Friday, August 7, 2015

The immigrant's career journey: the art of the sell

Indeed.com is one of the job aggregators for job hunters.

He writes…

A common aspect of the job search process for any jobseeker is that the search is an arduous full time job in itself. For new immigrants, however, the expectations of friends or relatives of what type of job to pursue tend to add challenges that, although well intentioned, are unnecessary.

When we first arrived in the US a few months ago, the resounding suggestions to my wife from my relatives were nursing, sales, or IT careers. Even her friends made it seem like she was predestined for a specific career path because of her Philippine passport. I took exception to those suggestions and gave her my own: don’t make other people’s story your story…forge your own path.

Forging one’s own path means taking control of the job search process up to getting the job that fulfill one’s own expectations, and not those of others. Taking control means using proven tools and websites with the right approach: willingly playing the numbers game, and following up quickly to responses. Proven tools and approaches make a favorable outcome more likely, regardless of country of origin.

As most job advice columns and articles express, the process involves selling one’s skill sets, experience, and personality in a convincing manner. The selling process starts and proceeds with the basic tools that every jobseeker uses: the resume, job websites, interview preparation, and follow-up tactics.

The Resume

The first “selling” tool needed is the résumé. Every job posting will ask for a résumé to be made part of the application. Some postings may also ask for a cover letter, but the résumé will always be required. Web searches can produce a plethora of examples of résumé formats, appearances, and structures, and web articles cover the vast array of résumé topics, from the “chronological vs. functional” and “objective vs. professional summary” questions all the way to what type of font is most effective.

Whatever résumé format and font is used, aside from being error-free, the most important part is its substance and the story the résumé tells about you. All résumé-writing professionals I’ve spoken with have endorsed the “results-that-helped-the-business” approach instead of “this-is-what-I’ve-done” approach. Over the years, I’ve learned that the résumé quality emphasis has shifted from qualitative to quantitative, thus numbers and percentages that illustrate past results are more eye-catching than (oft-inflated) titles, job descriptions, and clever euphemisms.

The most useful résumé tip I’ve gotten about how to describe results is the acronym CAR: circumstance, achievement/action, result. What was the circumstance that existed? What action did you take or what did you achieve in response to that circumstance? What was the business result from the actions you took? Circumstances that are unique illustrate one’s creativity and ingenuity in driving results. For example, producing an annual savings in office supplies by finding a vendor that costs less may not be as impactful as finding innovative ways to grow a business operation on a limited budget.

Several résumé-writing services can be found on the web. Some free services I’ve seen are just as effective as paid services, but the latter tend to yield better results and more learning opportunities because of the professional experience behind the service.

The Job Listings

There are several job search websites that have listings as well as search tools, tips, and resources, almost all of which are free to use.

I don’t espouse any one website because all of them have their own particular strengths, nuances, and features. Websites such as indeed.com and ziprecruiter.com pool listings from other major listings, which facilitates the search process by offering a one-stop-shop for those listings.

Except for executive-level job placement sites, the common and most effective job search websites do not cost anything to use, so beware when a website asks for credit card information to begin a subscription or to grant access to their services. The services might be legitimate, but are wholly unnecessary.

The Interviews

So you’ve developed your resume, posted it on a job board, and received a callback for an interview. But maybe you’ve never been on an interview in the US, or still dread interviews because you haven’t had many of them. Like learning a skill, trade, or habit, repetition is the greatest asset in gaining confidence and familiarity with the job interview.


One helpful site for immigrants that my wife discovered is upwardlyglobal.org. The nonprofit organization offers several free online classes such as resume writing and interview tips.

Thus, nervousness is a natural reaction to something that is important to you, but with which you haven’t had much exposure. Practice and repetition are essential to preparing for interviews. Practice in front of a mirror, or with someone you know, and remain COMPLETELY OPEN to honest and brutal feedback.

An interview is like an audition, but without the actual demonstration of the skill or task in the role that you’re applying for. In addition to soft skills such as eye contact, even tone of voice, non-robotic speech, and welcoming expressions like smiling, the ability to talk about your skills and what you can do for the company is something that you should practice. Most employers assess the three C’s in interviews: character (the type of person you are), chemistry (how you get along with the interviewer and others around the company), and competence (whether or not you can do the job).

In terms of chemistry with “others around the company,” the interviewer should never be regarded as the only persons at the interview site with whom you should be mindful of how you interact. The security guard at the front desk issues you your temporary pass to walk the grounds…the administrative assistant who meets you and escorts you to the interview office…the employee who happens to work in the same department for which you’re applying for the position…or any other random person you come across at the company may know your interviewer and be able to offer feedback (both positive or negative) on your behalf. The world, like all those who live in it, can be a random place that may or may not be favorable to your circumstance.

The Follow-Up

Promptly following up on a phone call or job interview can strengthen your application and your candidacy for a particular position. It demonstrates early on to what degree your sense of urgency behaves, and your level of seriousness about the opportunity.

It is fine and almost expected for you to call about the job interview you just attended, especially if during that interview, the interviewer specified a timeframe within which she or he would contact you for an update.

I’ve always been a believer in the handwritten thank-you card after the interview. It’s more personal than an email, and creates a nice touch that is concrete and enduring. After all, imparting a positive and lasting impression on the interviewer can only strengthen your job application.

Having been unemployed after a layoff from a past job, I know how tough the job market can be. For someone without employment experience in the US, the market is sure to be tougher. The job search won’t be easy and will take some time, but will have more moments where things seem effortless if the goal is what one truly wants, and along one’s own path. #





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