Graduate Students in US – How to Survive Recession
The other day I was talking to a student who graduated in August from my school. He is in OPT for almost 75 days now. He is trying his best to find a job but with an economic recession he is not even getting interview calls. He was so sad and telling me “since I have some good friends I am surviving. I don’t have any money to spend nor any work”. I found him very low in confidence and cursing the luck for his inability to find a job all throughout the conversation.
There will be hundreds of graduate students like this from different countries especially from
who may be going through the same state of mind as my friend. They are subjected to so many pressures at the same time – pressure due to the inability to find a job, pressure to make both ends meet with no income, pressure to repay the huge loan they took back from their home country, pressure of returning back to the home country as a loser not having able to find a job even after studying so hard. India
I can understand the pain and agony that goes through those students as I also came to US for my studies during the peak of recession. Majority of my friends were struggling to find a job during that time. I have written earlier about the tough life of graduate students and how we all survived it. But I believe this time it is going to be much tougher – mainly due to some changes in the H1B visa numbers and also the recession is widely expected to be worse than the last one. The only ray of hope for a lot of students is the extended Optional Practical Training (OPT) but lot of students can’t take advantage of it as they need to be employed for at least 9 months during their 12-month OPT to get an extension.
In 2001-03, finding a job was tough but if you get a job you can apply for H1B visa throughout the year as visa numbers were available round the year. It is not the case now. Take the case of a student who will graduate this Fall (December 08). Say his OPT starts from December 15th and he manages to get a full time job by April 15th after four months of search. By the time he gets the job the H1B visa numbers for the year 2009 could have been over. So this guy cannot apply for H1B visa. He can continue working till December ’09. He cannot apply for his OPT extension since he has a gap of more than 90 days in OPT with out job. The net result – he cannot legally work in US from January. During the recession of 2001-03 we never had to face such a situation. Now the whole matrix of job search and H1B visa has become so complicated with timing of the job and luck playing a major part in the visa rather than your ability.
So what is the way out from these tough times – No easy solution at all. One should be mentally prepared to face the worst but should be highly optimistic and never should lose hope. This is not a situation for you to panic. It is just a passing storm and good times with multiple job offers will soon come. In 2001-03 there was a stage when all of us thought that no one is going to get a job in the near future and every one will have to pack the bags and go back. But things changed for better and in no time everyone was getting jobs. I am positive that the same thing is going to happen at the end of this recession.
Few things my friends did during the last recession – if possible postpone the graduation by a semester or two. Sometimes it really helps. You may be able to continue the funding you have for another semester or you can find some on campus job and can survive with that. It is better than graduating and having no job. Since you have completed most of the requirements for graduation you may not need to register as a full time student to continue for another semester or two. I had a couple of friends who purposely failed in the comprehensive exam to maintain student status. They all graduated subsequently once the market came up and are doing really good.
Another thing you can do – if you have already graduated - come back to school and do another degree- say in the latest or the hottest field so that when the market comes back up you could position yourself in a better position to get a job. Even if you did your first degree paying from your pocket you may be lucky enough to find some form of funding to do the second degree. Being in school for around 2 years should make you aware of the various opportunities available internally in the school better. Going back to school for another degree will buy you couple of years and by that time market will be back to normal and you are good to go.
Another possibility – but have to be careful in choosing this. There are a hell lot of consultants out their willing to sponsor H1B visas. There is lot of genuine ones but there are lots of rotten apples in that field. They make all the promises but once you join them you may have to go through lot of hardships. Joining a consultant who is willing to sponsor a H1B visa is another option if you desperately want H1B visa and all your trials in getting a full time job fails. But do your home work and never fall into the trap of crooked and cunning consultants whose sole aim is to suck your money and blood.
So if you decide even in this economy I am going to graduate and search for jobs what should you do? At least 3 months before your graduation make job search your full time job. At least spend 30 to 40 hours every week in job search. Get professional help in writing the resume so that your resume comes up when companies search resume with key words in your field of study. Just applying online or uploading the resume to the job sites is not going to serve any purpose. Talk to as many potential employers as possible. When you call them they may tell you that they don’t have an opening and call them back in 1 month. Exactly after a month give them a call back. Always remember one thing – during recession it is true that hundreds of jobs are being lost but even during that time somewhere some company may be hiring one person and that can be you. Bottom line is, never lose hope.
Not getting a job in this market is not due to your inability or ill luck but due to the global phenomenon called economic recession. If you understand this and move forward confidently you will surely find light at the end of the tunnel.