Optional Practical Training (OPT) offers a valuable opportunity for international students in the United States to gain practical work experience in their field of study. At CSI, we know that finding OPT jobs can be challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with the American job market or job searching in general.

In this blog post, we will show you how to find companies that hire OPT students, with a special focus on Illinois, an area known for its diverse job opportunities. However, the tips to follow can be used by students living anywhere. Following these suggestions can improve your job search and increase your chances of finding the perfect OPT opportunity.

Research & Networking

One of the most important steps in finding companies hiring OPT students is using the resources available at CSI and our career services portal. With these tools, you can research listings specifically for OPT jobs, making this an excellent starting point for your search.

Networking is one of the most powerful ways to land a job. Access to hidden job opportunities and gaining insider information from professionals in your area of study are just two benefits of networking. By networking with those in your industry, you could experience these additional perks:

  • Career guidance
  • Improved communication skills
  • Recommendations from industry experts
  • Improve your professional reputation
  • Refine your abilities in a specific domain
  • Establish connections
  •  Develop a sense of self-efficacy

Additionally, networking with faculty and alums can provide you with valuable information on companies known for hiring international students. For those new to networking, it is important to view it as a long-term commitment that can benefit you for years to come. When networking, you should always commit to building honest relationships that focus on offering value and support first over expecting a favor or a job immediately.

Joining a club is a fun way to take the “work” out of networking. These could be professional and education-type clubs and organizations or something less formal such as a local softball league or a group of people who share a hobby or personal interest. These gatherings are a great way to step into networking if you’re new to it while also having some fun doing it.

Job Boards & Websites

Another great way to find OPT jobs in the Chicago area is to explore industry-specific job boards and websites. These websites often have a wealth of information about job openings and can help you identify companies that hire OPT students in your field. For instance, websites like Dice and Tech Careers can be valuable resources if you are looking for OPT jobs in the technology sector.

Professional associations and conferences also offer great opportunities to connect with professionals and learn about companies that hire OPT students. Attending events and workshops can help you build your professional network, which can be crucial in finding job opportunities. Some professional conferences require payment, but many will waive fees for students.

Social Media

Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook groups are also excellent resources for finding OPT jobs in and around Chicago and elsewhere. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for discovering job openings and connecting with professionals who can help you find companies hiring OPT students. Facebook groups dedicated to OPT job seekers can also provide a wealth of information about job opportunities and tips for landing a job.

Facebook groups can provide a powerful local job search opportunity. Rather than searching all of Chicago for OPT opportunities, find a Facebook group dedicated to local companies within Skokie, or Lombard, IL, for example.

Identifying Companies That Hire OPT Students

When searching for companies that hire OPT students, it is essential to focus on those with a strong history of hiring international students. These companies are more likely to understand the unique challenges OPT students face and will offer support during the hiring process.

Additionally, industries with a high demand for international talent, such as technology, engineering, healthcare, and finance, are more likely to hire OPT students. With globalization affecting almost every industry, many companies in the US are looking for talent that know multiple languages.

For questions on H-1B visas talk with a Career Services advisor!

Startups and small businesses may also be more open to hiring OPT students, as they often offer more flexibility in their hiring process. While they may not be as well-known as larger companies, these organizations can provide a unique and rewarding work experience.

Crafting a Strong Application

To stand out from the competition and secure a job at a company that hires OPT students, it is crucial to tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific job posting. Remember to highlight your international background, unique skill set, and relevant work experience. If you need support with this, simply schedule an appointment with our Career Services

As an international student, you should prepare for cultural differences during interviews. Familiarize yourself with common job interview questions and customs and practices in the United States, and be ready to demonstrate your determination, adaptability, and willingness to learn.

Navigating the OPT Application Process

To ensure a smooth OPT application process, work closely with your university’s international student office. They can provide guidance on the required documents and submission deadlines. It’s also important to stay informed about changes in immigration policies, as these can directly impact your ability to work in the United States.

From Campus to Career

Finding companies that hire OPT students may seem daunting. By leveraging CSI resources, college and university tools, networking opportunities, and online platforms, you can significantly increase your chances of finding the best OPT job in Chicago, or anywhere nationwide.

Be persistent in your job search, and remember that it may take time to find the right opportunity. By staying informed, adapting to the ever-changing job market, keeping your skill set current, and showcasing your unique skills and background, you can successfully find companies that hire OPT students and secure a position that aligns with your career goals.

Best of luck in your job search; remember, we’re here to help! For questions or tips on discovering your career path check out our Career Services or call us by phone at 1-847-967-5030.