Columbia University attracts the most international students in the Ivy League. But what happens after graduation? We interviewed international students and alumni across Columbia’s Actuarial Science, Applied Analytics, Enterprise Risk Management, and Technology Management M.S. programs to recall how they tapped into Columbia’s network and resources like the Career Design Lab to prepare for the job market.
This summer, SPS is offering a new course designed for incoming and current master’s students preparing to engage with top companies that are recruiting this fall. The U.S. Career & Communication Accelerator is a four-week online course that provides international students with hands-on practice, real-world application, and a competitive edge to help them tackle the U.S. job market confidently and competently.
Gain Confidence in Your English by Volunteering Around Campus
Jing Li, '20SPS, Applied Analytics; Software Engineer, Google
After earning a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Hong Kong, Jing Li came to Columbia for the Applied Analytics M.S. program. She was attracted to the prestige and location of Columbia, but Li also knew the importance of leveraging Columbia’s career resources and network of alumni and industry professionals. “More than 95% of opportunities I got were through connections. Yes, you study hard, you apply for jobs or attend conferences, but ultimately, opportunities are always because of support from other people,” she said in an interview with SPS.
[I]f you want to stay and work in the U.S., then you have to get out of your comfort zone. English is not my first language and there is a barrier in communicating. But trying helps you to be more confident. I wasn’t confident in my English at first, but you can gain confidence through volunteering experiences. You can talk to the Career Design Lab. Depending on what you want, you should adjust your strategy…
Although I didn’t directly get an interview through Columbia’s career services, they did develop the mindset of being prepared for the next job opportunity. For example, I create my own to-do list for job hunting using their guidance and resources.”Jing Li, '20SPS, Applied Analytics; Software Engineer, Google
Jing Li recently completed Google’s Software Engineering Residency and is now a full-time employee. She supports “Fleet Health for Google Meet, building systems to measure hardware devices' performance and identify high-impacting fleet stability issues.”
The Job Search Will Take Time
Mingke Du, '21SPS, Actuarial Science
After coming to the U.S. from China and earning his college degree, Mingke Du wanted to tap further into his aptitude for math and translate it into a career. He ultimately selected Columbia University’s Actuarial Science M.S. program because the curriculum balanced the technical skills and soft skills (such as communication) that he’d need to stand out in the job search process and in his long-term career. In addition, the program offers several opportunities to prepare for the job market, including an exclusive Actuarial Science Career Fair, intensive resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and twice weekly Proseminars. Mingke is now fielding job offers while he completes a post-graduation internship at Columbia.
The job search process takes a long time, but Columbia’s Actuarial Science program does work. First, it provides you with a career fair which gives you a very early start to searching for jobs. Second, the Career Design Lab provides you with mock interviews, resume, cover letter, and CV workshops — everything you need when you’re looking for a job. The Actuarial Science program also provides you with mock interviews with graduates from the program. Those are really helpful for improving your interview skills specifically to secure internships.”Mingke Du, '21SPS, Actuarial Science
Don’t Underestimate the Value of Virtual Career Coaching
Ran Audrey Ding, '21SPS, Enterprise Risk Management; Associate, Credit Benchmark
Like students around the world last year, ERM student Ran Audrey Ding’s Spring 2020 semester was interrupted by the WHO’s declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. But she was determined to return to campus to continue to learn and to make herself a competitive candidate in the U.S. job market. Ding stayed active in her job preparation by attending several virtual events and workshops organized by the Career Design Lab, including regional career fairs, industry panels, and events with company recruiters.
Another key resource is the Career Design Lab. They helped me so much to prepare for my interviews and also edit my resumes... They also host student panel events and webinars with industry professionals so that also helps you to network with the companies to which you want to apply.”Ran Audrey Ding, '21SPS, Enterprise Risk Management; Associate, Credit Benchmark
With support from Columbia, Ding was successful in her transition from consulting into risk management. She is now an Associate at Credit Benchmark.
Prepare Your Pitch, Then Seize the Moment
Tara Shahbazi, '21SPS, Technology Management; Associate Analyst, JetBlue Airways
Originally from Switzerland, Tara Shahbazi came to New York to earn a college degree in Media, Culture, and Communications. Over the course of completing internships in marketing and brand and product development, Shahbazi uncovered her next career goal. “The future was all about digital products and delivery platforms,” she said in an interview with SPS. She enrolled in Columbia’s Technology Management M.S. program.
My goal for a career was to specialize… [The program is] a great way to learn the different parts of the industry, especially people who know that they’re interested in tech but may not know exactly what kind of job they want… I personally fell in love with product management, which is a perfect fit for me because it’s a mix of technology, marketing, and strategy. It allows you to see all aspects of a business because the product is at the core of the business.”Tara Shahbazi, '21SPS, Technology Management; Associate Analyst, JetBlue Airways
As part of her Capstone Project, Shahbazi developed a business plan and pitch for a digital product that assists travelers with planning multi-destination and group trips. During a program event with JetBlue’s CIO, she pitched her product, which left an impression and led to an internship. A year later, she accepted a full-time position as an Associate Analyst for CEX Crewmember Products at JetBlue.
Stay Involved on Campus Even After You’ve Completed Your Studies
Saakshi Lodha, '21SPS, Actuarial Science; ICT Analyst, Willis Towers Watson
Saakshi Lodha is from Pune, India, where she earned a B.E. in Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering. After researching the breadth of courses and insurance career tracks in the United States, Lodha chose to pursue an M.S. in Actuarial Science at Columbia. But she didn’t stop with the course work, Lodha volunteered in multiple capacities on campus, including serving as a Proseminar Team Leader, and being an active member of the Actuarial Society of Columbia University and Enterprise Risk Management and Applied Analytics clubs.
In the months between the end of her coursework last year and graduation in Spring 2021, Lodha maximized her time with the Career Design Lab, signing up for an alumni mentor through their eMentorship program and interning with them. She simultaneously completed an internship with Milliman as well. Just a few months before graduation, Lodha accepted a role
Risk, Consulting and Technology Risk Analyst at Willis Towers Watson.
As a graduate student nearing the end of the Actuarial Science master’s program, I was stressed looking for full-time opportunities for myself… When I heard about the e-Mentorship program, I was very excited because it was a great way to network and gain one-on-one career guidance at the same time. The rewarding part was the immense help that I gained from my mentor... She went out of her way to guide me through multiple strategies, from mock interviews to negotiations to broadening my view of pathways to becoming an actuary.”
Attend Career Events to Learn What Recruiters Want
Scarlett Yiqiong Liu, '21SPS, Applied Analytics; Data Analyst, Apple, Inc.
Throughout her time as a Columbia Applied Analytics student, Scarlett Yiqiong Liu put her classroom learnings to work in a range of internships in the U.S., including at Peltast Partners, Global Institute of Financial Professionals, QueensGiant, and Apple.
[The Career Design Lab is] always inviting industry partners to talk to us. I learned a lot from the recruiters, including those from Accenture, Twitter, and Google. Those sessions are very valuable because I learned more about the roles they’re looking to fill and the responsibilities of each, which helps me identify the skills I need to improve on.”Scarlett Yiqiong Liu, '21SPS, Applied Analytics; Data Analyst, Apple, Inc.
Liu completed an internship at Apple last summer and accepted a full-time position with them earlier this year.
It Will Take Strategy to Get Through Applicant Tracking Systems
Priyanka Nagpal, '21SPS, Applied Analytics
Priyanka Nagpal had an M.B.A. from RIMT University and was well into her career when she decided to enroll in Columbia’s Applied Analytics M.S. program. Now she’s working with Kat Castro, a Career Design Lab coach, to craft her resume to not only fit each position to which she applies, but to get it through the Applicant Tracking Systems that many companies use to field the overwhelming applications they receive. In an interview with SPS, she advised international students to be proactive: “Your comfort zone is basically your family, your country — where you know everything. But when you are coming to a different country, it’s definitely a very different experience... There are a lot of resources, but one has to be very proactive to find out about those resources...”
The major barrier for job candidates is getting through Applicant Tracking Systems. Career coaches at the Career Design Lab guide you on how you can tailor your resume so that at least you can get into the door. Then they prepare you for the next steps like interviews and so forth… They also conduct resume reviews and mock interviews. We also have a U.S. networking fair lined up. We have LinkedIn Learning access as well. They have recently launched SPS Talent — there are tons of job postings.”Priyanka Nagpal, '21SPS, Applied Analytics
Connect With Employers Around the World
Yuchen Ding, '21SPS, Enterprise Risk Management; Analyst, Equity Sales, Goldman Sachs
In addition to assisting students and alumni with finding positions in the U.S., the Career Design Lab has held regional career fairs featuring employers based in Latin America, China, India, and Canada. Enterprise Risk Management graduate Yuchen Ding attended the Virtual China Career Fair and accepted a full-time position with Goldman Sachs in Shanghai a few months before graduation.
As an international student, I feel very supported here. I got a lot of support from the university, the school, and the program. For example, we had the opportunity to engage in the Virtual China Career Fair.”Yuchen Ding, '21SPS, Enterprise Risk Management; Analyst, Equity Sales, Goldman Sachs