Advice by Anna Kristina Beissner, Coach and Business Trainer

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Don’t push the river, it flows. (George Tabori)

When I speak to people who came to the U.S. from all over the world, I often have the feeling that everybody feels under pressure. People seem to push themselves to quickly find a job, quickly build new friendships and quickly adjust to the new culture. When this is not working, many of them are feeling disappointed and lose their energy to deal with challenges they have to face.

But every one of them went through a big transition and such processes, like all change processes, need time. Do not force yourself through your transition process too fast and to adapt to your new life immediately. There are times for everything. Times to be excited, times to be sad about what you have left behind, times to explore new things, times to be overwhelmed and times to start something new.

What people, who come here on a dependent visa and do not have a job, often tell me: They are missing structure in their lives. It can be very difficult, if you have to create every day on your own without being a member of some community. In our society, we usually get acknowledgement for our job. If you are not working, you have to acknowledge the things you accomplish yourself. It is a big and difficult job to adjust to a new life without having any structure and community and you can be proud of what you are going through.

If you have – like many of the so called “traveling spouses” – the feeling of losing self-confidence, it might be helpful to think about what you have already achieved in your lives and which competencies helped you to be successful.

Choose a particular success from you past:
What was the initial situation?
What was particularly difficult/complex/challenging about it?
What exactly did you achieve/establish/decide?
What exactly was the result/benefit?
Which of your skills/characteristics/talents did you use?

Acknowledge these skills. Maybe they can also be helpful in the present situation or in the future.

Sometimes it can also be helpful to see your situation from a different perspective:

Who would be able to solve your problem? What do you think would he or she do?
Imagine, your best friend would come to you with a similar problem and ask for your help. What would you recommend to her/him?
Imagine yourself looking back to the present situation in three years from now thinking: That was an important experience. What could have been important for you?

When thinking about their future and goals, people often think only about what they want to change. But sometimes it is useful to also think about what you want to keep. What is so good at the moment, that it shall always be a part of your life?

Do whatever you like and find interesting. Maybe you like arts or cooking or would like to do voluntary work. There are communities for these activities that could make you feel more welcome in the new country. This might sound silly when you are feeling the urgent need to first find a job. But having fun and thinking about positive things create positive energy. You need this positive energy to face difficult challenges, no matter if it is the adjustment to a new culture and life or the often difficult job search.

Go out. Try to connect with people. Meeting locals is a great opportunity, but meeting people from your own culture speaking the same language and sharing your experience can also be very helpful.

You never know where you could meet someone who has a job offer for you or knows someone who has…

Anna Kristina Beissner

AnnaBessiner

Anna Kristina Beissner is a coach and business trainer for team building and human resource development from Germany. She came to Boston on a dependent visa in 2013, because her husband got a postdoc position at the Harvard University. During her stay, Anna worked as a coach for the Harvard Students` Spouses and Partners Association (HSSPA) and the MIT Spouses and Partners. She supported the members to get to know their potentials better, to set goals for their time in the U.S. or the time after or to solve any problems and conflicts.

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Advice by Lindsay McMahon, Founder of Speakative

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5 Tips for a Successful Job Search in the United States

Are you planning to look for a job sometime in the next few months? If so, don’t assume that the same strategies that work in your home country will also work in the United States. In this article I will give you 5 tips for a successful interview in the United States.

1. Stand out and be memorable to the interviewer

In your culture, is it a good thing to stand out or is it better to fit in with the group? In a job interview in the US, you need to be sure that you stand out in the interviewer’s mind. This is extremely important! Yes, you do have to “sell yourself” a bit.  While in some cultures it’s better to fit in and emphasize your role as a part of a team or to de-emphasize your contribution to a project and show humility, in the US, you should be very clear about the results that you created on projects throughout your career at different organizations.

2. Pay attention to nonverbal communication

Watch out for the weak handshake! This is a great way to be seen as lacking in confidence. It might seem like a small issue, but so much is communicated nonverbally. Make sure that you make direct eye contact with your interviewer and that you offer a firm handshake to show that you are sure of yourself, well-prepared, and glad to be at the interview.

3. Use action verbs on your resume and in the interview

Don’t be vague when you submit your resume. Show exactly what you did at your previous jobs by using action verbs such as “organized”, “led,” “directed,” and “managed.” Your goal is to help the interviewer see exactly how your skills could be of use in the organization. If you don’t directly communicate exactly what you did, how can the interviewer understand your skill set?

4. Get to know the company before the interview

Be sure to do your research on the company before you enter the interview. Understand their goals, their strategy and figure out how you will communicate the ways in which you could fit in with the organization.

If you have a specific set of skills that could help them with something that they are currently struggling with, be very direct in communicating that fact and perhaps go even further by offering them a few strategy suggestions on that problem during the interview if it seems appropriate.

5. If you are an English learner, practice your response to the most common questions

In the United States, there are some very common interview questions that you can practice. It is important to get a conversation partner who can help you practice your answers to these questions ahead of time. Have a clear idea about how you will answer the following questions:

• Why should we hire you?
• Tell me about yourself.
• Give me an example of a time when you took on a leadership role at work. Please explain the project and your challenges.
• Why did you leave your last job?
• Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. What happened? How did you resolve the situation?
• If I spoke with your previous employer, what areas would he or she say that you need improvement?
•What are the first four things that you would do if you got this position?

Lindsay McMahon 

Lindsay

Lindsay McMohan is the Founder of Speakative, an English conversation program that helps you gain confidence through regular practice with native English speakers by Skype.
Sign up for your free trial session here and prepare for your next job interview with a native speaker!

Advice by Yvonne Lefort, Career Consultant and Intercultural Trainer

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Moving Through Transition

My work as a career consultant and intercultural trainer brings me into contact with many people in career and life transition. At UC Berkeley, where I have been working as a consultant and teaching a course called “Creating A Fulfilling Life in America,” I have met many international spouses and partners going through intercultural, career and life transition.

Some have never lived or even traveled outside their home country, and living far away from friends and family is a daily challenge. Finding a place to live, setting up the apartment, opening a bank account and knowing where to shop or get a good haircut are some of the practical challenges of living in a new place, but there are also psychological challenges. Most people from other countries experience some degree of “culture shock” and loneliness, while others can get paralyzed with fear, depression and anxiety, and not know how to “get out” of what may feel like a big, black hole.

I often refer people to William Bridges’ book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Every transition, according to Bridges, begins with an “Ending.” When you move to another country, you experience many endings: an end to your job and to the sense of identity you got from your work, an end to time spent with close friends and family, and an end to being in a culture where you know the norms and can feel safe and comfortable, to name a few. You may go through a period that Bridges calls the “Neutral Zone,” where you feel lost and confused, unproductive, and not sure who you are anymore. It’s not a comfortable place. But in this period of confusion, there is growth happening as you begin to sort through who you are, what’s important in your life, and what you need to have to feel fulfilled. Your new identity is trying to take shape. Eventually, you will experience a renewed sense of energy as you begin to get new ideas and take action. You have moved through the neutral zone to a new beginning!

I have witnessed this process with the spouses and partners at UC Berkeley with whom I have had the privilege to work. To them and to you, I say, “Step Outside Your Comfort Zone.” It may feel scary because you don’t know the culture, your English isn’t perfect and you have an accent, or maybe you’re not used to starting up conversations with strangers. I understand, but don’t let this stop you from fulfilling your dreams. Take your inspiration from some of these spouses:

Satu, a spouse from Finland, applied for work authorization but her application was denied. So, she decided to form the “Language Café,” an informal language exchange where people meet weekly at a coffee shop to practice different languages.

Mila from Mexico is a marine biologist. After volunteering at a nature center, she applied for a grant from UC Berkeley and received a sum of money to start a program on sustainable living called “Nature Village.” (http://www.naturevillage.org). She received an award for her work from the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability.

Ernani from Brazil is a high school physics teacher and musician. Since he couldn’t work on a F-2 visa, he decided to join a band and volunteer at a children’s science museum.

Doro from Germany didn’t know anyone when she first arrived in the U.S. and wanted to meet new people. She started a social group called the “Berkeley Wives” and created a website (http://berkeleywives.jimdo.com), and now she has a membership of almost 300 spouses.

Kathy from Chile is a veterinarian who volunteered at an animal shelter for several months before getting a part-time job as a veterinary assistant.

Kirsty from Australia loves to sew and make her own clothes. She started writing her own blog, “Tea and Rainbows” (http://www.teaandrainbows.com), to show off clothes she has made and talk about sewing techniques, patterns, fabric and anything else crafty.

These are just a few examples of spouses who have created or seized opportunities, taken risks, and stepped outside their comfort zone. You can too.

If you’re a new mother, find a mothers’ club to join where you can meet other moms to share the joys and frustrations of motherhood. Or, start your own new moms group.

If you’re looking for work, learn the American way of networking and asking for informational interviews, and begin to make contact with people who can help advance you in your career. Take job search classes to learn how to write an American style resume, interview for a job, and “toot your own horn.”

If you are unable to get work authorization, find other ways to make your time in America meaningful and fulfilling. Is there something you’d like to try that you’ve never had the time to do? Is there a class that you could take or certificate that you could get to upgrade your professional skills? Can you think of some ways that you could be of service to others and volunteer your time? Or perhaps you’ve been too busy with your career to just take the time to have fun and relax. Allow yourself to do what makes you feel good and what makes you come alive.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your life in America!

Yvonne Lefort

YvonneYvonne Lefort, MA, is a career coach and intercultural trainer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She coaches and teaches classes for individuals in career, life and intercultural transition. She also designs and develops programs for universities and organizations. “Creating A Fulfilling Life in America” is a course that she developed to help international spouses and partners gain the skills, knowledge and support they need to rebuild their social and professional lives and regain a sense of their own identity. For more information, go to www.yvonnelefort.net 

Advice by Dan Beaudry, Author of Power Ties

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Do you need a visa to do a job in U.S.?

Do you want a job in the U.S.? You can get one. And my first recommendation towards getting it is to forget (for a while) that you need a visa. Winning a job in the U.S. is much more about motivating a company to want you than immigration rules and company policies.  Most senior managers (and experienced recruiters) will tell you that if an organization wants to hire someone badly enough, they don’t let immigration paperwork, or company policies against sponsoring, stand in their way. For them, their new hire represents revenue generated, expenses cut, or important problems solved: all of which are well worth the inconvenience of sponsorship. This is why I tell international students, and others hoping to secure U.S. employment, that their orientation MUST be value first and visa second.

I’d like to share with you some specific things that you can do to put this orientation into practice, but before I do, it’s probably useful for you to know who the heck I am! After many years in recruiting and working with international job seekers, I decided to write a book outlining the job search system that I’d seen regularly produce visa sponsorships. People have asked me why I wrote it, and the best answer is that people needed it. In fact, my wife needed it!  She is from Madrid and (prior to our marriage) found herself in much the same situation that many of you face: professional ambitions, settling into a foreign country, facing work visa barriers. Certainly, marrying an American smoothed her path to employment a bit. But I’ll assume none of you have been driven to contemplate that option at this stage!

Because I have a full-time job in sales, my book has been a side business of passion since its publication in 2009. But over the past four years, I’ve been squeezing in presentations to students and alumni at universities around the country—perhaps some of the schools your spouse attend (if you are on F2 visa). And one of the most important concepts I try to drive through is something that every sales person knows: don’t lead with your costs. Your visa represents an expense that your future employer will need to bear in order to hire you—an expense your employer would not face if he/she decided to hire an American. If you start your job search conversations asking employers if they ‘sponsor’ or not, you’ve made two mistakes: 1. You’ve given them a quick reason to screen you out of consideration if they don’t sponsor, 2. You’ve asked them to bear an extra cost without yet showing them what they get for it. Why should someone pay more for you? There may be very good reasons, but you’ve got to have a chance to articulate those reasons before you’re removed from consideration. This is why I say value first, visa (cost) second—always.

Here is a quick list of some other specific things to do or not do in your US job search.  There is obviously much more to be said on all of these:

– Determine, and become convinced of your value to an employer.  Ask yourself, would you hire you for the job you’re seeking?
– Conduct informational interviews with people who are doing what you’d like to be doing. This will help you better understand your value, and help build connections.
– Conduct informational interviews with other internationals who have followed the same path.
– Don’t ever ask for a job in an informational interview.
– Keep track of informational conversations you’ve had with people, and stay in touch with meaningful and customized follow up.
– Connect other people for their mutual benefit even when you stand to gain nothing.
– Don’t reach out to human resources unless you want a job in human resources.
– Don’t apply online unless asked to do so by someone who you think already want to hire you.
– Approach companies that aren’t on everyone’s target list.
– Speak for yourself instead of relying on a resume to do it for you.

There are many more elements to the job search system I outline in my book, but the most critical element of your U.S. job search will be your drive. If you have a burning desire to work in the U.S., I hope you’ll give yourself a chance to make it happen. That desire will motivate you to do things that your competition will find too uncomfortable (such as reaching out to people you don’t know for informational interviews.) If you are on F2 visa, have you considered that your spouse may be one of these competitors? Do you think a little friendly competition from you might motivate you both to work a little harder and reach a little higher? I would love to hear from any of you who get a U.S. job before your spouse!  Email me please! Dan@powerties.net.

I hope to post here again soon.  As I mentioned to Shruti, I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old that keep my life ‘full’—to which I’m sure many of you can relate. But until the next post, I’d invite you to take a look at some of the short postings on my blog, or to send me an email directly with any questions.  I respond to all emails—although it sometimes takes a day or two because of the aforementioned job and family!

Dan Beaudry

Dan

Dan Beaudry is the author of the book Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States.

He was most recently the Campus Recruiting Manager for Monster.com where he constructed and managed the company’s first formal university recruiting program, including the growth and management of Monster’s MBA Executive Development and Leadership program. Prior to joining Monster, Dan was the Associate Director of Corporate Recruiting for the Boston University School of Management where he developed the international student employment series.  Dan began his career in management consulting, and also spent time as a headhunter during the dot.com boom and bust. He now works in business development for two international organizations, providing career content and international relations software to the higher education industry.

Dan has been a guest speaker at events for the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the MBA Career Services Council, the HR Planning Society, the International Careers Consortium, the National Association of Asian MBA’s and many universities and business schools across the country.  He holds a BA from Vanderbilt University, an MA in International Relations from Boston University, and language certifications from La Sorbonne in Paris.  Dan now lives in Boston with his wife Elena (who is from Spain, and has been given more advice on her US job search than she ever asked for!).

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

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.