I’m not an expert, and I don’t know the best strategy, but here I will share my personal experience in job hunting. In August 2013 I and my wife moved from the Netherlands to the Bay Area, because she had the change to work for two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. To me it was a great opportunity to work as Electronic Engineer in Silicon Valley, so we went. We have a J-visa, for visiting scholars. My wife has the J-1, and I have the J-2, because I’m the dependent. It took me 6 months to find a job, but in the mean time I had lots of fun meeting people at the Bechtel International Center, enjoyed life in California, and volunteered for a few start ups. Currently I design electronics for industrial Internet of Things applications at a very young start-up, and I’m really excited about my job!
Before you get started on your job search, you need to apply for a work permit and then you need to apply for a social security number. I will not go into detail, but I received my work permit after 2.5 months and then I could apply for a social security number which took 2.5 weeks When you have both, you can get started! So here come the strategies.
This is absolutely the best strategy, I found my job this way. You have to meet people, especially because you are in a new land. You can meet everywhere, not only at professional meetups, but actually anywhere. At Bechtel, at sport activities, at social events, in the bar, even your next door neighbors. For example, if you want to work for Google, LinkedIn, Facebook or Tesla, there is a high chance that someone close to you already works there. You just need to get to know each other. Do you know meetup.com? It’s a website for people with similar interest who want to meet. The meetups are about anything, professional and non-professional. You can meet people who like knitting or meet people to talk about the latest wireless communication technology. So sign up, meet people, and in the mean time you can practice your English. Also, meet people from your own country. They are more likely to bring you into contact with someone who works for a company you are interested in. I went to a few Dutch meetups in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and to events at the Dutch Consulate. There I connected with someone whose job it is to strengthen the business relationships between the Netherlands and the Bay Area and who has a huge network of Dutch people in the Bay Area. We drank coffee, I asked for advice, and was able to use his network. That was incredibly useful. People really like your interests and love to give advice. Because of my Dutch network I had a interview at Tesla, because of my Bechtel network I had another interview, and because of other networking activities I found my current employers. It’s also very useful to make your personal company top 20, and check their web pages for open positions. There are tons of companies around and I found a lot of matches in bigger and smaller companies. I had a bunch of phone interviews and interviews based on these applications but very little on blind applications.
Resume and cover letter
If you are a Stanford affiliate, you can get a Career Planning Handbook from the Bechtel International Center. It’s full of information for writing an American style resume, cover letter, and it prepares you well for your job search. There are huge differences between the Dutch CV and the American resume. For example, you don’t write your work tasks, but rather write your accomplishments. For example that you saved the company $50.000 by doing something clever, or improved people lives by providing information. Also ask friends who work in the Bay Area to review your resume and cover letter. Stanford spouses can get a free one-hour consult at the Career Development Center (CDC). So, re-write your resume and cover letter in American style, and then take that with you to the CDC. It’s also good to give your resume to someone American who is working in a leading position for sanity, form and style check.
LinkedIn is not just your online resume, it is also a tool that shows the connections between you and people that work for the companies you are interested in. For example if you want to work for Apple, you may find that your neighbor knows someone at Apple. It is totally OK to connect to your neighbors, or people you just met briefly. Because of LinkedIn I had one job interview, and I still get weekly calls from recruiters that use LinkedIn.
In the first few months I found many interesting positions on websites like monsterboard.com, and indeed.com. I wrote 20-30 letters, spending at least a few hours per letter, and had pretty much no response and that felt pretty depressing. However, it helped me improve my cover letters and resume a lot and I built a network, so it wasn’t that bad after all. Every few weeks I touched base with recruiters just so they would keep thinking about me. Because of job sites I had one interview.
This is not a strategy but I would like to share how it went. Often it starts with a telephone interview with a recruiter. The next step may be a telephone interview with someone from the department where you apply. Sometimes they ask to send in an essay. In total I wrote three essays. If you get invited for an on-site interview, be prepared for a whole afternoon of interviews with 3 to 6 people in a row. They often ask you to solve their current problems. It’s also not uncommon that they place you in front of a white board.
In summary, it is best to network your @ss of, show interest and ask for advice!