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Work in the USA

Working abroad sounds like an adventure to many people. However, it requires thorough preparation, starting with a successful application. This is a brief guide to help you in your application process. For more detailed information, you should consult the full guide on the United States of America.

Work permits in the USA

In order to work in the US, you must have an appropriate visa. The most common visa for international students in the US in the F1 student visa. In order to be eligible for an F1 visa, you must be enrolled full-time at an academic institution or language-training program in the US, show sufficient financial support to complete the study, and you must prove that you do not intend to abandon your foreign residency.

All visas have to be applied for at the American embassy in your home country. Details can be obtained from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the US Department of State. For more information about student visas, check out our Visa and Immigration Center.

The application procedure in the USA

The Internet is the main source for vacancies and information concerning job applications. Search services such as LinkedIn and even Craigslist can be integral in your job search. However, avoid using job search services that charge you a fee. Most reputable services are free of charge.

Carefully read any job listings you come across before applying. It is also a good idea to cast a wide net by applying to any jobs you can see yourself in—even if you don’t meet all of the requirements. At worst, you will be turned down and at best, you’ll get an interview!

Writing a resume in the United States of America

In the US the term resume is used instead of CV. The key focus of your resume should be to persuade the employer to invite you for an interview. Think of your resume as a marketing tool, which should be adapted to the market in which you intend to use it. You will most likely end up with multiple variations of your resume, depending on the type of job to which you will be applying. It is advisable to write a short profile of yourself, using short and punchy sentences filled with action verbs and power words, and start by clearly stating the objective and/or goal of your career.

Resume Writing Advice »

The application letter in the USA

The application letter—or cover letter—should be typed in a short and professional style. Start with "Dear Mr./Ms X," if you know the addressee"s name, and end your letter with "Yours sincerely". Try to avoid phrases such as “To whom it may concern” and “Dear Sir or Madam”; you should almost always be able to find the name of the person to whom you are sending your application, and doing so demonstrates that you have put care and research into your application. The last paragraph of your cover letter should include multiple ways to get in touch with you, including your phone number and email address. Most importantly, keep your letter short—no longer than a single page.

Cover Letter Guide »

The interview

The interview is by far the most nerve-wracking part of the job search process. The most important thing you can do to prepare for an interview is to research the company. Make sure you are familiar with the company’s goals and values; if you can, try to memorize a few key words from the company’s mission statement and use them in your interview. Another helpful way to prepare for interviews is the mock interview. Ask a friend or family member to ask you questions you’re likely to be asked during your interview, and practice your answers. This will help you remain cool and calm during your actual interview.

The day of your interview, remember to dress your best, and bring several copies of your resume along with you. Provide specific examples and stories of your achievements when answering questions, and avoid criticizing former employers. Be pleasant and polite, but not too personal. Follow up your interview with a short thank you letter to your interviewer.

Management culture in the United States

  • The organizational culture within American companies is strongly result orientated.
  • Companies are focused on direct results and short-term gains.
  • Employees are motivated by their employers and there is little direct criticism in either direction.
  • An agenda is usually distributed before a meeting.
  • The goal of most negotiations is to "close the deal". The long-term relationship is unimportant at that time.
  • Americans are on a first-name basis with each other from the beginning.

To learn more about working in the USA please see our working in the USA guide for students looking to study in the USA. This is part of our larger study in the USA advice center for students from all around the world.

You might be interested in How to Apply for an F1 Student Visa.

You might also find useful information in our article on the Questions to Expect during your F1 Visa Interview.

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