In September 2017, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians launched the Immigrant Fellowship Program (IFP) in partnership with the City of Philadelphia. The IFP provides graduates of the Welcoming Center’s International Professionals Program (IPP) valuable work experience in the United States.
In March 2019, the City of Philadelphia recognized the IFP in its Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine Year One Progress Report. Read the report here.
Carla Monoy is one of our IPP graduates who is currently in the IFP. Read her story here.
By Carla Monoy
Los Angeles was the first US city that I lived in. I was there for a little more than a year before moving to Philadelphia. My experiences with job-hunting in both cities are like night and day. I spent most of my time in LA looking for jobs by scanning through pages and pages of Google search results and sending out my resume for the handful of posts that matched my skills and interests. I conducted my job search in complete isolation – at home, by myself. Nothing came out of it. I have since realized that it was an ineffective use of my time and efforts, yet it is a very common mistake that immigrant job-seekers make.
Carla (fifth from left) and her fellow IPP participants
I had a more pleasant and productive experience in Philadelphia, largely due to the Welcoming Center for New Philadelphians. The Welcoming Center runs the International Professionals Program (IPP), an 8-week program for immigrants who have a university degree, are authorized to work in the US, and are looking for professional-level employment. Through the IPP, I learned how to write an American-style resume and cover letter, deliver an effective elevator pitch, and build a professional network – all important skills to have when looking for a job. I also did two rounds of mock interviews and went to a networking event. They were very nerve-wracking experiences but were good opportunities for me to practice what I learned in the classroom sessions. They also encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and meet new people. I met more people within the first three months of arriving in Philadelphia than in the entire year that I spent in LA. Most of those people I haven’t met again, but some have become friends that I keep in touch with until now.
“The IPP equipped me with knowledge and skills, helped me regain confidence in my professional abilities, and surrounded me with a supportive community.”
There are numerous resources for job seekers. A quick Google search can yield thousands of resume templates, videos, and lists of do’s and don’ts. There are books, workshops, and online courses. But what the IPP provided, that none of the other free and paid resources could offer, was a welcoming and supportive community of allies and friends. I was in a cohort of 11 professionals from different parts of Asia, Europe, South America, and the Middle East. We were from different cultural and professional backgrounds, with different stories of how we arrived in the US, but united in our journey of seeking gainful employment in our host country. Looking for a job is a journey filled with highs and lows, with moments of hope and rejection, and it is very comforting to know that am not alone in this. There are people around me who are going through the same thing, and we can encourage each other in times of disappointment, and celebrate together in times of success. Our volunteer resource speakers and IPP job coaches are a vital part of this community. It is encouraging to have a network of people who did not see my foreign credentials as a disadvantage but instead believed that I can make a valuable contribution to the American workforce through my international experience. The IPP equipped me with knowledge and skills, helped me regain confidence in my professional abilities, and surrounded me with a supportive community. All these combined put me in a better position to apply for jobs. The IPP was a valuable opportunity that opened the door to more and bigger opportunities.
“I encourage immigrants in Philadelphia to reach out to the Welcoming Center and ask about the various programs that they offer to the immigrant community.”
With the stark difference in my experience in the two cities, I reflect on the things that could have changed the outcome of my experience in LA for the better. I cannot turn back time, but I share these things here for those who are presently in a similar experience – an immigrant professional struggling to find employment opportunities. I encourage immigrants in Philadelphia to reach out to the Welcoming Center and ask about the various programs that they offer to the immigrant community. If you are elsewhere in the United States, seek out organizations in your area that offer similar services and participate in their programs. And more importantly, build a community that will join you in this journey. Find people that you can offer help to and seek support from. Integration into a new country through gainful employment is a journey best taken together.
About the author: Carla Monoy was born and raised in the Philippines. She has an education and employment background in plant ecology and spent several years studying tree communities in tropical forests. She is currently a fellow at the Philadelphia Water Department, through the City of Philadelphia’s Immigrant Fellowship Program.