Skip to Content

Finding a Job

The American employment situation is always changing. There is also a great deal of misinformation going around about the economy and career opportunities. Where you look for employment upon arriving in the USA will depend upon the skills you have, including the ability to speak English.

Skills. The luckiest newcomers to the United States are those people who have skills that are needed. An experienced chef or computer engineer, for example, will be able to look in any newspaper and find columns full of “help wanted” advertisements. If your skill is more obscure you might have a longer search. Be aware, however, that many trades and professions may have barriers to entry for foreigners. A medical doctor or dentist who has been trained in another country may have to be recertified by an American medical or dental school before being allowed to practice medicine. A carpenter or other skilled tradesperson may not be able to work–at least not right away–because of trade union restrictions. University professors may find no demand for their specialized subjects. So even if you have skills, and especially if you don’t, you may have to find an “entry-level” position in the American work force.

Word-of-Mouth. The best way to find a job is through “word-of-mouth” or what is now called “networking.” Even if you have to find your first job through other means, your goal should be to put yourself in a position where you learn what is going on, know the right people in the field you choose, and stay prepared to recognize and take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself.

Going Through Channels. Another preferred way is, of course, to apply to the company directly. A small company may have an informal system for hiring, while large companies have human resources departments with set hiring procedures. Your task will be to try to identify the person who has the power to hire you and make sure you get through to that person. It’s not always easy to get past a person’s secretary or the personnel department, but once you do, it’s up to you to show them how you can make a positive contribution to their organization–to solve their problems.

The goal of the entry-level position is not simply to get a small paycheck every week to pay the rent. It is to start learning how the world of American work operates on a day-to-day basis: how to deal with co-workers, how to take direction from superiors and, eventually, how to take on responsibility in the American system.

Next Section:The Resume

Making a Living: Chapter Home

Life in the USA Home Page.