#25-Career Coaching with International Graduate Students


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Jennifer Krupp, Lixing Li

Lixing Li  00:00

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to our global connection channel. I’m your host Lixing. Today I’m very happy to have my wonderful colleague Jennifer Krupp to join our channel. Jennifer and I are working at Olin Business School in Washington University in St. Louis. Jennifer is a career coach at Western Career Center in Olin Business in school. There are many international students in our master’s program. We are having Jennifer here with us to share her experience working with our international students. Before we get started, Jennifer, do you want to briefly introduce yourself to our audience?

Jennifer Krupp  00:34

Sure. Thanks for having me, Lixing. I’m pretty excited to be here to share my experiences. I’m a certified career management coach at Washington University in St. Louis at the business school and I work mainly with our specialized master’s program or SMP students. Just for my background, I studied secondary education with an emphasis in language arts, so I kind of have a bend towards language and expression. And I spent 17 years working in the nonprofit world before coming to higher education.

Lixing Li  01:03

Wonderful. Welcome, Jennifer, we’re very happy to have you here today. You have an interest in amazing work experience, could you share with us: how did you decide to work in higher ed? And why did you choose Career Services?

Jennifer Krupp  01:18

I think Career Services chose me. Like I said, I got my degree in education. I knew I belonged in education, and through a series of life events. I started in higher education here at Olin in the Corporate Relations office where we managed events and relationships with employers collected data. And occasionally, I used to work with the students. And so then I just kept wanting to work more and more with the students. And that’s how I ended up as a career coach. So I think that, again, Career Services found me that the more opportunity I had to work with the students, it just got better and better. And so when the opportunity arose, and there was an opening on this particular career coaching team, they actually sought me out and asked me to come and join them.

Lixing Li  02:01

This is wonderful. Yeah, I’ve just learned that you before you’re working with students, you’re actually in working more with the corporate relation side so we’re gonna save that question later. Just to ask you about the difference. First of all, we learn your job title is career coach. So among career services in higher education, there are many different names or titles such as career consultants, career advisors, and career coaches. I’m curious how coaches are different from advisors. And what do you do day to day in your role?

Jennifer Krupp  02:36

It is unique that I mean, the title is what it is, we prefer coaching, because it’s not, it’s not our job to tell the students, here’s the job that you should have. We want to coach them to the job that they want and help them find those answers. Is there advising that happens? Absolutely. Sometimes they there we have knowledge that they need that they’re not going to find on their own, we need to give them but in general, we want to see ourselves as coaching them to do the job search, not doing it for them, and not telling them exactly what they have to do.

Lixing Li  03:11

That sort of explains, that working with students is very different from working with a company, can you share more about the difference, more detailed difference between working with students versus your previous job working with corporate relations?

Jennifer Krupp  03:29

So the Corporate Relations aspect, they were coming to us wanting to know more about our students and what they were learning. In one aspect, I was a Program Manager for our Center for Analytics and business insights. We pulled a board together, and we would provide ongoing training. So they would get a professor for two days, 16 training hours in advanced R, or some kind of Python or modeling. And then they get to see this, you know, their team gets trained, but they also see this as the quality of education our students are getting. So now they want to know they want access, and they want to be able to meet our students. The employers are fantastic. They just want to know more, they want to give back, they want to help inform our curriculum, so that when students graduate, they’re coming out with the knowledge that they’re that they need them to be able to put to use. And I saw multiple times where curriculums were informed from those corporate partners, being able to put on events and bring people in, they just they like reconnecting with their academic community. So it’s just fun to see whether they’re alumni or not they they remember being in school and being in college and they want to reconnect. I don’t know if it’s reliving those days, but it’s definitely a joy they want to participate in, in with the academic, the academic programs.

Lixing Li  04:55

I like the word you use Connect connection. Definitely it’s kind of like a bridge. So our students are students while they’re studying, and then they are becoming alumni. And they will like to return back, it’s just all about getting more and more students to get to their jobs. So we’re kind of like a training students to become more professional.

Jennifer Krupp  05:18

There are so many times I, I’m, I’m in an appointment with a student, and we’re discussing networking, which is a big part really of the career journey. It’s not something that ends, once you get your job, you continue your network, and I’ll say, you know, three or four years from now, because they think people aren’t going to respond, do you think people aren’t going to connect with them? Why should they what do they have to offer? And, and I’ll ask, you know, three or four years from now, if you get a message, you know, I, you know, I’m looking for some advice or for some guidance. And it’s somewhat you know, a student at Olin Are you get to help them and they’re like, of course, I would help them. And so I tell them I’ve had, so the people who sat in this chair three years ago, want to help you. And in the recognition that people want to give back to the people coming up behind them. I think that opens up some eyes to the fact that people will respond, they want to help each other in general, people are great, they’re wonderful. They want to collaborate. And I think sometimes there’s a getting over that hump. And it’s just human nature that we’re a little afraid to reach out to someone you don’t know.

Lixing Li  06:24

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’m glad that you had the background working with the company directly relations with the company before and now you are a career coach, you can definitely share your first-hand feedback perspectives with our students, which is very helpful. So my next question is, as we know, we are serving many international populations in our program. How do you feel like working with international students?

Jennifer Krupp  06:24

How do I feel I feel honored. Honestly, it’s, they’re brilliant. These are brilliant, brilliant people studying at the masters level in finance, or quant or analytics supply chain, in their second language. I don’t know how successful I could possibly be even just navigating the streets of another country, in a second language, let alone taking this kind of master’s level education and then putting it into practice. So for me, it’s an honor to work with them, I’m always amazed, working with them. And then I get to help them with the skills that I’m not sure that they know they need because they come in and they know they need to go learn about agile systems, or they need to, you know, learn about num fees and Python. But adjusting culturally to the job search, learning some of the EQ skills of making eye contact or a strong handshake, how to end a conversation for an interview. These are skills they don’t even know that they need until they come meet with us. Again, it’s an honor for me to be working with them.

Lixing Li  07:58

Wow. I also heard lots of great positive feedback from our students that how much they enjoy working with you getting the career advice from you, I’m sure they’re very happy in here too. For our the Career Center, it is not only coaching international students, but also domestic students. What do you see the difference working with these two absolutely different populations?

Jennifer Krupp  08:23

That’s a challenging question for me. Since I started coaching, the majority of the students that I’ve worked with are international. So I’ve had a few experiences coaching domestic American students. I think my approach is that people are people, there are some basic human traits that we all encounter. And when we get into the job search, some of those include fear, fear of failure, fear of being disliked that no one’s going to respond to us. And I think that’s common to everyone. Yeah. But coming to a different culture and trying to fit in the recognition that that fear is really exponential. They don’t want to offend anyone, they don’t want to stick their foot in their mouth. They don’t want to do something wrong, that would hinder that possibility of that job that they want. And so keeping that in mind when helping the students, it kind of doesn’t matter where you’re from, but coming from a perspective of how can I coach, the person who’s in front of me, because they’re all coming with a wide range of skills. I don’t know where they land until I meet them. And I know do we need to work more on English skills, more on EQ skills and networking? It’s just going to be different from person to person.

Lixing Li  09:43

I’m glad that you mentioned that. And you also mentioned lots of cultural difference before in our conversation, do you feel like when coaching international students you embedded some career coaching in your sessions with students in your meetings with students?

Jennifer Krupp  10:00


Lixing Li  10:01

Yeah, I like to include the cultural coaching.

Jennifer Krupp  10:06

I think it’s integral, I think, yes, I cultural coaching or inculturation coaching is, and that might be more of where we become advisors and helping people understand the culture that they’re going into. And so for sure, part of the career coaching for an international student who comes from a culture where you don’t look a senior in the eye, because that’s a sign of disrespect. We’re in the US, if you don’t look me in the eye, I think you’re hiding something. And so training, not not just teaching them that, but training them in practice interviews, in conversations, you have to look at the more than you look away. Now actually work on that. So it again, it depends on maybe how long that student has been in the US if they started in high school, or did four years of undergrad, they might have already grasped that concept. Someone who just arrived may have never experienced this before. So that’s where it becomes very individualized in the coaching. But yes, I think probably the biggest part, reviewing resumes and cover letters and LinkedIn, that’s all very technical. And that can that’s pretty rote. I think there’s some grammar, and things that need to be addressed when we’re doing that. But it’s these other cultural aspects that our students need the practice limb.

Lixing Li  11:37

I agree. Yeah. So what do you see the biggest challenges in your job?

Jennifer Krupp  11:43

I think that this is going to be true of, I think, yours as well. So communication, getting the information across, and we have such a large number of students that we’re working with. So emails are gonna get lost, we put posters up, people will lose interest, or they just don’t see them. We send out a weekly newsletter, there’s just so many aspects and ways. And so we are branching out and trying some new things, as well. I think I told you this before that we actually purchased a phone for our team, and we have a student worker managing a WeChat account. So that will get information out specifically to a population in in a place where we know they’re going to be we know they live in WeChat, we need to be there as well. It’s not it’s it’s not something I just timewise don’t want to spend all my time on WeChat. But knowing that we need to get our information to the students knowing that we that that’s an opportunity, and we know that it gets it gets out that way. And another thing is just literally just starting a new Instagram account, and one of my colleagues is going to be putting together some short-form videos, with all of the topics that we try to address things that we we say I would say over and over and over again, like cover letters are not optional. Even though it says optional, you really it’s a good practice, and you don’t know who actually wants them. And so putting together a 30 second, one-minute video, explaining that it will save us some time and hopefully get the message out to the students. Yeah, in a way that they want to that they will absorb it and that they will engage with it.

Lixing Li  13:27

That’s definitely fascinating. You guys are trying to try different channels sharing all the opportunities with students. Actually that into just kind of a question. How did you set the boundary? I think I’ve heard a lot of people are mentioning in order to make students responding reading message, they’re trying different channels to share information and communicate with students. But sometimes you’d have to be across the boundary, like Oh, WeChat or WhatsApp. Because traditionally, email is still a traditional communication way in higher education. So how do you set the balance that to help students build up the professional habit of communication, but also make sure that the communication methods are effective, that they can really get our information?

Jennifer Krupp  14:20

Really great question and, and it might be individual because there are members on my team who do stay on WeChat and communicate with students that way. For some of the group coaching sessions that I manage. I set up a Microsoft Teams chat, so that we can all communicate together. That way, if one student has a question, they’re all seeing the answer that helps me manage much fewer emails. And when a student from that team messages me individually, I say let’s move it over to the team’s chat because it’s trying to manage and coach them into this is how you need do it when you’re on your working team. When you have a question when you have when you need to let everyone know, I can’t make it to the team meeting, you don’t just tell one person, you need to let the team now. And so sometimes it’s a matter of we use the WeChat, we’ll do what we need to do to get them to us so that we can get the message to them. Now, here’s how it works. Because if if we have students who show up after graduation, saying, Okay, now it’s time for me to look for a job, it’s, it’s getting a little late, not that we wouldn’t be here to service them, but trying to get the information to them when they’re trying to take in all this other information. I don’t know, again, you asked, what’s our biggest challenge? It’s still a challenge, I think it will continue to be a challenge. But I think, where do we draw the line you? We send stuff out on WeChat, so that they can come into the office so that they can get to the event where the bulk of the information is shared. I think that’s our goal. I think that’s, you know, our purpose. In doing this, it’s not that all the information is going to be there. On the channel where we know they’re already at, it’s to help them come into this into the place where if they’re looking for a job in America, they came they came to another country. Yeah. And they want to work here. So yeah, so the the balance of, obviously stick with your your some of your culture, but you’re going to have to learn some of this other culture if you want to work here and succeed and have a good life and enjoy your team, and have a dinner just an enjoyable time while you’re living. 

Lixing Li  16:36

Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad that you just mentioned that you are responding to the teams, but also letting the individual students know that I can help you in this way. But I also want to let you know that there is a professional way to handle this and sort of like educate them, teach them how to do it. This is great. Love that. We’re going to move forward with more observation working with international students. So what do you see the challenges they are facing the most during your career coaching?

Jennifer Krupp  17:11

Well, I would be remiss if I didn’t say sponsorship. So when when someone comes from overseas and they want to work here, they there’s certain requirements for the government, and working for a company that would sponsor their H-1 B visa, it just, it leads to some frustration, and when they don’t hear back from a company, or they see that a company hasn’t sponsored, there’s some doubt. So I mean, that’s just as far as a challenge for internationals. It’s just a recognition that is an obstacle. And just it is. So you know, how do we work with it, we find the companies that have sponsored before we put together some information that could share with an employer, as far as, here’s some of the steps. It’s not so difficult. And here’s like the timeframe of how you could sponsor if you haven’t done it before. So that’s how we address that. But some of the other challenges for the students just speaking English. So this might not be true for every international student in the US. Our student population because it’s so high, like, I’m you might know better, I’m gonna say like 98%, international, and of that, most all are from China. And so they do their homework, they talk to each other, they at their home, and they never branch out into another avenue or challenge each other to speak English. And when you’re, when you’re talking about the career coaching, and maybe interviewing or talking to a team and having success in your internship, if you’re not taking your classwork and talking about that knowledge, that technical knowledge in English, when you get to the interview, you’re not going to have the language in your head or to come out of your mouth in English, and you don’t know it, you’re brilliant, you know what you’re getting, you’re getting a 4.0. But to be able to communicate it easily in the second language, I think is another challenge. And it’s something that we as a school need to do better. And we’re trying to we’re trying we have these Wall Street Journal, reading groups where they’re given an article and they come together and they discuss it. There’s all kinds of activities, and then we work on Small Talk, practice interviews, there’s just so many opportunities, but just as a school, continuing to give them the opportunities and challenge them to want to do it themselves to say to each other, this study session, we’re going to speak in English. I have that knowledge is and then we’ve talked about this before, I think just some of the soft skills. So EQ skills, what that looks like in American culture. So small talk, how do you respond when someone says hi, how are you doing today? And to respond fine, thanks. How are you? Like, they’re just these small things that they don’t know. And we need to teach them or even to respond to that. With a small talk topic we mentioned like a Cardinals game or you know, the weather is always crazy. So to bring up some topic that could continue the conversation, how are you doing today? Oh, I am still not used to this crazy weather that’s in the 80s. And then enough in the 40s. How are you doing today? Like to further that conversation. It’s so there’s so there’s intricacies to it. And again, it’s a different language and culture, and so preparing them for that they’re really good at the hard skills, but some of these soft skills, and again, it kind of borders the line of is that inculturation? Or is that EQ skills? I don’t care. I just want to help with that, that part of their communication skills. 

Lixing Li  20:51

Yeah, I’m so glad that you bring that up for practicing. It’s definitely very important. For second language speakers, it just reminds me of the language difference culture difference. Sometimes that could just give you an edge. I’m always just teasing myself that I’m using it to be the icebreaker when I start initializing conversations with other people. Because I think, oh, this word is different in my culture in my language, and then my American friend said “Oh, that’s very exciting. Can you tell me more about it?” So sometimes, like, I didn’t even notice that I didn’t do it intentionally. But I’ve just have seen it. This is very interesting to share that initialize a conversation. So when you talk about oh, yeah our students don’t get the chance to speak quite often. Maybe just because there’s so much homework, they have lots of things that you need to focus on.

Jennifer Krupp  21:51

Yes, I was faster in your native tongue. Yeah, I have to say, You reminded me of something that I need to learn things too. And I was, I was told I believe the word was like preparation. So we would say, please come to this prep session. You know, before this networking event, we’re going to explain some things. And that there really isn’t a comparable word for preparation or prep session, that maybe, you know, a teaching coaching orientation with trying to find the right language, that we’re we’re saying, hey, come to this prep session, but they don’t know what it is, because we’re not using the right language for them to understand, to get them there to teach it. Mm hmm. So again, when we when our challenge is communication, it does definitely go both ways that we need to be learning, are we actually sharing the right message? To help them?

Lixing Li  22:47

That’s an interesting point. And what if every time I’m not sure about it, I will ask that what a prep session? So that’s sometimes just, that’s why I am saying that may gives you an edge is that initialize a conversation, curiosity, but I agree with you. If we don’t know each understand each other, the word means different from other people’s perspectives. They feel like, “oh, I don’t need it, because they don’t really know what it is”. Yeah, that could cause miscommunication or confusion. But sometimes it could lead to more conversation discussion on what is this? I think, from my perspectives, our challenges, our students challenges might be curiosity and chance to ask. Not saying they don’t bother to ask you just all they have so many other things they have to get done as soon as possible. And they miss the opportunity to ask one more.

Jennifer Krupp  23:45

I think also that, like, were you always bold enough to ask like, did you notice a time where you were like, I’m afraid if I ask, they’re gonna think I’m, I don’t know enough. Or I’m, I can hear I can hear coming out of my students now that I’m dumb that I don’t know that I don’t fit in that I am a failure. Right? If I don’t know this, I’m not good enough. And so if I ask the question, then that means I’m less than, yeah. And so explaining, it’s okay to ask. You know, it’s if you don’t know, if I like using this example. Pickleball has become so popular. Is someone might, you know, maybe you actually have the guts and you say, what are you going to do this weekend? Great, small talk question. And someone says, I’m gonna go play pickleball with my friends. And in your mind, you’re like, I’ve heard of pickles. I’ve heard of ball. I have no idea what a pickleball is. Yeah. And but having the courage then to ask, I’ve never heard of that. What is pickleball? Right, or, or anything? Like you said, if you didn’t know what a prep session was that you would just say, what is that? And that in training and teaching our students that it’s okay to ask and they’ll probably on any given work team, there will end they’ll have an advocate, they’re going to end up with someone who is going to be the person who sees someone just said something, someone just, you know, use some jargon, my new colleague here didn’t know what that meant. You could see the look on someone’s face. And maybe they’ll lean over and say, that means this. So, but until you ask, and you, and you let people know that there are certain things about the culture that you’re not catching on, how would they know? That you might need a little bit of guidance? When jargon or slang? American slang, it can be just the word cool. Who will mean hey, that’s, that’s actually great. Or it’s hot, as opposed to, but it’s, yeah, feeling cold? Our language is so it can be very confusing. Yeah, I think knowing it’s okay to ask, and maybe finding a few people you feel truly comfortable asking. And that’s something I, as I was getting ready to talk to you that as you as, as students build their professional network, whether it’s with other students or professors, alumni, people that they end up going on to internship with, they’re going to find a few people, that they actually feel pretty comfortable asking those questions where they might be nervous, like, I don’t want to ask my manager this, or I don’t want to ask my teammates this. But this is someone who’s outside of those circles. But I feel comfortable asking that I know isn’t going to judge me. It’s just going to answer my question. Now. What is it? In Missouri, people like to go on float trips. And what is a float trip, right? And so if you’re not sure, and you want to go find, you know, you maybe you Google it? And then why in the world would people want to go sit in an inner tube and float down a river and get sunburned, you know? But to find out what it is and to find someone that you feel comfortable asking, again, so that you can continue to have conversation and relationships and build because it’s not just about can you run this model to you know, increase our ROI on this funding. That’s not everything that that encompasses your work. We know they have the technical skills. It’s everything else that surrounds it so that they can have a successful time. We completely trust the professors to completely trust the students on those technical skills. And totally your journey thing has is so much more like vague and I want to say like touchy feely, it’s, there’s, there’s more of an art than a science. Yeah. And I think I think our very technical masters level, quant students or analysts, they don’t live in that, you know, touchy feely EQ kind of kind of world, and we need to help them because they need a little bit to get the job.

Lixing Li  27:58

Yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely not like a formula thing. It’s ours just like you shared. Yeah. So my next question is also kind of similar to that is, yeah, we know post graduation opportunities can look very different for our international students. Some may want to return to their home country. And some say that they would like to work in the US. How would you as a career coach, advise students as they navigate a local American customs when job searching?

Jennifer Krupp  28:32

So So again, just ask build that network in find those trusted advisors, you could call it a mentor and advisor, a friend, but someone that you could ask, read the news, pull up something local, so that you know what’s happening in that area. But if you want to send if you want to stay in touch with your network, and you wanted to say, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, like is that the appropriate greeting? If you wanted to just send out a message to your network versus Can you do the same thing on Memorial Day, right? And so before sending something out, and before you’re really sure, can you say Happy Memorial Day, which is really focused more on people who have passed versus St. Patrick’s Day, which is really a big party day where everyone just drinks beer. So what’s the appropriate way by just ask people and recognize it’s okay that you don’t know everything about the culture. And if I was walking around in China, and I wasn’t sure how to address someone about spring festival or New Year, that I would probably want to ask someone, what’s the appropriate greeting? How do I wish someone either Happy New Year or Spring Festival? What’s the right language? I don’t think anyone would say, oh, that Jennifer, she’s She’s so silly. She’s She’s stupid. She doesn’t know. I think they would, they would feel honored and proud of you for asking. Right? And so I’m so glad you want to know the way that people talk about these things in this culture. Right and so, yeah, as as people head out, you know, if you’re heading back home and you just want to be here and have a good time, that’s great, go to Disney, go to go to Hawaii, go to go do all the visit, do all the fun things, enjoy the culture. And you don’t have to worry so much about all of this, you might end up on an international team, and you may have absorbed some of this. But some of the intricacies and the fine points of having a successful interview or teamwork, that might not come up as much. But if you’re looking to really dig in and stay for a while, get to know some people grow your network, watch other people listen to them, and participate in their culture. And that doesn’t negate yours at all. It’s just adding in an understanding of how do the people around me behave and interact, so that you can be successful? Because this is their, their world as much as it is yours. 

Lixing Li  30:55

This is great. Thank you, Jennifer. To our last question, let’s switch a little bit back to higher education professionals, if you can share any advice. What is your advice for someone who is interesting in doing Career Services in higher education? This will be for our audience who may be in graduate school now thinking of being a career coach like you, or who are currently thinking of changing field into Career Services.

Jennifer Krupp  31:28

I love this, Lixing, because I’m going to give the advice, the same advice we would recommend to our students build some professional friendships or network. So go set up some meetings, go find some people coaches and learn from them. What are their experiences? What do they actually do on a day to day basis. And if that resonates with you, then pursue it further. If what they do on a day to day basis sounds horrifying, then this is not for you. Not for you. But truly just meeting with some people who are doing that job is how you’re going to find out what it’s like on a day to day basis. Reading about it isn’t going to do it talking to people. And again, and that’s the advice. It’s just going and meeting with people and learning. What do they actually do? What challenges do they face? What what gets them up in the morning? What really excites them about their jobs, too. 

Lixing Li  32:24

We can definitely see the passion in your face from you. Oh, I just said this is the last question I lied. But this is actually the last question a particular first who, for students who are still in graduate school, like they have no full time experience before and if they are interested in be a career coach. So I think some students have the myths like, oh, I don’t even work at all. And now I’m being a career coach, to advise people who are going to get a job. That sounds kind of like contradictory. So for these people, do you have any advice for them? 

Jennifer Krupp  33:00

I would say it probably helps a little bit to have some some kind of work or even even an internship experience. So the recognition that you know what an office looks like, and what the interview process is like, but your ability to, and I’m gonna say something that we didn’t really touch on on a day to day basis, the bulk of my time is spent doing resume reviews, looking at cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, practice interviews, just on a rote day to day basis. There’s some technical things that just you keep doing. And maybe you start out doing that. And then you build in your skills in these other areas. But if you’re looking to go into Career Services, again, talk to some people who are in that area, I wouldn’t be discouraged that you couldn’t do it. And I would say, if it’s a passion, if you want to see other people, if you feel like you’re a coach, you’re you’re someone who can help other people achieve their goals. And I don’t think that that should hold you back that you haven’t worked in some other field. And there’s definitely some really great, you know, career coaching, counseling, advising programs out there, that maybe that’s where you want to focus your education, and then go straight into Career Services. 

Lixing Li  34:11

Thank you so much for joining us today. Jennifer, we appreciate all your sharings wish you wonderful work, continuing service with students. Thank you so much for sharing

Jennifer Krupp  34:22

My pleasure, Lixing. I always love working with you. And I’m going to be talking again soon. Thanks for having me.

Lixing Li  34:29

Yeah, thank you so much.