Licenced Sponsors
  • Reach out to alumni working in those organisations of interest online and at events to gain company insights, company culture and top tips on the recruitment process.

2. How likely is it that I will get sponsored?

It depends on your job-hunting action plan and what your long-term plans are. The earlier you start your job search, the better your chances are of getting a job offer and being sponsored. Be informed about your visa options, connect with alumni and employers, and engage with your Careers Service for advice and guidance.

With regards to engaging with employers, don’t start with the question “do you sponsor visas?” as this question is usually received negatively. Your approach to employers is important as first impressions count. Research the company beforehand and have some good questions ready: what are they looking for in terms of skills, knowledge and experience? Are they doing anything innovative/creative you can be involved in? Demonstrate your motivation to work for them by doing your research and showcasing your enthusiasm.

With the changes to the immigration routes and the introduction of the Graduate Route, the number of employers on the Register of Sponsors has doubled. It is still more likely that you would get sponsored by a large multinational than by a small to medium-sized company but many different firms sponsor and the points-based Skilled Worker Route is much more accessible for the employer in terms of costs and salary level. For the latest list: Register of Licensed Sponsors

3. At what stage do I tell companies that I need to be sponsored for a visa?

This will depend on you and how risk-averse you are. It also depends on what information you have researched on the company.

Most students will be upfront on their application and cover letter. If the company asks about your eligibility, you must be truthful. In reality, companies must hire the best candidate regardless of country of origin or whether they have a sponsor licence or not as long as the role meets the requirements for the Skilled Worker Route. Employers do not always have the latest immigration data or have in-house specialists, so to be informed is to be empowered to have positive conversations with employers.

4. Which career sector is more likely to sponsor me?

I have put together a list of some of the sectors that have sponsored international students for graduate roles. This is provided in good faith, but do check with the organisations themselves to confirm their position and ensure they are on the Sponsor Register.

  • Banks/Finance
  • Consulting
  • IT
  • Engineering/Manufacturing
  • Scientific

Remember: the Graduate Route is a great safety net for you to use when looking for work in the UK longer term. The Graduate Route can allow you to work for an employer to demonstrate your value and fit with the organisation to switch to the Skilled Worker Route longer term.

Remember: the time spent on the Graduate Route does not contribute to your indefinite leave to remain which is based on 5 years working or 10 years working and studying in the UK and eventually can lead to applying for citizenship. Neither do you get a refund if you switch out of the visa before the 2 years is up.

5. Can I get some UK experience and then go home on the Graduate Route?

All work experience is important to employers and, if your intention is to go home but get a little experience first, then the Graduate Route is ideal. The Graduate Route is an additional visa that you apply for towards the end of your student visa, with approximate processing times of 8 weeks. The visa is a new visa that allows you to stay in the UK for up to 2 years and costs £715 plus the NHS Surcharge at £624 per year of the visa as long as you complete your programme of study in the UK. The visa allows you to work for any employer with no additional hiring costs to the employer and also enables you to work for yourself.

6. Can I work during the summer?

Gaining work experience whilst you study through a part-time job, vacation job, placement, volunteering or internship will help you develop skills to add to your CV. UK and international employers value the range of transferable skills and commercial awareness that you can gain through work experience in addition to academic qualifications.

NB. Good grades do not equal good jobs; employers want students with a broad set of skills.

If you are an undergraduate student, the Summer Vacation is part of your vacation period and under your Student visa, you can work full-time. You can also work full-time during Christmas and Easter.

If you are a Postgraduate student, the Summer Vacation is considered your term time (but check with your institution) and therefore you can’t work full-time. You can, however, still volunteer and work part-time for up to 20 hours per week during this period. Your vacation time for full-time work only includes Christmas and Easter vacation periods.

7. Can I get part-time work in the UK which is related to my future career?

Part-time work can include work experience, volunteering and a part-time job. Employers are increasingly looking for students who have diversified their CVs. Employers require you to develop soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, and interpersonal skills through extracurricular activities including work and hobbies.

Your work experience can be in your field of interest but you have to be diligent to find this. Ensure there are opportunities in the area of work you require in the location you are studying; commuting long distances for a part-time job may affect your studies. All work experience is held in high regard by employers regardless of industry or location.

It is down to you to communicate effectively to employers what it is you want them to know about you. If you are applying for a job, don’t list what you did during your part-time job in a hotel as a list of tasks. Be more creative and think of this as an opportunity to market your skills effectively to employers through quantifiable key achievements. Employers want to see “worked as part of a diverse team of 15 people across 2 departments” which demonstrates so much more than “worked in a team.” This gives an employer greater insight into your abilities and skill set.

Remember: on your Student Visa, you can’t be self-employed.

8. What should I do if I am coming to the end of my degree/master's and I haven’t found a job?

You have a number of options at this point depending on your long-term plans:

  • Apply to the Graduate Route as long as you meet the criteria and give yourself more time to apply for graduate-level roles in the UK.
  • Try and find a sponsor on the Skilled Worker Route if roles are still being advertised.
  • Consider a third country where you have the language skills and where international firms are based either linked to the UK or your home country.
  • Consider starting your international career in your home country. Research international organisations in your home country and gain employment for at least 2 years to build experience, a professional reputation, a strong professional network and a skillset that can put you in a strong position to move internally within the company to an international office. Having the time to develop professionally and to develop your skills and language can help broaden your career prospects and improve your career opportunities.

It is a smart move to have a Plan B, C, D,……., and so on as it is a very competitive market out there. In addition, considering other locations for your career after university can broaden your career prospects. Consider your languages and what countries you can work in as a result, as their visa requirements may be different to the UK. Do not rely on the UK graduate market for your first job after your degree; you must have additional options in order to give yourself a good chance of getting a job. If you are struggling to find a job, speak to your careers service as they may be able to offer help and insight into your job search.

9. I am back home and want to return to the UK. What are my options?

This is similar to point 8 in that it depends on what it is you want to do and how well you meet the points-based immigration system. For instance, are you classed as a “New Entrant” as per the Skilled worker route and how will this impact your job search action plan? You can find more information on this here: see UKCISA’s information on new entrants. It is important to know your visa options and continue to develop your networks back home and in the UK.

Using LinkedIn if possible is a great start. Joining professional networks, LinkedIn Groups, alumni associations and local interest groups can have a massive impact on your career by building your networks. Who you know is as important as what you know! Being well-connected can not only open doors to careers but can inform you of possible opportunities that are not widely advertised.

So, in summary, use the toolkits at your disposal: network with your peers, alumni, and employers, and connect with your Careers Service to give yourself the best chance at maximizing your career prospects! Good Luck!

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