A Letter to My Younger Sibling (Advice for International Graduate Students)

Dear Andy,

First off, congratulations! You’ve accomplished a great milestone in life, and I am so proud of you. It’s hard studying abroad. After spending all the time studying and staying competitive among your peers, you still have to face an even more brutal challenge: finding a job and staying in the States.


Nobody is saying it will be easy, and you have to be prepared to encounter many obstacles and roadblocks before landing a job.

But you will find hope, gain experience, and meet a few people who are willing to help you out along the way. Here are four pieces of advice I’d like to share with you based on my own experience.

1. Mind cultural differences & have the right expectation:

It’s common to rely on our parents’ network or your alumni to get a job in Taiwan. Even though networking and building connections are still crucial for career establishment, in the States people tend to be on their own, especially for their first jobs. Most of their first job experiences come from working at retail stores or fast food chains in their high school years. So when they graduate from college, lots of them tend to be better at selling themselves than someone who has zero experience. As an international student, you need to take extra steps to make things happen. No one is obligated to help, so you have to adjust your expectation and learn from experiences.

2. Be genuinely curious about people:

What can you talk about when networking with people? In my opinion, genuine curiosity about others’ backgrounds (not just what they do at their jobs) is the best and only way to start. Developing professional relationships also takes time, so make sure you don’t ask someone you just meet the first time to bend over backwards to do you a favor.

3. Be respectful:

The reality is: the majority of people you reach out to won’t respond at all, no matter how many times you try. But once in a while, there will be someone who is willing to spend a few minutes to point you in the right direction. Show your gratitude by respecting their time and efforts.

4. Don’t give up:

When I graduated about 5 years ago, I submitted 300+ resumes and attempted uncountable times meeting with my mentors and alumni just to get a better idea about the job market. In the end, I didn’t get my job through networking, but through a Monster.com job listing with a company that I’d never heard of. I am urging you to be patient. Try again (and again), and don’t give up. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future” (Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Remark)

Good luck. I have full confidence that you will soon find what you’re passionate about.

5 Responses to “A Letter to My Younger Sibling (Advice for International Graduate Students)”

  1. Alisa
    2013/05/09 at 3:46 AM #

    Very well said, my dear! Now if I could just get others to read it! 🙂

    • evelynchou
      2013/05/09 at 4:16 AM #

      Thank you so much Alisa! I will NEVER forget what you told me the first day of orientation, “be comfortable with your own skin.”
      I think a lot of the challenges and false expectation came from cultural difference.
      Asian students especially seem to take a while to get to the right balance.
      Hope all is well. Can’t wait to see you in summer!

  2. Gregory Swan
    2013/06/07 at 6:12 PM #


    More than the great advice is the encouragement you showed your younger sibling. It comes down to love from what I see and it is beautiful – perhaps the only thing. When I read something like that I am reminded of the greatest love I have ever witnessed between two siblings – Drew and Jack Swan. We lost Drew in April- his blogs left a legacy at http://www.DrewSwan.com

    I liked you when I met you and hope to connect soon to take the same advice you gave Andy…Network!

    Lunch is on me.


    Greg Swan
    Detroit Digital

    PS: One of the main founders of Digitas is a friend of mine- Seraj Bharwani.
    248 667 2722

  3. Mengxi
    2013/06/10 at 5:22 PM #

    Great read, wish I have ever read these before I came to the states three years ago.

    • evelynchou
      2013/06/18 at 3:42 AM #

      Thanks Mengxi, you have accomplished so much in these three years. I should have asked you to share your experience!

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