Irene (second from right) with fellow IPP graduates.
In January I started the International Professionals Program (also known as IPP). Even though I have work experience, university degrees and full work authorization without need future sponsorship, it has been hard for me finding a job in my field. After three years in the United States (two of those as a student), I realized that I must ask for help, and through my friends of Casa de Venezuela, I reached the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. Here, my employment journey began!
But first, what is the IPP? The IPP is an amazing initiative of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians funded by Philadelphia Works Inc. The program’s goal is helping newcomers who have a foreign university degree, work authorization and a high English level to build the necessary skills to find professional employment in the United States. Believe me; everything is different than in our countries.
When I came to the United States I thought that finding a job in my field would be easy. The reality slammed my face: is not easy, even if you have enough qualifications. You need to understand how this process goes. Cover letters, achievement-oriented resume, elevator pitch, behavioral questions, were unknown things for me until I started the program. After nine weeks of training, I do know how to write and tailor my resume depending on the position that I am applying, also talk more naturally about my strengths and my work experience and last but not least, the importance of building a strong network.
I experienced a confidence boost, (the more than I knew the better I felt) because I discovered that more of the rejections were not because of me, my experience or my English. Most of them were because I did not have (for that moment) a resume with a consistent format. That made sense, as soon as I knew that the recruiters spend an average of 30 seconds looking at an application, so you have a very little time to make a good “digital” impression.
Talking about networking, there are so many people out there willing to help, you only need to ask for it. If in the beginning, the people you met do not belong to your field, do not think that you wasted your time: they can introduce you to others who belong. In my first networking event, I felt like a fish out of water. In the second event, everything changed; I spoke to several people and passed out my business cards. I talked about general topics and my experience (professional and personal) in the United States.
My piece of advice: do not be afraid to speak and ask questions. You should focus on the right people (those who provide feedback), offer support (please, do not start a relationship asking for a job) and why not, introduce people to create a win-win situation.
It is important to mention that you are not by yourself. You will have an employment coach who will be by your side after the program ends. I find this very useful because you can check your progress in your job search, correct mistakes (if any), ask for career advice and prepare an action plan for your career path. Besides, in the coaching sessions, you strengthen the subjects learned during the training.
However, more important than the knowledge that I have gained is the people that I have met. I truly enjoyed my training. It helped me to discover skills that I did not know that I have and re-discover ones that I thought lost in this resettlement process. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart to my program colleagues for all their support during the job seeking process, good vibes and caring. We are amazing guys, and I do know that our dream job is close. And finally, thanks to the talented Welcoming Center staff and specifically the IPP team and volunteers: without all your dedication this would not be possible. You are making a difference, and this means a lot to all of us!
If you have any questions about the International Professionals Program or are interested in being part of the next cohort, please call at 215.557.2626 or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This could be the gateway to your future! More info: https://welcomingcenter.org/ipp
Picture: Irene (center) speaking at a panel about immigration
“I will always be a Latina. Spanish is my first language. But now I take the best of both places. Now at the table, we have both cheesesteaks and arepas.” @irebabe #WelcomingWorks pic.twitter.com/i8xZOMK1tk— Welcoming Center PA (@welcomingcenter) May 22, 2018