Academic Planning for Professional Life

The General Idea

Depending on whether you are planning to purse professional career or further education here in the United States, or in your own country, there are things that you can do while you are a student here to help realize your career aspirations.

Pursuing a Professional Life in Your Home Country

Personal Orientation

Have clear goals for your studies and other activities in the States. The goals might include the idea of preparing for a variety of types of jobs.

Stay in touch with home, so that you do not become isolated from people or events in your own country.

Remain aware of American values as compared to the values that prevail at home. Remember that you are temporarily accommodating yourself to the way people behave in the US, and that you will have to re-accommodate yourself when you get home.

Anticipate some difficulties upon your return home, since going home requires many readjustments that can be difficult to make. One of the difficulties you can anticipate is people’s prejudices (whether positive or negative) about people who have studied in the U.S.

Cultivate patience and nonjudgmentalism. These two personal characteristics will help you interact constructively with people whose ideas are different from yours.

Avoid dependence on country-specific or specialized equipment, such as some computers programs or laboratory supplies, unless you are certain that you will have access to such equipment at home.

Academic Work

Insofar as you can, select courses that relate to your interests or to the general demands relevant to the field in the country where you hope to work in the future.

Take courses in leadership, management, social change, and comparative studies if you can possibly do so.

Insofar as you can (mostly for graduate students), select an academic adviser  and instructors who seem interested in working with students from abroad and who understand your wish to prepare for a career in another country.

Whenever possible, choose research topics that relate to your own country.

Learn research methods that you can use in other settings besides Iowa and the University.

Extracurricular Activities

Get leadership and management experience through student organizations, professional associations, participation in voluntary service activities, etc.

Get fund-raising and proposal-writing experience in any way you can. Student organizations, cooperation with a faculty member on a project, and volunteer in community organizations that might afford these opportunities.

Improve your English. People at home will assume that a person who has studied in the U.S. will be highly proficient in English. Those who use English well have better opportunities for professional advancement.

Profession-Related Activities

Get practical experience in your field. Through volunteer work, employment arranged under “cooperative education,” or through practical training in business, industry, or education, get as much practical experience as you can. Most prospective employers want someone who has practical experience as well as theoretical understanding of a subject.

Join and participate in professional organizations on campus and elsewhere. Ask your academic advisor or in your departmental office about professional organizations students in your field can join.

Network with fellow professionals and co-nationals. Get acquainted with people in your field or study and with people from your country, since you may want to call upon them after you get home. Americans use the term “networking” to refer to establishing relationships with people who can help you in your professional life.

Build a personal library of books and journals that can help you after you return home.

Pursuing a Professional Life or Further Education in the U.S.

Professional Career

Education

  • Explore career choices within your field of study. You can meet with a Career Advisor (mostly undergraduate students), or your faculty advisor (mostly graduate students) to discuss career interests/options. You can also explore career possibilities using “What Can I Do with A Major in …” or using assessments.
  • Visit your Academic Advisor to discuss courses that you could take to help you gain additional skills for the career that you are interested in.
  • Consider taking some leadership and/or professional development courses to gain additional skill sets.
  • Conduct class projects/research in the topics that you are interested in exploring, which also align with the career path that you are interested in.
  • Consider study abroad opportunities as well as work, intern, and volunteer abroad possibilities.

Personal/Cultural Orientation

  • Learn about the work values that are important to Americans.
  • Determine the work values that are important to you.
  • Learn how informational interviews with professionals can provide additional insight into careers and industries you are exploring.
  • Attend Life in Iowa Career Series workshops to learn more about preparing for a professional career in the United States.
  • Visit ISSS website to read the information about Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Come to discuss with an ISSS advisor during walk-in hours when you are planning on registering CPT or OPT.

Extracurricular Activities

Profession-Related Activities

Pursuing Graduate or Professional School

If pursuing an advance degree in graduate or professional school is your personal goal, you might want to invest more time into how to navigate the planning, researching, applying process. The Pomerantz Career Center provides a great outline of this process, and also resources that you can refer to. Please visit http://careers.uiowa.edu/students/plan-graduate-and-professional-school for more information.