A Midlands International Group Guide to Considering your Options
Written by Morgan Gore, Graduate Recruitment Consultant at Coventry University
The UK has proven itself to be a popular place for international students to study for a degree. As it stands 485,000 international students are currently studying in the UK, with the UK Government pledging to increase these numbers to 600,000 by 2030.
The UUKI (2019) conducted a study in to the key factors that influence the reasons why international students choose to study in the UK. They found that 83% of respondents said that a UK degree helps international graduates to find employment. In addition, almost 1 in 4 international graduates in work said that having a UK qualification was the most important thing to their employer. It is also suggested that 8 out of 10 international students decide to study overseas to improve their employability. How true is this to you?
But are things changing? Whilst initiatives such as the Graduate Immigration Route and the Global Talent visa is expected to grow the numbers of international students to the UK, other options worldwide are equally as appealing. Working overseas is another commonly explored option, and many international students ignore the value of a UK degree in home markets. Considering your options, and aligning these with your career goals, is essential.
Considering Your Options
Commonly international students will seek to explore a number of employment options including remaining in the UK to work, applying to work overseas or returning to their home counties for employment. Remembering to align your decision with what you want from your career is a good place to start. You must then conduct research in to all of your options in good time.
No matter where you want to work in the world, each country will have specific advice for overseas workers, and there may be certain processes that you need to fulfil in order to work in that country. For example, the UK has a 5 tier immigration system, with a number of options for you to explore. Tier 2 sponsored routes are a popular option, but not all employers are in a position to sponsor so you must make sure that you understand key Government documents such as skills shortage occupation lists for the country that you wish to work in. A good place to start is the country’s Government websites. Search ‘work visas’ and do your research.
Applying to study overseas demonstrates your global mind-set, and your eagerness to explore new countries, but always remember the value that your UK degree can have on home markets. A recent study by the UUKI (2019) found that respondents using their UK degree back in their home countries reported a higher than average graduate salary, showing that international students with UK degrees earned more than the general population of graduates. The figures are staggering; in Nigeria, a 722% increase way reported, a 202% increase for China and an 83% increase for India.
This shows that exploring your options in home markets is worthwhile. But to do this effectively, you need to maintain an understanding of the labour market in your home country whilst studying in the UK. The Midlands International Group has a dedicated area of its website to help you explore this some more. You can access this here https://midlandsinternationalgroup.org.uk/category/returning-to-your-home-country-global-options/
It is also worth considering that as a UK education becomes increasingly popular, simply having a UK degree may not always be enough, and so you should be demonstrating to all employers across the globe, that you have done more to stand out. Put in to context, in China over 8.34 million students graduated in 2019, with 800,000 of these students returning from studying a degree overseas. A UK degree is not enough on its own for you to compete in home markets, you also need to be considering what else you can offer employers. Making the most of your time in the UK is essential.
Making the most of your time in the UK
When studying in the UK, it is important that you are getting involved in everything that UK universities have to offer. Employers value a UK degree for providing a rich variety of experiences that students can get involved in, developing essential workplace skills that are key to successful careers around the globe. These key skills include effective decision making, curiosity, adaptability, leadership, self-awareness, collaborative working, and many more. Whilst many UK universities embed these core skills in the curriculum, you may also learn them through the various extracurricular activities available to you as a student. Employers want to know what you have done, separate to your degree, which shows that you have developed these skills.
As an international student, have you joined a student society? Have you engaged in a workplace activity such as a placement or internship? Do you participate in student union activities? Have you taken part in any volunteering projects? Are you a member of a sports team? If not, these are the things that you could get involved in, which will give you the edge in the employment market.
The Midlands International Group has a dedicated area of their website available to help you explore ways to get involved and gain experience. Some key areas that you may wish to pay attention to are:
- Making the most of your university careers service
- Getting work experience
- Finding part time & voluntary work in the UK
- Joining university societies & engaging with your students union
- Making the most of university initiatives for international students
More information, and support on all of the above can be found here – https://midlandsinternationalgroup.org.uk/category/making-the-most-of-your-time-in-the-uk/
Building links with your nationality base in the UK (using your network to consider your options)
No matter where you go, remember to build and main your network as you never know what the future may hold for you, and how someone you met many years ago may be able to help you in the future.
A network refers to a collection of individuals who you know well, who you can use to exchange information and share social interactions with, for a particular purpose. A network is a key part of the job searching process, and many students (UK home students and international students) will use their network to help them identify suitable employment options.
This useful chart shows the results of a recent UUKI research study, detailing how international students have found jobs. You will see, that the majority of students (37%) have found jobs through personal contacts, followed by the next popular option (13%) of students who have found jobs by returning to, or continuing in jobs that they had prior to their studies, maintaining existing networks.
Figure 1– Source: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/International/Documents/international_graduate_outcomes.pdf
Using your network to the best of your ability is the key to getting a job, but how can I do this? We have some top tips.
- Use LinkedIn – LinkedIn is an excellent tool for developing an online presence and maintaining your network. A good place to start is to connect with everyone from your course, and then extend this to your peers, people you have met in extracurricular activities, lecturers etc. Because this is online, it is a tool that can be accessed all over the world, useful if you are considering your options.
- Attend events – the more people you meet, the higher the chance of you building your network. Attend careers events, seminars, exhibitions, and be confident in going up to someone, introducing yourself and sharing your story.
- Don’t be afraid to get involved – many international students may seek comfort in being with their nationality groups, and not fully immersing themselves in the UK culture. The truth is, this will not help when it comes to networking. The more that you get involved in, and more opportunities you have to grow your network. So be curious, get involved and don’t be afraid to be you!
We hope that this has offered you a chance to think about the options available to your nationality group, encouraging you to think more widely that before. As always, it is recommended that you follow up with advice from your university careers team. Click here to find out who you can contact for additional support – https://midlandsinternationalgroup.org.uk/about-mig/