Advice by Michael Miller, Founder of Cultural Adapt

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What all spouses who come to US on a dependent visa need to know? 

Reshma was living in America on her husband’s H-4 dependent visa with their young child. They were grateful to be here and her husband had a great job. However, she wanted her own career. She had not got an undergraduate degree in Commerce, worked in the field for about 8 years and then earned an M.B.A., just to take care of her child.  For a while she felt lost, until a mentor put her in contact with me.

I strongly believe that a spouse on an H-4 dependent visa should pursue her own dreams and career aspirations. Without purpose, one’s life can start to feel dull and less meaningful. U.S. immigration laws may make it more difficult for you to succeed but in my mind it is just another obstacle  that you can learn to overcome.

So Reshma became one of my career coaching clients and started pursuing her dreams. She discovered there were more options available to her than she had known of and that the proper strategy is necessary to succeed.

In this post, I will explain multiple options for you to pursue your dream career in the U.S.

Pursuing Your Dream Career

Option 1: H-1B Visa

I could write about this topic for days (or even an entire book ) but since this is a short post I will just tell you the most important things you need to know. If you are applying online, you are wasting your time. 80% of jobs in the U.S. are never even posted and the remaining 20% are mostly given to people that have connected to the company internally.

What does that mean to you?

You need to meet decision makers. That means going to networking events, conferences, conducting informational interviews, etc. That is how you will get a job in the U.S. You need these decision makers to like you AND know how valuable you are, for them to even consider sponsoring your visa.

I say “value” because employers think in dollars. There is a cost associated with hiring you and an extra cost associated with sponsoring your visa. (Typically $2-$5000) So you need to determine not only why you are the best candidate, but also why you can make or save the company enough money to make it worth sponsoring your visa.

So that was a couple important points but you’re probably wondering what job or careers immigration law allows you to pursue, so let me break it down.

There are 85,000 given out per year and the 2013 “cap” has already been reached. That means you won’t get one of these this year… UNLESS you are pursuing a job in government, nonprofit or higher education.

Why?

These industries are not affected by the cap and can give out as many visas as they want. So oftentimes I suggest exploring these industries. At the same point, for-profit companies will start recruiting for 2014 soon and can sponsor your visa then. If you visit myvisajobs.com you can find a list of all companies that sponsor H-1B visas, sorted by industry, category, etc. Here you will also find additional answers to many questions and laws surrounding the H-1B visa.

Option 2: Become extraordinary

The O-1, or Extraordinary Ability visa, is a great one to get if you can manage to. Of course, it’s difficult to acquire because you must be one of the top people in your field― in the world. Some professions that can receive O-1’s include athletes, coaches, musicians, writers, physicists or scientists.

This may seem impossible to you right now but I believe anyone can become an expert at anything in 6 months… especially if you love it. I know many entrepreneurs that have got this visa and I could coach you to help you achieve this feat. (You can become a coach or Internet guru at almost anything)

There is no cap for the Extraordinary Ability visa because, frankly, America loves extraordinary people.

Option 3: Start a Company

You have a few immigration options if you want to start a company. The EB-5 Visa, where you have to invest $500,000, the O-1, an international partnership, where you don’t collect a salary, or even an H-1B for a venture-backed company.

Each immigration situation is different and eventually you will need an immigration attorney to help you but if you have an idea, I’d suggest putting some time and effort into it first. As long as you’re not making money, you are ok.

That’s a sum up of the options available to you and if you’re serious about any of them I’d suggest contacting me for 1-on-1 coaching or joining my upcoming live online class, the H-1B Institute. If you are still wondering what you are meant to do in life, you should join 150+ amazing international individuals at the 2013 Career Leadership Forum.

Remember that life is short and it should be spent pursing dreams.

Michael Miller

Mike

Michael Miller is the author of 4 Weeks To Your American Dream Job and the founder of Culture Adapt, an expat career coaching firm. Follow Michael on Twitter @mmiller1222

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Advice by Jennifer Recklet Tassi, Program Manager, MIT spouses&partners

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Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

After working for 15 years with many spouses on H4 and F2 visas, as well as advising spouses whose visas do allow them to work, I cannot stress enough the importance of exploring as many options as you can during your career transition and job search. Time and time again, spouses will come to me saying they have found the perfect company/person/job opening. They spend lots of time and energy crafting their resume and cover letter or introductory email. They scour the internet, getting all of the background information they can, and they just know that the professor/researcher/director has the exact same interests and experiences as they do. They might even come from your country. It would be ideal if they could work for, intern with or do a research project with this person. It’s the perfect fit! They focus all of their energy on that one opportunity. And then they wait!

A lot of time they don’t hear back at all. Or even worse, they move forward slowly, getting an email every couple of weeks, saying that the person doesn’t have time right now or is on vacation or that they are reviewing more resumes or interviewing other candidates. Or maybe the person they want to connect with just isn’t interested. The spouse waits, knowing that it is the perfect opportunity so she needs to be patient. The hiring process drags out, and she can never seem to get in touch with the person she wants to connect with. And then the rejection letter comes or the email saying that the professor doesn’t have any project work available at that time. Now she has to start all over again to find a new opportunity.

Hope is a dangerous drug. Wishing things were different than they are can keep you from exploring new options, thinking creatively about your skills, and connecting with all kinds of people. The American idiom “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” is very true when it comes to career transition. Instead of directing all of your energy and resources to one thing or person, spread your effort. Not every conversation you have or connection you make will be life-changing, but each one will lead you a little closer to your desired goal. You’ll figure out exactly what interest you and what kinds of people are excited by your skills and experiences. When you are pursuing a variety of companies, schools, volunteer opportunities, and networking connections, it doesn’t matter if one doesn’t work out, you will have other things to focus on.

It’s not easy to keep trying in the face of many disappointments. One of the hardest things about the job search is that you never know how close you are to getting hired. Try to approach this career transition with an open mind and heart. Cherish the opportunity to explore new fields and meet new people and to discover something new about yourself. As you have seen in the stories shared on this blog, the uncertainty is uncomfortable and difficult, but the rewards can be great. You may be pleasantly surprised by where you end up.

Jennifer Recklet Tassi, Program Manager, MIT spouses&partners

Jennifer

Jennifer is a member of the Community Wellness team at MIT Medical and she provides direct support to newcomers, internationals, and families who are adjusting to life in a new city. She provides information, referrals, and consultation, while also engaging members to develop and lead programs that help people build connections and community. Jennifer also manages the MIT Language Conversation Exchange and is the site administrator for MIT FamilyNet, an online community for families.

Building your Small Talk Skills

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You must have come across the popular term, “American Small Talk” and probably wonder about the American habit and skill of small talk. Is it challenging for non-Americans? We notice that many cultures find it important to build a solid connection before initiating any sort of business together, however the approach in the US is slightly different. Even though, professionals in the US like to get straight down to business, the initial small step of small talk is necessary to build those connections quickly. Small talk is a great way to initiate a conversation with a complete stranger, find a common interest, and create a rapport.

While networking and searching for a job in the U.S., it is important to be able to make effective small talk and interact with other people. Casual conversations may not be necessary in other cultures but is a key component of communication in the U.S. You may be seen as arrogant and lose out on building a connection if you fail to engage. Americans dislike silence so they break the ice by talking about generic topics. Small talk may seem superficial at first but is crucial in order to make and maintain healthy relationships at work or with prospective employers and co-workers.

Three points to keep in mind while initiating small talk:
1. Observe
2. Listen
3. Speak

First, start observing how people around you engage in small talk. The best learning happens through practice and you might get helpful cues on what to talk about by observing others. Secondly, it is vital to listen attentively during the talk as it will help you take the conversation further by asking relevant questions. While you speak, try and give crisp answers which are not very long but also not too short like “yes” or “no”. It will help you to gravitate the conversation quickly towards the main topic. Sense the other person’s body language to see if they are interested in talking further. Close observation is necessary and should not be undermined to make your small talk a pleasant experience.

Cultures are different everywhere. The topics on which small talk can be done differ based on the culture. There are various topics that you can use to engage in small talk in US. Topics include: Weather, Travel, Traffic, Movies, Music, Books, Food, Fashion, Entertainment, Sports and Current news. Based on the topics above, you can create your own list depending on your areas of interest and the type of people you are dealing with. Keeping abreast of recent happenings and surroundings through newspapers and magazines, not only help your brain feed important information but also make you well informed and popular among your peers, social circles as you will have a wider range of subjects to discuss. Topics that should be avoided are politics, religion and social beliefs.

The few questions that could give you a head start are: “It’s such a great/bad weather today, isn’t it?”, “What are your weekend plans?”, “How is work?”, “I like your t-shirt/watch/ring, where did you get it?” Asking the other person questions about him/her is also a great way to engage in small talk and get to know a lot more about the other person. People love talking about themselves, their experiences and it makes the conversation much more interesting. Try and avoid personal questions.

If you’re a beginner, still unconfident about engaging in small talk and would like to learn more, let me assure you that it’s easy! You do not need to attend huge networking events, instead try and adapt it in your daily life. For example, start to talk with the cashier at the local grocery store or the waitress at your favorite restaurant about basic everyday events such as the weather, a new bar in town, a concert or the traffic. You will be surprised how simple it is. Gradually, you will improve and become comfortable in engaging small talk with other people you intend to network with at a professional level.

Good luck and please email us if you have any questions!

World class education for free!

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Harvard, Standford, MIT, Berkley, Wellesley, Rice, Columbia! When you read these names, what comes to your mind? Best in class education! Top Universities! Best Schools! Great Professors! Do you know that you have access to all these schools and that too free?

There are many websites available which offer free courses from these prestigious universities taught by the renowned professors. Due to rising tuition and school fees, drop out rate from schools have increased. Hence, top universities do not want to limit the education to thousands but they want to spread it to millions of students all over the world.

Some of the website which offer free massive open online courses ( MOOCs) are given below:

The Top Online College Courses: http://www.onlinecourses.com/
Coursera: http://www.coursera.org/
Venture lab Stanford: http://venture-lab.org/
edX: http://www.edx.org/
Udacity https://www.udacity.com/
Class2Go http://class.stanford.edu/

You can find a course on almost every topic on these websites ranging from technology, management, medical, etc. These websites are not-for-profit social enterprise working towards changing education for the betterment of everyone. You will also receive certificate of completion for certain courses. There’s also a course tracking site, http://www.class-central.com/ that covers all the free university level courses mentioned above. It’s easier to choose classes from the combined schedule at this site.

Coursera website also offers signature track, a new option that gives students the opportunity to earn a verified certificate for completing selected coursera course. Signature Track securely links your coursework to your identity, allowing you to confidently put it in your resume. Initially it is offered for few courses and will be expanded gradually. The details of the courses can be seen here. You can simply enroll in one of the above courses and you will be notified when you can join. Credits for the mentioned courses taken at coursera will be approved by the American Council on Education(ACE). Hence, a great help to fill the gap in your career.

There is another website which doesn’t have the professors from top universities but is famous worldwide as it explains each and every concept in a simplified way which makes it easy to understand. It is named as Khan Academy: http://www.khanacademy.org/ and has more than 4000 videos on various topics. In 2012, Time listed Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

While you are on a dependent visa and cannot work or study in US, these websites are a great source of skill development.