Job search even tougher for international students

Sridarsh VinnakotaBy Douglas Esser
Sridarsh Vinnakota had five interviews last summer for finance internships. A University of Washington Bothell finance major, graduating in June with a minor in computer science, he‘s a good prospect. But all the companies backed out when the interviewers learned he’s an international student from India.

“It kind of hurt me. They thought I was capable because of my potential, but just that one restriction didn’t give me the opportunity,” Vinnakota said. “Not many companies want to sponsor visas for us.”

job fair posterTo help international students in a similar situation, Vinnakota has arranged the International Student Career Panel from 5:45 p.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, on the second floor of the Activities and Recreation Center. The event is sponsored by the Delta Sigma Pi club, the student chapter of the national business fraternity, with the support of the UW Bothell Center for International Education.

Vinnakota is president of the club, which he cofounded in 2015 with Emily Burns. It now has 40 members. He expects about 70 international students to attend the career fair. They will have the chance to talk with representatives of six or seven companies in the Seattle area that hire international students. They are mostly startups or consulting firms, Vinnakota says. 

Vinnakota hopes the job fair becomes an annual networking event to help international students navigate challenges that appear to be increasing. After graduation, international students can be eligible to work up to three years on their student visas. To stay in the United States longer, they need a work-approved visa.
Vinnakota wants to justify the $100,000 his father has invested in his U.S. education.

Sridarsh Vinnakota“I want to gain some experience here in the field of finance and business. Then I want to start my own business back home. My long term goal: I want to provide employment to people. That’s what made me focus toward business. And at the same time I don’t want to restrict myself, so I want to learn as much as I can. That’s why I took computer science classes,” says Vinnakota, who also works at the UW Bothell information technology help desk. (Photos by Marc Studer)

Home is Vizag, a port city in southeast India where extended family members work in business and professions. Other members of his family have traveled to America to earn graduate degrees. He wanted to earn his undergraduate degree here because “I like to experience more than grades.” He started at the University of Washington in Seattle and transferred to the Bothell campus to take classes for his major.

Vinnakota was surprised to find professors who would learn his name and help with a problem even after he had taken their class. But coming from a more formal upbringing, he still can’t bring himself to call his professors by their first names. He’s also had to adjust to a culture that is more blunt.

“Here, people are open and more frank, to the point,” he says. “Sometimes that might hurt a lot of people.”

From his experience, Vinnakota also has learned the importance of making a good first impression.
 
“It’s not based on most of your experience, but how you present yourself at the interview is the most important thing,” he says.

Vinnakota plans to earn a master’s degree in finance or an MBA, “but first I want to gain work experience.”