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5 Biggest Challenges Immigrants Face When Looking for a Job in the US and How To Overcome Them

The tech industry, like many other industries, would be vastly different without immigrants. “Immigrants created some of America’s biggest tech companies, but this…isn’t just a founders’ story. Those companies would not have survived without employing thousands of other immigrants,” writes Kerry Flynn of Mashable. However, it’s no easy feat to land a tech job – or any other job, for that matter – as an immigrant. Language barriers, differences in culture, and differences in demands make it an uphill battle. If you are an immigrant looking for a job in the United States, I am sure you have come across many of these challenges in your search. You may not even be sure there is a place for you here where you can be creative and use your experience and qualifications to make a difference.  There is, and I believe you can find a job to match your level of expertise regardless of any challenges or obstacles you may encounter along the way.

Challenge # 1. Visa and work permit challenges.  I will start by saying that I am not an immigration attorney and therefore cannot give any legal advice.  However, if you are in this country with your spouse and require a special sponsorship from your company to work in the US, finding a job within a company that’s willing to sponsor you can be quite challenging.  Many companies will typically give a preference to US citizens and permanent residents simply because it is more cost effective for them.  In order to sponsor someone from a foreign country, they need to have a good reason or proof that your experience, education and knowledge is a unique and valuable asset to the company.  In other words, they have to like you or be impressed enough with you to be willing to sponsor you, so your goal is to convince them using your resume or during an interview of how brilliant you are at this job and how your unique international experience can make a difference for them.

Challenge #2. Language and cultural barriers.  We have all been there, the first couple of years in the country can be tough – you had to learn English as a second language, and even if you understand the basics, people still struggle to understand you with your accent, improper grammar or incorrect usage of certain words.  Sometimes learning the language can be much deeper than vocabulary and grammar.  There is another dimension to it – it’s about understanding the culture, the body language and the psychology of people who grew up in this country.  This takes time and the best you can do is practice while exposing yourself to the American culture as much as you can.

Challenge #3. Economical differences. Yes, you may have accomplished a lot in your country of origin.  You have overcome many impressive challenges, increased sales, made tons of money for your company, saved lives or helped a lot of people.  Yet, because people in this country are dealing with completely different economic circumstances, it may be tough to convince them how you can make a difference here.  But you can — you can do so by sharing your story, learning this culture really well and discovering a way how you specifically can make a difference by knowing what you know.

Challenge #4. Wrong fit or appearing too “overqualified.”  Many immigrants who are currently looking for a job in the US have highly sophisticated resumes with Master’s degrees and years of experience in a field of work that simply doesn’t exist here in the States.  So they apply for junior or entry level positions because they don’t think their home country background will be valued enough and they keep getting rejected for being overqualified.  This is true for everyone, not just immigrants – don’t ever apply for a position that’s lower than your level of expertise.  This comes across as being too desperate and willing to settle for anything that pays bills – not very attractive to potential employers.  Instead, try to find a position that fits your level of expertise or even slightly higher and impress them with your determination, willingness to learn and diverse background.

Challenge #5. Lack of connections and resources.  We all know that companies prefer to hire people whom they like and trust.  And they typically trust referrals.  Most job postings online are looking for something specific which you may not exactly fit into.  Unfortunately, people are less likely to give you a chance if they only know you by paper, so the best way to find your ideal job is through people you know who can introduce you to people they know and so on.  What I recommend is to find a mentor or someone who can help you get your foot in the door. Ideally you want it to be someone with a similar cultural background as you, someone who has lived in this country for longer, knows the US culture really well and has an established position in the industry of your interest.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on WTIA member Katherine Bouglai’s website, Blossom Career. You can read the original version here.



  • Katherine Bouglai

    Katherine Bouglai is a technical career coach who works with professionals in technology, supporting them through their next career transition. Katherine has worked with a lot of engineers, project managers, marketing specialists, researchers and other similar professionals. She is passionate about working with immigrants to help them identify their unique talents, core values and career goals as well as develop a personalized plan to land their ideal opportunities. Katherine offers personalized one-on-one career coaching programs for individuals recently affected by layoffs, relocation or simply seeking to advance their careers.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. You article captures some of the challenges that immigrants face. All too often, they go for a job lower than the level they were working at and flounder without a coach or mentor to help them understand the cultural nuances.

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