Gaining Confidence: How José Launched a Communications Career in the U.S.
Thursday | February 16, 2023 | by WES Advisor
In 2015, growing political instability drove José* from his home country of Venezuela, forcing him to leave behind a successful career in journalism and advertising. With support from numerous WES Global Talent Bridge (GTB) partners, including New York University, Upwardly Global, and Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid (VIA), José has learned how to leverage his multicultural marketing skills and multilingual skills and is taking steps to restart his career in New York City.
*Not his real name. We are using another name to protect the subject’s identity.
“I’ve known since 8th grade that I wanted to do something in this field. I knew I wanted this career.”
A self-described “creative soul,” José started working as an intern at an advertising agency when he was 17. Five years later, as a graduate of one of the largest universities in Venezuela, José was instrumental in establishing the institution’s first in-house media agency, launching digital campaigns for the newspaper, radio, and TV platforms in support of university communications. The role catalyzed a 14-year career with the university that would culminate in a role as a communications professor.
But José’s work in both journalism and higher education made him a target of political retaliation amid a rapidly deteriorating situation in Venezuela. He sought political asylum in New York City, and, after receiving work authorization, took the first job he could to support himself: a sales role with a prepaid wireless service provider.
“It was totally different from what I was doing in Venezuela. People would ask me, ‘you were a professor, you were a director, what’s going to happen with your career?’ But when you are in a country where you’re alone, you’re on your own, you have to survive. I had to do what I had to do,” José said.
José’s extensive professional experience – along with his fluency in Spanish, Italian, and English – helped him grow quickly in his new sales role. He was offered a promotion that would have required him to relocate, but instead he opted to stay in New York City and begin to take steps to reestablish his communications career.
He was among more than 200 applicants for 16 spots in the Collaborative for New Immigrant Education (CINE), a professional development and language upskilling initiative tailored to the needs of college-educated refugees and asylum seekers, offered via New York University (NYU). While other programs had rejected José’s application, citing his advanced English skills and extensive résumé, NYU accepted him.
“It was the first time since leaving Venezuela that I felt re-immersed in the academic field,” he recalled. “Up until that point, I’d been caught up in daily things – I have to pay rent, I need a job – and I thought that it wasn’t going to be possible to reinsert myself in my professional field. Starting with NYU was like being reborn.”
The NYU program serves participants who have fled conflict and political instability in many countries, Haiti, Myanmar, Russia, Ukraine, and Venezuela among them. While all the participants have training, experience, and credentials from abroad, systemic barriers – including limited access to effective English instruction – have prevented them from reestablishing their careers in the U.S.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, more than two million college-educated immigrants and refugees are unemployed in the U.S.; sixty percent hold credentials earned in other countries.
After he completed the program, NYU invited José to continue his engagement as a counselor for a new cohort of CINE participants. At a networking session at NYU, he connected with Upwardly Global, a national non-profit and GTB partner organization that provides job coaching and support to immigrants and refugees who hold credentials from abroad.
“I thought, ‘this is exactly what I need as a next step,’” José recalled.
Via Upwardly Global, José has received individualized coaching along with access to online certification programs that complement his Venezuelan credentials. He’s completed more than 60 communications-focused certificates—from copywriting to storytelling—and has learned how to position his multilingual skills and extensive professional experience to local employers. He has also acquired a less tangible but critically important edge in his job search: confidence.
“Before both NYU and Upwardly Global, I didn’t know what to do—I was disoriented. I tried to follow certain steps to improve my résumé, but it wasn’t enough. Now I understand how the professional market works here.”
As José strives to reconnect with his communications career—he’s seeking senior-level roles in digital marketing—he is committed to expanding his U.S. work portfolio while also giving back to his community. He provides communications consulting services to various non-profits, including Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid (V(A), a WES Global Talent Bridge partner that supports asylum seekers and other displaced Venezuelans. He’s also committed to aiding others who are just beginning their career journeys in the U.S.
“There are lots of immigrants coming to this country that don’t know what to do – information is key. When you have that information, especially from people like you that are pursuing the same goals, it’s easier. It gives you confidence to approach a company and explain why you’re a strong candidate – ‘this is what I did in the past, this is what I’m doing now. I’m here, and I want to be available to you.’”
Upwardly Global is a founding member of IMPRINT, a coalition based at WES; Venezuelan and Immigrants Aid Inc. is a member of the Global Talent Leadership Network (GTLN), an initiative of WES Global Talent Bridge (GTB); the Collaborative for New Immigrant Education (CINE) is a member of GTB’s New York network. Learn more via the WES Global Talent Bridge U.S. Program Map, a directory of more than 100 programs and services that foster the economic and professional development of internationally trained immigrants and refugees