Establishing yourself professionally in a new country can take time. As a newcomer, you might face challenging obstacles (even if you have a lot of experience from your home country). Although many factors are out of your control, you can take charge of your situation and help ensure career success.
Start with these 10 professional development tips for skilled immigrants:
1. Use Employment Services and Programs
If you are a job seeker, take advantage of employment services to reach your professional goals. Employment services and programs can help assess your levels in various areas (for example, English proficiency) and support you in creating a plan to develop and reach your goals. Employment centers typically provide information and assistance with self-assessments, career planning, language training, and personal branding. They can also connect you with volunteer positions, internships, bridging programs, and mentoring opportunities.
You can find employment services by visiting your local library or the Department of Labor. Other resources in the U.S. include nonprofits like Upwardly Global which provides skilled immigrants with professional training and support and Career One Stop centers that offer accessible workforce information tools. In Canada, you can refer to the Government of Canada’s interactive map to find resources in your area, as well as access several pre-arrival services available to immigrants who are considering relocating to Canada.
2. Think About Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Assessing your strengths and weaknesses can provide insight into how you should go about achieving your goals. Conduct a self-assessment by performing a “SWOT” analysis on yourself and your career path. Ask yourself:
What are my…
3. Before You Apply: Understand Employers’ Needs and Required Qualifications
Employers and recruiters are busy people, and it is important to let them know clearly and simply that you are the best candidate for the position. If you are hoping for that interview, craft your résumé and cover letter to address all the key aspects of the role. Your résumé can provide potential employers with a summary of your background and qualifications, whereas your cover letter can let your achievements and passions shine. To prepare for an interview, thoroughly research the company so that you can highlight how your experience relates to the job description and responsibilities.
4. Get Involved in Your Community by Volunteering
Volunteering is a fantastic way to make connections in your community, expand your social and professional networks, and gain access to free training and development opportunities. As a volunteer, you can interact with countless people and provide vital services to all sorts of organizations. Volunteering can also help pave the way to your career as supervisors frequently write reference letters and give recommendations to potential employers.
5. Consider Related and Alternative Careers
In the U.S. and Canada, it is important to be flexible about which direction you take toward career success. If you studied specifically for or worked in a field that requires a license in the U.S. or Canada (for example, an engineer, doctor, or teacher), then you may have more difficulty finding a job. Only one out of four newcomers who have qualifications in a regulated profession is able to find work in their profession.
As an alternative, you should consider pursuing related careers (or careers within your field that do not require you to relicense). With a related career, you can continue working in your field, make professional connections, and even work while relicensing. Alternative careers, or careers outside of your original profession that still tap into the skills and knowledge you have, are also a great option. With an alternative career, you can use your interests, skills, and talents while exploring new directions and often even achieving a better work-life balance.
If the idea of starting in a new direction seems intimidating, remember that you can make a timeline to find work in your preferred occupation while working in a related or alternative job. This will simultaneously lower your financial stress while you grow your professional network.
6. Keep an Eye on Labor Market Information
Labor market information refers to supply and demand (the number of available jobs versus the number of qualified applicants). Although many companies publish information available positions on their websites, you can also keep an eye on government websites, industry publications, and the news to stay up-to-date with this frequently changing data.
It is also important to take a look at the licensing (or re-licensing) process for the career you are interested in. You can find the licensing or regulatory bodies for your specific field by looking at cicic.ca in Canada, and information about specific occupations and outlooks in the United States at the CareerOneStop site from the Department of Labor.
7. Strengthen Your Communication Skills
Employers look for candidates who can communicate effectively. An essential skill in the workplace, employers also care about your behavior in the workplace, as well as your decision-making skills, teamwork, understanding of workplace culture, and active listening and conversation skills. To improve your communication skills, try reading books and magazines that are relevant to the profession you want to work in to give you a sense of the language people use in that setting. It can also be helpful to attend networking events and set up informational interviews to practice professional conversations.
8. Build a Strong Network
Most jobs are found through networks, so it is important to build and nurture relationships as you settle into your community. Networking can be as simple as chatting with someone new and trying to find common experiences, skills, or interests you share. Every person you meet may not be able to help you advance your career success, but connecting with new people can lead to other introductions, helpful advice, and insight. Just like how you maintain your relations with close friends, networking requires follow-up and continuous engagement to maintain a strong connection.
9. Include Your Foreign Education
Because educational systems vary from country to country, degrees, and diplomas from another country may be viewed differently in the U.S. or Canada. A credential evaluation can help you get recognition for your previous studies, meet requirements for university admissions, acquire transfer credits, or obtain professional licensing and employment.
Obtaining a credential evaluation to assess your education and training is the first step in gaining access to educational and employment opportunities in the U.S. and Canada. Before requesting a credential evaluation from any agency, contact the admissions office, regulatory body, or employer who requires you to obtain the evaluation. These institutions are responsible for the final recognition decision and may require your evaluation to come from a specific credential evaluator.
You can also expand your options with additional education in the U.S. or Canada. Research has shown that immigrants with additional U.S. or Canadian education were more likely to be employed and find greater levels of career success than those who had received education only from abroad. Additional training will give you U.S. or Canadian experience, expand your network, and may open doors to alternative and related careers.
10. Consider Positions Fit You Best
Each workplace is different and it is important to evaluate how you would fit in. For example, in some workplaces, interactions between colleagues are largely based on their positions in the company. Other workplaces are more flexible and focused on collaboration. Consider what best matches with your values and beliefs to help you decide which position to take on.
These strategies and more were discussed in our recent webinar, 10 Essential Tips for Career Success. The interactive webinar was a cross-border event, hosted by New York-based Senay Gebremedhin, program coordinator at WES Global Talent Bridge, and Toronto-based Shaunna-Marie Kerr, program manager at WES Global Talent Bridge.