Finding the perfect balance between a job you enjoy and one that pays you well is tough. We don’t just want a job but a career that allows us to feel good about what we do and the impact it has on our lives and those around us.
Most people want a career that satisfies both these needs, but finding that ideal career path can be tough.
It’s even harder and sometimes more difficult for newcomers to the U.S. because we have to adapt to a whole new way of life. We have to learn the ins and outs of the work culture in America.
We have to understand how organizations are structured, and we have to learn the best path to career success in the workplace.
I know for me it took a while to adjust to work-life in the U.S. At first, it was challenging to figure out how I fit into this new culture and way of doing things. Luckily I learnt a lot along the way.
In this career planning checklist, you will learn how to set career goals, tips for creating a resume, plus helpful tools and tricks you can use to get ahead.
Career planning for newcomers to America
- Set career goals
- Craft a winning resume
- Create a LinkedIn profile
- Understand salaries
- Know your worth
- Try to specialize
- Be aware of career scams
- Look out for new career opportunities
- Never underestimate yourself
Set your career goals
Just like anything else, you need to decide what you ultimately want to achieve from your career. Where do you see yourself in the next five, ten, or twenty years from now? What does your ideal job look like? How much would you like to earn?
Taking time to reflect on these questions will help you to gain a better understanding of what direction you want to take your career.
I know when I just moved to the States, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I ended up applying for random jobs, hoping someone would get back to me to schedule an interview.
What I realized was this haphazard approach to my job search was not effective and yielded little to no results.
Once I sat down and thought about what I wanted in a job, I was able to figure out that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing. I still didn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle, but at least I had a little more clarity. I updated my resume to reflect the new goal of working in marketing, and I started applying specifically to marketing positions.
Setting your career goals will help you to establish a plan and path to achieving those goals. Whether you need to go back to school or take an online course, setting your career goals will help you to shape the direction and path of your career.
Craft a winning resume
Once you have decided what jobs you want to apply for, the next step is to craft a winning resume. Your resume needs to highlight your professional experience, employment history, work achievements, and educational background.
As a newcomer to the U.S., you probably don’t have any U.S. based work experience, but that’s okay because employers around the world are usually looking for similar qualities in the candidates they hire for the job.
They want someone who has experience or who demonstrates a strong aptitude to learn. They want someone reliable, and they want someone committed and hardworking.
If you possess those skills, chances are you will find employment quickly.
Organize your resume in chronological order showcasing your most recent and most relevant work experience.
Make sure to highlight the key results you accomplished at your jobs. Recruiters and HR managers have to look through hundreds of resumes. Most times, they aren’t reading through your entire resume word for word. Instead, they are skimming to see if certain key things they are looking for are on your resume.
One of the key things they want to see is not only what your past roles were, but what you brought to the table. How were you able to add value to the company and excel in your position?
They also usually like to see numbers, so if you can quantify your achievements or results to showcase a number, your resume will stand out.
- Significantly raised open rates from 8% to 32% by designing, integrating, and managing client email campaigns, including B2B email campaigns and automated email campaigns based on lead scoring and nurturing.
- Generated a 159% ROI by effectively directing digital advertising campaigns on Indeed, Jobs2Careers, and Facebook.
- Listened to customer concerns and assured their complete comprehension of transactions, resulting in client satisfaction increase of 17%
- Increased the number of sales leads per day by 25% through implementing sales script updates
Even if you don’t think there are numbers you can add to your resume, there is always a way to highlight your results.
Along with highlighting key results and including relevant job experience, if possible, try to keep your resume to one page.
Although there is no hard and fast rule for resume length, keeping your resume to one page will make it easier for recruiters to scan through.
It may seem difficult to keep it to one page, especially if you have a lot of work experience, but condensing your resume will help you to highlight the relevant experience and trim the unnecessary fat, like your high school summer internship from 10 years ago.
Create a LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is a professional networking platform that allows professionals to connect online. It’s a social media website that focuses on careers, job search and connecting with potential employers or business partners.
It’s like an online resume that showcases your professional experience, work achievements, and education. You set up your profile to display your employment history and career highlights.
More than 660 million people from around the world use it to make career connections and to advance their careers.
I always had a profile, but I wasn’t active, and I rarely updated it. But when I moved to the States, I quickly realized that having a LinkedIn profile was a must-have for creating a professional appearance and for connecting with employers.
As someone new to the U.S., it was important to establish my credibility and employability by highlighting my professional experience and the skills I brought to the table.
Recruiters also use it as a way to find qualified candidates for their clients. Many recruiters reach out to me daily with career opportunities. They can find me because I have a profile that showcases my resume, professional skills, education, and work achievements.
Creating a LinkedIn profile is easy to do, and maintaining it will open career opportunities for you as well.
As a newcomer to the U.S., you need to understand salaries and how much you should look to be compensated based on your experience, educational background, and the industry you want to work in.
In the U.S., the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but salaries vary across the U.S., and depending on what state you live, it can be higher.
Most employers pay their employees on a biweekly basis, which means every two weeks, they receive a paycheck. If you are a fulltime employee working 40 hours per week, most companies usually offer benefits like healthcare, paid time off, and 401(k) plans while part-time employees may not receive certain benefits.
Your salary largely depends on your experience, industry, job title, and the company you are applying to work for.
Some companies offer employees excellent compensation with benefits and perks, while other companies not so much.
Before applying for any job, it is important to research the company and to have an idea of how much you should be expected to be paid.
Glassdoor is an online resource that provides salary estimates. You type in the city you live in and your desired position, and it will give you a rough estimate of the salaries for that role. It also gives you salary ranges from the low end, median, and high-end estimates.
This is one way to get a sense of salaries and what you should expect to get paid, but it also gives you a starting point to consider during your salary negotiations.
Know your worth
Knowing your worth and value is important to everyone, but as a newcomer to the U.S., you especially have to make sure you know your worth. Many immigrants get taken advantage of because they don’t know their worth, or they are in vulnerable positions.
Some get paid little to nothing and have to work incredibly hard for the little that they get. Some face workplace discrimination because of their gender, race, or religious preferences.
Being aware of this will help you to identify situations where you are being taken advantage of.
It can also help you to take appropriate actions like finding a better job or, in some cases reporting unsavory work practices to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency responsible for creating fair workplace environments.
Try to specialize in a particular area
One thing I quickly realized when I began my career journey here in the U.S. is that it’s good to have an area of specialty. This means carving out an area of expertise that you are known for.
For example, if you are interested in marketing, try to specialize in a particular area of marketing. Many people may not know, but marketing is very broad. There are many areas in marketing that people can pursue careers.
Public relations, email marketing, social media marketing, marketing analytics, and the list goes on. Instead of targeting broad marketing positions, it’s good to hone in on the area of marketing that you would like to specialize in.
This helps you to stand out among a sea of resumes because you are demonstrating an area of expertise, and you can target specific jobs where that expertise is needed.
Now I’m not saying this area of specialty has to define your entire career. It’s good to become familiar with other areas too, and you might find you like other areas better, but being intentional and specific about your career path will make it easier for you to get ahead.
The same is true for other professions. There are different areas of accounting and finance, which can include bookkeeping, accounts receivables, staff accountant, tax accountant, audit, and the list goes on.
There are thousands of job opportunities in the U.S., but deciding the type of job and industry you want to work in becoming an expert in that area will help you to get ahead.
Look out for career scams
The job search process is tough, but it’s even more difficult because you have to be aware of career scams.
Yes, career scams exist. Career scammers prey on vulnerable people seeking employment.
They are usually looking to collect personal information to steal your identity (identity theft) or get you to pay money for training.
You also have to be aware of seedy companies that want to try to get you to work for little to nothing, or sometimes they are performing illegal activities and posing as legitimate businesses.
It can be hard to spot career scams, especially if you are new to the U.S., but make sure to research any company you apply to. Check their website to see what you can learn.
Understand how the company makes money. If they have vague, unclear services listed on their website and you have no idea how they make money, chances are it’s a scam.
Also, you should never have to pay for training or pay for anything to get a job.
Many career scams also pose as work from home opportunities, so be very vigilant.
Keep an eye out for new career opportunities
Going back to knowing your worth means you’re always looking out for new opportunities. When just starting your career in the U.S., you sometimes have to take a lower-paying job or a job you don’t particularly enjoy but use it as a stepping stone. Work hard to build up your resume and experience, but always keep an eye out for other career opportunities.
When I started working in the U.S., I was earning just around $10 per hour with no benefits. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I worked at that company for two years and got promoted to supervisor, earning $15 per hour.
Once I realized there weren’t many growth opportunities left and I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, I started to look for a new job.
I found one that paid much more — an actual annually salary with employee benefits like healthcare, vacation time, and employee-sponsored savings plans (401k).
Don’t be afraid to start small, but always be on the lookout for new opportunities to advance your career and lifestyle. You are the only one that can do that for yourself.
Never underestimate yourself
Never underestimate yourself or your career potential. Many people move to the U.S., thinking that their educational background or work experience isn’t good enough.
As a result, they sometimes take lower-paying jobs, or they think they need to go back to school to get another college degree.
If you had a career or have a degree from your home country, it’s just as relevant and just as good as an American college degree.
For some specialized fields like healthcare, law, or accounting, you may need to get special licensing or certification, but that doesn’t mean you have to enroll in a four-year college program.
When I first arrived, that was a concern a few friends that went to the same university I went to had. They didn’t think that their college degree was good enough to get a good job.
But for me, I thought that was ridiculous, and to this day, no employer has ever asked to see a copy of my college transcript or degree. Even though I usually had a copy with me when I went to interviews.
The point is to value yourself and what you bring to the table.
As a newcomer to the U.S., you have a unique perspective that is an asset all on its own. You can use this to your advantage to stand out in interviews and in the workplace.