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Finding work as an international student

If you’re an international student in the UK and looking for a graduate job or want to gain work experience while you study, you’ll find lots of useful resources in this section.

A good place to start is TARGETJobs International Students (in partnership with AGCAS). This site is regularly updated with information on:

  • Getting work experience
  • Job hunting in the UK
  • Visas and permits for international students wishing to work in the UK
  • Seeking work outside the UK

How we can help

We're here to assist with your job search and employability while you are a Brunel student, and for up to three years after graduation. We can help you explore your job options in the UK and abroad, and advise on find ways to secure work experience while you're studying in the UK. Book an appointment to meet your Careers Consultant. 

Job search resources

  • Firstly look at the 'Working after study' information in the Visa regulations section
  • Post Study Advertises work experience and graduate jobs for international students 
  • Student Circus Graduate and internship job search platform for international students
  • Do an advanced search for possible opportunities on websites such as Indeed and Monster using the term 'sponsorship tier 2'
  • Find relevant jobs with companies and check to see whether the company is listed on the Tier 2 Register of sponsors - employers on the UKVI website

Visa regulations

We always recommend that you seek immigration advice specific to you if these pages or links do not answer your queries directly. You can find a list of accredited immigration advisers at Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner. The University’s Immigration Team (based in the Student Centre, Ground Floor, Bannerman Centre) provide useful information. You can also contact the UKCISA Student Advice Line for help.

Working during study

Rights to work and clarification on term time

Students studying with a Tier 4 visa are restricted by law to the number of hours they can work (paid or unpaid) in the UK during term time. Additionally, all students working for Brunel University London are restricted to working a maximum 15 hours a week during term time.

Visit the Job Shop pages - the Term-time working and Work-Study balance tab - to find the University’s policy on Rights to work for students and clarification on term time. These links should cover all the questions you may have if you would like to work during your course. (Please check the pages regularly as immigration schemes and conditions are frequently changed or updated.)

Working after study

These links should cover all the questions you may have about applying for visas after you have completed your studies. Please check the pages regularly as immigration schemes and conditions are frequently changed or updated.

Tier 2

In order to work for an employer in the UK, graduates have the option of applying for work after their studies. However, you will need to do this through Tier 2, and you will need a job offer at graduate level from a recognised sponsor listed on the Register of Sponsors.

  • You can find the Tier 2 Register of sponsors - employers on the UKVI website. 
  • There is a minimum salary required but it will need to be higher for some jobs. Remember to check that the job you are being offered is at the right level.
  • The Tier 2 shortage occupation list on the UKVI website lists all of the UK-wide shortage occupations for Tier 2 of the points-based system, and also gives the minimum salary requirements.
  • Look at the Codes of practice for skilled work (Tier 2) on the UKVI website which gives the skill level and appropriate salary rate for jobs (including PhD level) covered by the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes.
  • Employers who are registered as sponsors need to issue you a certificate of sponsorship (COS) once your degree has been awarded.
  • Once an employer has issued the COS you can then apply for a Tier 2 visa which will be valid for three years, and you will be able to renew it for a further two years.

Prospective applicants for points-based immigration routes should assess their circumstances against the criteria given in the relevant policy guidance at GOV.UK Visas and Immigration. UK NARIC provides advice and guidance on international qualifications.

Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE)

You should investigate the Tier 5 (GAE) visa if you would like to take up an internship or temporary work experience opportunity in the UK to gain valuable skills before returning home.

How it works

An employer does not sponsor you directly - you will be sponsored by an 'overarching body' or organisation, and they will issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship

  • There are several different overarching bodies and schemes available so you should explore these to find out which one is most suitable for you. View the list of Approved Tier 5 GAE schemes.
  • There is usually a charge for sponsorship and this cost would have to be paid by you or the employer.
  • If you are applying from the UK you will need to have already been awarded your degree.
  • You can apply from the UK to switch from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 5 (GAE) visa if the job is directly related to your degree and the job fulfils all the requirements of the scheme.
  • The visa is issued for a maximum of 12 months, and it cannot be extended.
  • You cannot do an unpaid placement, and you must be paid at the national minimum wage (NMW) or above.
  • The job must be a temporary, supernumerary (not a vacant job) skilled role.
Start-up Visa 
  • Find out how you can remain in the UK for 24 months exploring and implementing your businesses under the under the Start-up Visa
  • Brunel University London sponsors a limited number of International Students each year through the Innovation hub's Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme (Start-up Visa)
Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme

The 12-month Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme visa for PhD students was introduced to assist international PhD students, already in the UK and studying on a Tier 4 general student visa, to be allowed to stay in the UK to look for employment.

UK CVs

CVs vary around the world – in format, content, and name. It’s important to use the correct format and content for each country rather than the one you would use to apply for jobs in your home country.

We can help you develop your CV and cover letter to maximise the success of your job applications. Initially, it’s sensible to write a general CV that can be re-worked each time you apply for a particular job to highlight relevant skills.

Where to look for CV examples

You can find information on writing a CV in our Making effective applications section which includes example CVs for a range of disciplines and types of work.There is also an International student CV example providing ideas for what you should include in your CV and a possible layout.

Placement as part of an undergraduate course?
  • CV examples and other application information are located on the Blackboard Learn work placement site for your course. You should contact your Placement Internship Adviser for help.
Placement as part of a master’s course?
Get your CV reviewed

PDC Careers Consultants offer a daily Quick Query session where you can get feedback on the content and layout of your CV or cover letter for part-time, voluntary, work experience and graduate opportunities.

We are unable to check spelling and grammar. However you can contact the Brunel Language Centre for help with job applications through 30-minute One-to-One consultations.

Improve your chances of UK employment

You will face two main challenges if you wish to remain in the UK – getting permission to remain in the country and finding a job. A degree does not guarantee that you will find a job, and you will be competing against students/graduates who have English as their first language and are familiar with UK culture.  

These tips should help
Why employers hesitate to employ international students
How you can improve

 

Read the information and advice given in other sections of this website
Attend PDC workshops and webinars on relevant topics
Talk to a Careers Consultant or Placement Adviser
Investigate current visa schemes

Poor English language and written skills

Talk to students/housemates from the UK
Watch English news/films/TV
Attend Brunel Language Centre in-sessional courses
Take an English course outside/before university, e.g.search the Floodlight website or take an online course such as The Internet Grammar of English
Bab.la gives useful phrases in various languages for CVs and letters 
Participate in discussions during seminars
Study language feedback for essays/projects and try to learn from mistakes

Don't fit in easily

Talk to UK people including classmates at every opportunity
Contribute during seminars
Put out your cultural feelers and observe and learn from others' behaviour

Don't understand English work practices

Look at Executive Planet for tips on how to behave in the workplace

Poor/inappropriate/unimpressive CVs for the UK market

Poorly completed application forms

Read the Making Effective Applications section on our site 
Use action words, e.g. defined, co-ordinated

Think about skills and evidence
Check language and spelling
Contact the PDC for a CV check and to find out what employers expect of you

Poor interview skills

Look at the Preparing for Interviews pages on this website
Arrange a mock interview with the PDC
Talk to friends about your experiences

Cannot articulate or match skills to the job

Undertake voluntary/community work, e.g. through Brunel Volunteers or look at the Do-It website
Learn how to analyse skills and provide evidence
Look at the Academic Skills (ASK) website

Qualifications don't match the UK requirements

State UK equivalence clearly on CV or application form
See the Equivalence of qualifications information and the UK NARIC website

Poor networking skills

Ask PDC staff or your Tutor for help
Talk to everyone you meet, and make connections
Use LinkedIn and other social networking sites

 

UK work etiquette 

Greetings

It is polite to give a simple firm handshake as the standard greeting (for both men and women) on business occasions. The response to a first introduction is normally 'nice to meet you', or 'pleased to meet you'. Generally colleagues call each other by their first names. Once you have been formally introduced, managers will most likely expect you to address them by their first names.  Until you have established a good working relationship or have learned enough about the company culture, it is probably best to stay formal on first contact with any business contacts.

Body language

Privacy and ‘personal space' are important in the UK and people normally keep a certain distance away from each other when they are talking. It is also considered inappropriate to touch others in public when in conversation unless you are really familiar with them.

Conversation

When you are at work you may find that direct questions will receive indirect responses, and conversations may be ambiguous and quite subtle. So, it is important to pay attention to tone of voice and facial expression, as this could be a way of telling what people really mean. For example, when you are asked to do something it might not be obvious that it is a request because it is said in such an indirect and polite manner. Sometimes understated language is used, often in form of ‘qualifiers’ which is a word or phrase that precedes the adjective, such as 'perhaps', ‘possibly’ or 'it could be'.

The UK is made up of four identities, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; each region has proud and unique heritage. You should therefore be careful if referring to British business associates in a blanket manner as ‘English’, as this may cause offense. 

Management styles

In recent years, British management styles have become more varied. Managers strive for consensus, but they are ultimately the decision makers. Teamwork is deemed important and negotiations with multiple stakeholders within organisations are encouraged.  Managers can be indirect and direct in their actions. Managers often give instructions to subordinate workers in an indirect way, preferring to request assistance rather than to be explicit.

Equality

Under the 2010 Equality Act it is a legal requirement in the UK that men and women are treated equally in the workplace and in wider society. A key body for equal opportunities in the UK is the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This is a governmental group that promotes equality and human rights. It provides advice and guidance, works to implement an effective legislative framework, and raises awareness of an individual’s rights.

Politeness

On the whole, people in the UK are renowned for their courtesy, saying 'please' and 'thank you' often. This is a basic element of UK culture and is part of the communication style. You may notice that people say 'sorry' often - when they pass too close to you or when they accidentally bump in to you. It is also polite to hold open doors for others that are nearby.

Humour

Often quite dry and somewhat sarcastic, humour is very important in general communication and is present at every level and almost every occasion at work and socially. Mostly British humour is witty and self-deprecating, and can be highly implicit. Much use is made of irony so it's important to not take all comments literally.

Meetings

Business meetings in the UK are often structured but not too formal and begin and end with social conversation. Punctuality is essential. Meetings are a very important management instrument and are usually scheduled well in advance. All important decisions will be brought up, discussed, negotiated and approved during meetings. Generally the most senior member of staff will make the ultimate decision following a group consensus. The established rules and practices are followed and, as a result, decision making may appear slow. In negotiations a 'win-win' approach is favoured. Minutes are generally taken during meetings and circulated afterward for reference.

Dress code

This will vary from job to job and some workplaces insist on informality while others are formal but may have a dress-down day. Those in the creative fields, new companies and start-ups tend to dress more casually whereas traditional companies, such as those in the finance sector, have a more conservative dress code. 'Business Casual' is quite common in UK organisations - meaning attire that is smarter than casual wear but less formal than typical smart business wear.  If you are ever unsure what you should wear, it is best to dress conservatively.

Work Ethic

Generally speaking, British work culture involves taking a proactive approach, welcoming change and not being afraid of making mistakes; people are prepared to ‘give something a go’ and move on if the desired outcome is not achieved. This is in contrast to some European work styles that tend to favour inaction over than making mistakes. Similarly, other cultures prefer to ‘save face’ rather than being seen to make mistakes.

Written Communication

In the UK, written communication follows certain rules of protocol. Initially, correspondence should remain formal unless the writer knows the recipient. Letters should open using the person's title and surname and close with either ‘yours sincerely’ or ‘yours faithfully’.  Communication over email is also initially formal and remains so until both parties become familiar with each other. The British will not use slang or abbreviations of the English language in an email. 

Other useful links
You may also like
  • Morrison T (2nd revised edition, 2006), Kiss Bow or Shake Hands The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries, Adams Media Corporation
  • Axtel RE, Briggs T, Corcoran M, Lamb MB (1997), Do’s and Taboos Around the World for Women in Business, John Wiley & Sons, Inc
  • Cushner K, Brislin RW (2nd edition, 1995), Intercultural Interactions: A Practical Guide, Sage Publications
  • Dresser N (Revised edition, 2005), Multicultural Manners: Essential Rules of Etiquette for the 21st Century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc

Equivalence of qualifications

Employers normally like to see what your qualification is equivalent to in the UK. This information should help you to work it out.

Please note that the information below reflects approximate equivalents for certain categories and is intended as a preliminary guide only. It is the responsibility of each individual to check and verify their own individual circumstances. 

For more detailed information please see the NARIC website.

 

The National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC) is the National Agency providing the only official information and advice on the comparability of international qualifications from over 180 countries worldwide.

Grade comparison of overseas qualifications - Department for Education and National College for Teaching and Leadership (May 2015) - An evaluation of all international awards that are considered comparable to British Bachelor (honours) degree standard.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma

The following are the approximate Advanced Level (A-level) equivalents:

IB points

Three A-levels

38

AAA (360)

36

AAB (340)

34

AAB (320)

32

BBB (300)

30

BBC (280)

28

BCC (260)

26

CCC (240)

Employer websites

Some organisations now provide UCAS points calculators on their websites. Although adapted to each recruiter's requirements it can provide a good indication for other applications:

  • KPMG - European and Non-European qualifications
  • Deloitte - International academic requirements

Returning home or working internationally

Try to give some thought to your future several months before you finish your course as it will take time to research and find suitable employment. You will have built up marketable skills during your time in the UK – cross-cultural understanding, adaptability, improved English language – all of which will be welcomed by an international recruiter.

  • Research international companies with offices in your home country
  • Stay connected with your social networking contacts back home while studying
  • Research employment trends, targeting jobs that are relevant to your skills, work experience and degree
  • Keep in touch with your academic tutors and other contacts – you’re likely to need to ask for references
  • Attend British Council alumni events in your country

Networking

  • Use LinkedIn for networking and to find information about companies and jobs: it can be very effective especially for generating international contacts. Visit LinkedIn for Students for information to help you set up your profile.
  • Use other online social networking sites, e.g. Facebook and country specific sites.
  • Keep in touch with the University through their LinkedIn and other social media sites, and the Alumni Office.

Do your research

Trade directories

  • Brunel Library gives access to databases such as BankScope, FAME, and Bloomberg
  • Corporate Information Global corporate information on companies in over 55 countries. The Research Links on the Tools menu gives other web resources [Subscription required]
  • FT Global 500 (2015) Annual survey of top-performing companies around the world, including specific sections for different regions (Europe, USA, Japan, Asia-Pacific) and within these companies listed by sector
  • International White and Yellow pages Links to national and global directories 

 

Improve your chances of finding work in the UK and abroad

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