For many international students, finding employment in the US is often the final hurdle in their MBA journey, the culmination of years of hard work.
For Sophia Xing Liu, fresh off the back of her MBA at Hult International Business School, securing a graduate job in Miami brought with it a sense of relief.
Born and raised in China, Sophia worked with start-ups in Shanghai prior to her MBA at Hult, dabbling in everything from accelerators to mentorship to start-up events. Having originally enrolled at Hult’s San Francisco campus to explore the tech industry in greater depth, Sophia realized halfway through her MBA that cosmetics was her true passion. All it took was a L’Oréal recruitment visit on campus to convince her of her future.
Through a combination of her own ardent desire and Hult’s incredible career resources, Sophia managed to win her dream job as a product manager for Lancôme’s marketing division, a major L’Oréal brand. What's more, she made the career triple-jump, changing her job function, industry, and location after her MBA at Hult.
What made you decide to pursue an MBA?
I spent most of my career in Shanghai, working in start-ups and venture capital prior to my current career in cosmetics.
I was really empowered by that environment and wanted to become an entrepreneur myself, and decided an MBA in a tech capital would be the perfect method to do so.
What made Hult the right school for you?
Through my previous roles, I had worked with Hult students in Shanghai, so I knew the school through that. Their one-year format was very appealing to me, and Hult was much more pragmatic and experience-driven than other schools I was looking at.
I was really struck by how international the program felt, and ended up loving San Francisco so much I chose not to rotate to one of Hult's other five campuses, as many students do.
How have you gained from your MBA?
For me, the whole idea of the MBA was to take a pause and consider what I really wanted to do. Halfway into the MBA, everything changed for me – I discovered new skills and interests I didn’t know even existed. The education and training we got was always applicable to real-world situations, and I learned more about working in teams than I could ever have hoped for.
San Francisco’s job market is also very competitive, so I became more open to other opportunities. L’Oreal came to campus one day, and everything changed from then on. I realized that skincare, not software, was my true passion.
In what ways did Hult bring recruiters into contact with students?
Hult brought a lot of recruiters onto campus, some of whom are recurring visitors, of which L’Oreal is one.
By submitting my application through Hult’s system, I secured a face-to-face interview with the HR director of L'Oreal Travel Retail Americas the day after the recruitment session.
There are also some new recruiters who just give info sessions, but there are so many opportunities for students to just get in touch with people at these companies.
How did Hult help you with applying for jobs?
Hult equipped us very well from the first day we came to campus. We had our own advisors who stressed the importance of the digital profile from the get-go.
I also got a lot of help with my CV and even had one-on-one sessions. Even when my advisor, Laura Maish was sick or on leave, she still found the ability to sit on the phone with me and help me prepare for my interview.
Finally, Hult’s marketing courses provided a great base of knowledge for me when I was applying for my role.
When it came to the final interview, all those great tips and tricks I learned worked – and I got hired!
What are some of the challenges you, as a Chinese national, faced with finding employment in America?
Although foreign professionals are very welcome and highly-valued in many states, the H1-B visa application is a lottery. Many people lose out on finding work in the US simply because they were unlucky, and that’s before you consider all the highly-qualified American graduates you have to compete against.
The visa process itself is actually quite straightforward, it’s just the lottery part that’s difficult to deal with. Yet it’s hard to say whether it’s fair or not because we don’t really know what the selection criteria are.
What are your plans for the immediate future?
I’ve only been here for two weeks, but I’d like to stay in Miami for a while and grow with this organization. I really like the culture both in Miami and at Lancôme.
What advice would you have for current international MBA candidates seeking employment in the US?
Spend a bit of time negotiating when you receive your first offer, it’s easy to just take it because it’s something that’s certain, but try to resist that urge.
Also, when H1-B applications open on April 1st, submit yours immediately. The deadline is open until the 7th, but they typically fill up within the first day.
Go for the most established companies as well, as they’re more likely to be able to support your application, and leverage your own cultural background.