One of the many benefits of working for a small institution, particularly as a new professional, is the opportunity to gain experience in myriad functional areas. As a true ENFP, I find energy in being just above mediocre in 3,000+ subjects rather than an expert in one. Where others may stress over being stretched too thin, I, instead, find exhilaration in accumulating bits of knowledge and taking on foreign responsibilities.
Last year, as my college began to reimagine the ways in which we support our international student population, I capitalized on the opportunity to gain a new skill set and solicited professional development funding to receive basic training in F-1 visa advising. My main role as internship coordinator is to support students in finding, and reflecting on, internship opportunities. On numerous occasions, I felt inept in advising international students in their options both during and after their undergraduate experience. Through brief research, it was made clear many career centers have also noticed this service gap and found it beneficial to have in-house knowledge of F-1 visa employment issues, in addition to the support students receive through international advising offices. Information on Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT), temporary employment authorization for F-1 visa students interested in working in the United States, can be found housed on many career center websites and these professionals are often leading the charge around educating students on the OPT/CPT application process. In this way, students are able to understand the legal requirements and timelines as they consider options for temporary or full-time positions.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators made it incredibly easy and fiscally feasible for me to receive certification around F-1 issues of employment. Their e-Learning course, Introduction to F-1 Student Advising, allowed for me to learn the basics on my own time and walk away with a resource guide for use in advising students. Though the course was clearly geared toward international student advisors and covered a breadth of F-1 regulations, this knowledge base allowed for me to understand visas in a much broader context. Because of this knowledge, I now feel confident in counseling international students through appropriate timelines and regulations when seeking employment both as an undergraduate and recently graduated student.
For my work, knowledge around OPT and CPT seemed a natural fit, as these experiences are so intertwined with the experiential learning opportunities I promote. While I will never be the expert in F-1 visa regulations, at least in my current role, this training has offered another support structure, a way to better relate to, and connect with, a growing campus population. More so, it has inspired me to consider unconventional opportunities for professional development and growth, to look for ways to expand beyond my current functional area and broaden my knowledge of the field in general.
February focuses on global career services. Find information on international perspectives to interviewing, best practices for partnering with campus international programs, and serving international students.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.