Immigrating into Unemployment: How to Find a Job in the US

Written by Idil Mendoza

Graphic Design by Gregory Erbs

A person at the airport holding their passport and ticket, and carrying their backpack and suitcase.

Greetings to you, the stranger from a different culture! I feel you because I am you—an immigrant in the land of Hollywood movies. I hope you didn’t picture that this journey would be like those movies because it’s not.

I’m sure they don’t hand out green cards or visas in your home country’s streets, so the immigration process was anything but easy. But getting your green card or visa is only the beginning!

Migrate, More Like Migraine!

Immigration brings along culture shock. You’re in a new country without family, and you’re unemployed! Yet, your unique story can inspire many immigrating people.

You might have come to the US through marriage or school. Maybe you were a doctor in your home country and had to emigrate here with your family because you were mistreated. You might have faced discrimination because of your sexual orientation, gender, or race. Maybe some of you are refugees from a war-torn country. Or perhaps there was an opportunity for you, and you decided to take it. However it happened, you are here now. And you need a job!

Green Card Lottery

You know the definition of luck if you are one of the green card holders who won the green card lottery. Such green cards have a limited number and are given only to the first 50,000 out of 11.8 million people who apply to the lottery.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services enable such opportunities for people who want to live and work in the US; it’s the only government that has this opportunity. So if you want a friend to try it out, tell them to sign up for it! Help them with all the immigration processes you have gone through yourself.

Language Barrier

You might be Spanish, Japanese, or Canadian. You might even have Spanish citizenship and also speak Japanese while living in Canada. Either way, if your mother tongue isn’t English, you’ll probably have to practice it here. Don’t worry; you will have tons of time to expand your vocabulary and improve your English.

My biggest advice would be to always have a dictionary by your side, whether a virtual or a physical dictionary. I find virtual dictionaries better because they’re free, and the search is faster. Look for the meaning of words whenever you can so that your vocabulary improves in time. Don’t forget the definition of common English phrases.

Another tip I can give is to watch tons of TV series, movies, and standup comedies. Turn the subtitles on so you can have a better understanding of word pronunciations and sentence building. Seeing the written words will support the auditory processing of the meaning.

If you like singing, just find songs that you enjoy singing along to. That way, your pronunciation will improve tremendously. Heck, you could speak fluently within 2 years of practice! Don’t forget to check your dictionary and find the song’s meaning.

Learning new languages is easiest when you’re young. If you’re here with your children, they are much luckier than you!

The Experience Loop

Oh, I see. You’re saying that you have already started applying for jobs. Guess what? Denied! One of the most common answers you’re getting, if any, is a “Thanks, but no thanks. You don’t have experience.” Say what? You didn’t even give me a chance!? It’s a crazy loop! My time is running out!

These were my thoughts, and you might be thinking similarly. You try to stay positive, but in the back of your head, you know you are stuck in this loop of madness: The Experience Loop. So how do you get out of this paradox?

Create a LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is a site where people post job offers, but it isn’t just an application process. LinkedIn is a social network oriented around business.

Signing up to LinkedIn is free of charge, and it can have many benefits for finding a career path. LinkedIn allows you to create a network of people from different companies. This is great because you can learn from authorities in your chosen career. Want to be a lawyer? Learn from the best! They can share how they made it to the top.

Starting From the Bottom Till We Got ‘Em

“I didn’t come to America to work at McDonald’s with my Ph.D.!”

I get it. We want what we deserve, but sometimes we must bite the bullet. You rarely get things on the first try. Actualizing your dreams doesn’t happen overnight, not for us immigrants. We have to work hard for them.

Immigrating is very natural and should be welcomed, even though some people think otherwise. You are here to build a career after your immigration, and there is no shame in doing simple jobs. It’s not wrong to get diverted from our pursuit of success.

I was offered a job at a bowling alley and told everyone I was going to apply for it. It’s not that it will hurt my Bachelor’s Degree, right? Although I’m not sure, I never asked about its feelings. But I know how my family felt! They were NOT pleased when they heard I might start working there with my literature degree and my trilingualism. But if you don’t have another chance, you must do what’s necessary.

So maybe you should call the number on the ‘cashier wanted’ sign. Or disguise yourself as an Uber driver while actually being a teacher. Perhaps you’re a surgeon, but maybe you should work at that customer service job, hoping that you won’t cut open the customers’ heads to see if there is any brain inside. Okay, just kidding, don’t ever do that. 

Do It!

I encourage you to start working somewhere! Get experience. There is no shame in doing any of those jobs. In fact, many successful people have done unrelated jobs until they found their purpose. Did you know that the guy who launched HuffPost used to be a teacher?

Your relatives in your home country might think that you shouldn’t be doing unrelated jobs in the US after your immigration. But immigrating has its own challenges that your family might not be aware of. It’s not just about attaining green cards or visas from the government; it’s about adapting.

Also, having gap years doesn’t look good on your resume. Hard work is always appreciated. If you keep an open mind, you’ll get where you want to be! Regardless of what country you came from.

Permanent Residence Doesn't Mean you Can't Work Wherever

Remote work can sound pretty intimidating at first. The word has always been that you “go” to work. But not these days, especially after the pandemic.

You might be used to office life and worried about adapting. In that case, let me remind you how scary immigrating to a new country was.

Remember the visa application process? Remember the whole process of learning how to settle somewhere so strange and different? It was scary, but you did it anyways. Maybe for yourself, maybe for your family. Either way, you have gotten or will get your permanent resident card and still survived!

I’m one of the green card holders, and I know the feeling of “I have to do something for my career” very well. But that doesn’t mean you have to “go” somewhere to “do” something. As a remote worker, I give you my word that you could invest big time in your career.

Remote work is a great new opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored. If you can learn to immigrate from your country, take that as a sign that you can do anything! No word can express that feeling, but your green card or your visa is the definition of your struggle and, eventually, your win.

Do an Internship Instead

So did I end up working at that bowling alley? Life has a funny way of helping you out. I got hired as a Comedy Content Writer here at our company – with an intern position. Believe it or not, this internship will have tons of benefits for me!

Do an internship. Whether it is paid or unpaid, or you think you’re too old for it, get experience!

Volunteer as an assistant for your desired position. Working without pay can load your resume! I know it sounds like exploitation, but you know what? Many successful people started as interns, like Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. Their internships were only the beginning of their grand success.

You obviously want to earn money, but in this new working world, you’ll need to earn experience in order to get approved for a job.

Don’t Waste Your or Anyone Else’s Time

Get internships that suit YOUR desire.

If you’re going to be a mechanic, ask to help as an apprentice where you can improve yourself. Do you desire to be a famous actor/actress? Then volunteer at your local theatre and meet new people.

Having a large network also plays a major role in finding your desired career! Who knows, you might even be hired by the place you did an internship at. Even if you don’t get hired, you will obtain several benefits, including experience and connections with others in your field.

You will need a work permit if America is not your permanent residence, so keep that in mind. Yes, even unpaid internships need permits. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry and follow the rules.

Going through a Green Card application process

A Permanent Residency, aka Green card, enables you to live and work and the same time. Meaning that you don’t have to concern yourself with work visas. There are ways to own a green card that you can find on government websites. Immigrant visas also do the job, but green cards offer you more options in terms of living and working.

Advice From a Fellow Immigrant - Skip the Title

If you start an internship, ask them to remove the title ‘intern’ from your position.

Unfortunately, most companies have a bias against interns. As if being an immigrant doesn’t give them enough of a bias about you!

Ask them for a favor; you already aren’t being paid, so what would they lose? If they say that it would be unfair to the other interns, ask them to change others’ titles too! It will only help interns and never hurt the company.

In fact, they might get favored for treating their workers right. And might I remind you that you did the same work as anybody else without getting paid a penny. They owe you that much.

Companies that Support Immigrating Workers

Not everyone has a negative view of immigrating. Some companies make it a point to hire immigrants and refugees.

These companies are a great example of how you should treat someone born in a different country; no different than how you would want your own family to be treated. Let’s hope for the days when every company will be so open to those who arrive from another country.

These are some of the top 100 companies and green card sponsors. They will see you for your skills and pay you money for your services. You might even find the best job of your life, and settle in as a citizen with their support if you need help getting your citizenship.

  • Google

  • Amazon

  • Apple

  • eBay

  • Bank of America

  • More companies, from California to New York and everything in between!

So don’t lose hope; there are those who will pay you like other citizens. While there are some inequalities to address, you don’t need to think that every company will pass on your application.

You’re Not Alone

Sometimes, things aren’t fair for immigrants in the US. People might look down on you or even tell you to “go back where you came from!” The biggest irony is that immigrants founded the US. Don’t forget that you are here with the right causes! People’s words and actions only tell us who they are, not who we are. Allow people to judge you by your character, not by where you’re from. You will be where you want to be with good ethics and hard work. I wish you all the luck and patience in this journey!

Check out our blog if you want more advice on finding a career.

Have a Super Day!

Headshot of Idil Mendoza

Idil Mendoza

As a child, I had a hard time speaking about my thoughts and feelings. That's when writing came to my rescue. Since then, we've been inseparable.