Moving to a foreign country as an adult is probably one of the most daunting, and exciting experiences you can ever have. It is unbelievably life-changing, in every way. Ask any immigrant and they will probably tell you the same thing.
As a Filipino who moved to the United States half a decade ago, my life went on a complete overhaul the minute I left my home country. I talked about it briefly on my talk at Chicago Camps last February. It’s been a wild ride but not without setbacks, wakeup calls and all the surprising things no-one warned me about.
For fellow immigrants, I know what it feels like. It is hard enough that you are uprooting everything. It’s even worse if you have to start from scratch with the one thing you’ve always taken pride off: your career.
What will happen now? Where should I begin? What sort of jobs can I get? Is school even an option? What if I can’t afford it? How can I transfer my skills, credentials and overall value? How can I compete? Will I end up in a <insert the worst case scenario visions you may have>?
These were the questions that essentially filled my head when I started looking for my first real job in New York city. It’s anxiety-inducing, thrilling but in a lot of ways, extremely motivating— like a big giant chip sitting on my shoulder, rooted from the thing I once considered a disadvantage: starting over. with zero connections.
I’m getting through it and this post is all about sharing my secrets to do so well.
Practical things you can do to land the job that you want as an immigrant:
Build a personal website. It's your ticket to every conversation, meeting, email introduction etc. Not a web designer or developer? Wix,
SquareSpaceproducts are great options. They are easy to use, no need to worry about the design and setup part… leaving you more time to think about the most important thing: the content.
Speaking of content, make sure your bio is in its BEST shape. This is your chance to introduce yourself to the world, starting with your elevator speech. Today is the best time to think about this, if you haven’t already.
Showcase your work and let it speak for itself. Additionally, gather as much recommendation letters as you can from your most trusted colleagues… and ask to quote them on your site. Persuade potential employers better with word-of-mouth, and you can do it all from the comforts of your personal URL. It just works, just keep it authentic.
Forget about confidence. Aim for a clear mind instead, one that is not afraid to ask dumb questions. You'll be surprised how audacious this is. (and in some occasions, this is a good thing!)
Write about yourself, your process, your goals. How do you see the world? How do you see your work? How would you define ‘progress’, ‘success’? Mental modeling is essential to planning. If you don’t know who you are, you risk letting the world step in & define yourself. Write. It will be the single most important activity you can devote your free time with.
Put yourself out there, preferably as soon as possible, especially if money is tight. You can’t go wrong with Angellist, LinkedIn, Indeed. Create a profile of yourself and go all in on selling what you have to offer, whatever that is.
Don't rely on just personal connections. This is a hard pill to swallow, especially for tight-knit communities like Filipinos. While it’s great to surround yourself with what’s familiar. Unfortunately, it may not be the best strategy for career growth, especially if you are on a very niche path in life. Stay in touch but find like-minded people on the internet, as much as you can. Diversify, cast that net wider. Attract people who do great things. This is what the US is all about.
Go where the tech startups are--- and find areas where you can be of service. They always need people and it's a great environment to start over/relaunch a career. The tech industry is constantly changing, it’s perennially unpredictable and consistently uncomfortable. You know what else is like that? Growth. Future.
People say you can't do X because you don't have X? That's fine. Do it anyway. Start that channel. Launch that blog. Work for that amazing person, even as an apprentice. Take those calls. Work part-time or less-than-ideal jobs if you have to. Just never stop believing you’ll eventually get what you want, because you will. You just will, if you trust yourself enough.
Don’t shy away from temp jobs. Aside from the obvious, which is paying the bills, these jobs are ripe for serendipities: people, culture, randomness. I juggled production work (converting files to pdf & dumb tasks like that), powerpoint presentations for agencies, dog walking… while preparing myself for my dream jobs. You are never ‘too big’, ‘too good’ to do any sort of work.
Nothing is set in stone. Even if you do everything right, something will always go wrong, that’s just the reality. I didn’t write this because I think I’m an expert in this— far from it. I wrote this because I’ve been learning these lessons over and over again.
I’m sparing you from making the same mistakes as I did by skipping to the ‘cheats’ part, the part that I wished someone coached me with during my first year as an immigrant.
There’s a part of me that’s burning with this intense desire to help out, especially to the people who might be in a similar place. It just so happens that writing is one of the best ways for me to do that, at the moment.
“Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s new development to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve.” - Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha of LinkedIn and the book, ‘A Startup of You’
Thank you for reading,
If you enjoyed this piece, you might also like my previous post, #26: What I’ve Learned from Job Hunting in the Covid-19 Era. As always, feedback is welcome. In fact, I appreciate hearing from people: firstname.lastname@example.org