In the MBACM office we want to help every student achieve their long and short-term career goals. As is the Wharton way, we always start by looking closely at data to understand different groups and macro trends. At the same time, we work with every student individually. Let me share how we implement this two pronged approach to getting to know international students and their needs.
Let’s start with the data side. In the beginning of year, MBACM administers a career assessment called CareerLeader. This is a valuable tool for students to get in touch with their motivations, skills, and goals for the upcoming recruiting season, but MBACM also uses it to learn more about the student population. For example, the data from the assessment taught us that the Wharton student population with the strongest leadership aspirations is international women (statistically significant). From the experiential side, through years of advising, we know that some of these highly motivated women come from cultures where they are encouraged to speak out about their goals, for some it’s their personality to be more forthright, and some arrive in the US expressing their goals in a way that is articulate for their home cultures, but a little opaque for the US. To ensure that the needs of all three populations are met, and the voice and goals of the third population are acknowledged and supported, we have been able to utilize the hypothesis from the CareerLeader data that every international women aspires to high levels of leadership unless she tells us she does not. This starting-point has helped us both hear and advise this population more effectively.
Now more on the experiential side. While we use data to understand student populations, we work with students as individuals. A few years ago we developed a model of advising based on several years of feedback. We learned that students want their career advisors to be Supportive, Personalized, Industry Experts, Actionable and Direct. We also know that this model works with both domestic and international students. However, getting to know every student and their unique needs makes the difference. Let me share a story of a student who become 1 in 10,000.
A few years ago I was advising a student who wanted to work at one of the most popular startups in Silicon Valley that had just been acquired by Google. This company was so popular that it had 10,000 applications from around the country for less than 5 MBA summer roles. A Wharton student from Korea, who had never worked in the US, was one of the interns they selected. Why? Was the startup expanding to the Korean market? No. Was he qualified? Yes, he had a background in marketing and they were looking for a marketing intern, but many MBA students from Wharton and other great schools have marketing backgrounds. In my office he and I discussed the benefits of networking for the US job search. He was very uncomfortable reaching out to his network for help in his job search. I suppose his tendency was part personality and part cultural. I challenged him to find a time to fly to SF for a few days and meet with contacts. A few weeks later he came to my office and told me, “It worked!” When he was an undergrad he spent one semester on an exchange program in CA. He found a friend who he met on that exchange who worked at his target startup. This friend moved his application to the top of the 10,000 resumes.
While hesitancy to network and call on connections to help can hamper your recruiting efforts, visas can be an ever greater and more explicit hurdle to recruiting. On the company side the MBACM office nudges each company who does not sponsor visas to consider sponsoring. The discussion is part of our business development talking points each year. On the student side, if there is a strategy we can help individual students use to navigate the visa challenges, we will. Here is a story of how an international student convinced a film studio to hire him.
The student really wanted to work in Media and Entertainment—an industry that tends to not sponsor visas. We both thought that if the companies got to know him, they would like him and find that his qualities and skills would make him an ideal candidate. But we had to find ways to increase his exposure to companies, so he could impress them. We developed the plan that he would network with Wharton alumni in the film industry as well as lead the LA Media trek during winter break. There was enough interest in his candidacy that a studio did decided to have him join them for the summer. He was very excited to have the experience and the studio was very pleased with his work.
In closing, we hope that every international student knows that we are on your side! We advocate to US companies to hire you. We regularly conduct surveys and focus groups to understand your unique needs. We provide unconscious bias training to our staff and use our data to address any misperceptions we may have through the lens of culture. We stand for every student to experience understanding, inclusion and access to the resources needed to realize their career goals.