Or: How I Spent 8 Months Searching for a Job in the States.
Reading about my youngest sister’s unemployment predicament in Toronto set me thinking about how I got through the fog of joblessness back when I was a fresh-faced new immigrant to the States, and what I learned in that search. Here then are my five tips for new immigrant job seekers.
ONE: APPLY FOR ANYTHING!
Be ready to swallow your pride and get any experience that you can get in your new country. Your biggest problem is that your resume contains foreign phone numbers and foreign companies. You need local experience. So go out and scout for openings at coffee houses, delis, supermarkets, and stores.
I remember as my job search continued to give me dead leads, I found myself at a computer kiosk in the department store Target, going through a long and tedious job application on their computer system. I was never accepted unfortunately. This leads me to think that either they found me overqualified or they thought I was psycho. Can’t have psychotic shopping cart gatherers, can you now?
TWO: BE HONEST BUT DON’T BROWBEAT THEM WITH YOUR CREDENTIALS
This is especially true if you’ve got above-average academic credentials and a load of experience, and find yourself applying for an entry-level position. Remember. you don’t have to put every single job you ever had on your application. Just the most recent ones, or the more pertinent ones. I’m not telling you to lie, because that’s one of 10 ways to get fired according to Monster, what I am saying is you don’t have to disclose everything. If they ask, then tell the truth. If not, they don’t have to know you got an M.A. in creative fiction, right?
I remember one interview for a listings editor at a San Francisco cultural magazine. My resume was studded with my experiences as managing editor and freelance writer, hoping it would help me land the job. When the editor-in-chief asked me if I wouldn’t feel overqualified for the tasks I would do, I answered truthfully and said that was OK by me because I understood that I had to start somewhere. She probably thought: “This guy is jumping ship as soon as another opening comes his way.” Suffice to say, I didn’t get it.
I got the next one though. Different company. Same question about being overqualified. I gave the same truthful answer. Apparently they really needed someone right away because I started the next Monday. Stuffing envelopes with collector’s stamps bought over e-Bay. And then within a few weeks, I moved on to taking digital pictures of the stamps that were going to sell on e-Bay. It wasn’t what I studied for, but it was a start, and I honestly loved the work.
THREE: APPLY FOR AS MANY AS YOU CAN
Craigs List was my most visited bookmark on the web during that time. There were great days with lots of listings in the writing category and I would dash off 4 or 5 applications as quickly as possible. There were lean days when there were no new listings. Anyway, I ended up sending out around 50 to 60 applications and out of those, I got only 3 actual face-to-face interviews (and I was hired by 2 of the 3). So the odds are against you if you only apply once or twice a week and then give up. Quantity works!
FOUR: NETWORK THE WORLD
While applying for jobs online is (relatively) quick and easy — unless you bleed every time you write essays about your goals in life, that is — nothing beats actual face-to-face networking. Let everyone know you’re on the hunt for a job. Tell them to tell their friends. Hand them your resumes to hand over to people they might know.
Actually, within the first 2 months of job hunting, two opportunities came my way which I eventually decided to reject just out of matters of financial stability. How did I get these opps? One came from a parishioner who attended the same 8:30 AM mass daily with me, and the other from my parish priest!
FIVE: MEANWHILE, SERVE GOD!
Finally, just because you’re jobless doesn’t mean you’re useless. You can still serve God in some way. Volunteer for soup kitchen duties. Teach someone to read. Serve at your parish. Feed the homeless. Do something for the glory of God! If you stay faithful to Him despite your unemployed status, you will see blessings rain down on you. One of those blessing will be a job he wants you to take.