3 Things Immigrants Can Learn From Americans on Job Hunting

12/10/2015 03:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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As an immigrant who came to the US when she was 10 years old, I never had issues with language beyond my initial 2 years in the US.

However, what I had to deal with later on in life were hidden, especially when it came to the job search. I did not have an old boy's network to rely on, but eventually I was able to invest in a program to fill in the blanks, but it was initially a struggle.

Now that I'm a career coach helping other immigrants, I see many of the same issues come up over and over again, and here are some of the things I wish I had known before I started my job search in the US and what I tell my immigrant clients. Whether you're a native-born American or an immigrant, these are good reminders for when you're out job hunting.

1. Self Promotion is Just as Important as Skill

This comes as a shock to many of my Chinese clients, as they've grown up being taught that you must maintain a decent amount of modesty. After I came to the US, I was quite surprised at how Americans defined expertise. If you drew a picture, you were an artist, but I remembered even in 3rd grade our teacher defined an "expert" or "jia", as somebody only after they've gotten a post doc!

By no means my experience is definitive, but I will see many immigrants who already have many degrees being almost too modest, never really seeing how great they are because they've taught to always strive for perfection.

By contrast, I'll see many Americans marketing their small accomplishments and talking about it with such gusto that you cannot help but agree with their enthusiasm. It's not that my clients are less excited, it's just that they were never taught it's ok to own up to their accomplishments, and that it's not going to affect others if they share their wins.

This is one of the biggest issues I see with many skilled immigrants--they are brilliant hard workers, but when it comes to the interview, they sabotage themselves by not emphasizing their accomplishments as much as their American counterparts are.

2. Networking with People Who Don't Look Like Them

Many immigrants, understandably so, group with other immigrants sharing the same culture and heritage when they come to the US. While I 100% understand this, it does not serve immigrants when it comes to their job search. While it's great if you have many friends who can refer you as many Indian-Americans do for their fellow countrymen, many times you have to network with people who are not recent arrivals and not immigrants.

Because many executives in the US may not look like who an immigrant will usually befriend, the executives who can hire them do not even know these talented immigrants exist. The sad and unfair truth is that even if you are the best in the world at what you do, if people who can hire you do not know you exist, you cannot possibly be hired.

So if you are an immigrant, you must understand that there is a cost to only associating with people who look like you and speak like you. This is why I instruct my clients to always reach out to people who they'd like to know on Linkedin so that they can get to know people who can help them.

This advice also applies to recent graduates--if you don't know any CEO's or hiring managers, it's time for you to not get a 4th degree but to get to know people who are willing and able to hire you.

3. Learn the American Style of Job Hunting

Many more recent immigrants carry over practices from their original country that no longer work in the US. This is very apparent with resumes--Europe has different convention than the US, emphasizing more personal hobbies and origins of birth and citizenship, but those are grounds for discrimination lawsuits in the US.

So make sure that your resume suits the American convention so that you are not rejected on the grounds of formatting. Many immigrants submit resumes ad infinitum not knowing that it's the format that's holding them back. This is where making friends with Americans come in handy as they can help with their resumes.

Many times because immigrants have listed their home country, they've inevitably hinted that they need an H-1B sponsorship. While this does not hurt them if the company is willing to sponsor, it's still something that does not exactly help their situation. By making sure that every other aspect of their resume is stellar, they're more likely to get their visas and stay in the US after pursuing higher education.

So here are my 3 tips for immigrants when it comes to finding jobs in the US, if you're interested in learning more about my career coaching, head on over to www.Li-Lin.Net!