Start your job search

Are you ready to start looking for a job? There are things you can do to prepare for the process. Learn what information you need to prepare. Read about what activities can make it easier to find a job.

man filling out an application for his job search

Where to start

The first thing you should do is start thinking about the job skills you have. What kind of work and activities have you done in the past that can help you in your career search? Can the certifications you have be used in the USA? This will help you know what kind of jobs you may have the most success finding now.

Information you will need for your career search

Gather together all the information you will need for your career search and write it down. You will use this information to fill out job applications, and write cover letters, and your resume.

Your work history

What kind of work have you done in the past? What kind of job skills do you have? Answering these questions will help you know what type of jobs you can apply for in the United States. For example, if you worked as a mechanic in the past, you may be able to find work as a mechanic again. If you worked in medicine, you may need to research how to get a certification or think about going back to school.

Write down all of your past jobs and any work experience you have. Make a list of information for each job you have done, including:

  • The city and country where you worked
  • The company name
  • The type of work you did
  • Your responsibilities on the job
  • When you started and ended the job
  • How much you were paid
  • Why you left the job

Your work skills

Your skills are anything you do well. For example, if you speak more than one language, that is an important skill in the workplace. If you think about your job skills as well as the types of jobs you have had, you can apply for new types of jobs because you can show you have the skills.

Think about your skills in two areas, and write them down:

 1. General job skills are ones that apply to many jobs. They include things like being
on time, being friendly, the ability to work with other people, being able to work safely and
being able to learn quickly. These types of skills are sometimes called “soft skills” because you
don’t need to go to school to learn them.

2. Work-related skills include things such as being able to operate a forklift, measure
accurately, drive a truck, prepare legal documents or operate software. These types of skills are
sometimes called “hard skills” because you need to go through formal education or training to get

Think about a mechanic again: a mechanic has the skills of measuring accurately and using tools safely. These are job skills that are needed in other jobs, too. For example, you can use these job skills in construction and even cooking.

Your past education

You will need to give information about your educational background. This includes names and locations of schools you attended, start and finish dates, whether you graduated, and any special training you have done.

The educational system in your native country may be different from the one in the US. Different countries have different numbers of grades to complete high school, for example. The university system may have different levels of achievement than those you will find here. Sometimes you will have to “fit” your information into documents that are designed for native-born American job-seekers. 

You might have gone to a school that was famous or hard to get into. Make sure to write that under the school’s name on the resume. You can say something like, “The Technological Institute of the Philippines is considered one of the best schools in the country.”

Even if you did not finish high school or go to college, you should include any other training you have completed when you list your past education. For example, many refugees have taken leadership classes or community health training in camp or after resettlement. You should write down any training you have taken.

Make sure to also write down every language you speak. Your ability to speak more than one language can be a very important skill during your career search. 

Getting your degree evaluated

You may want to consider having your degree evaluated by World Education Services. This is an organization that will look at your past education and will explain what is similar to in America. This service can sometimes be expensive. Most employers will not ask for an evaluation. It is best to wait until you learn if this is common for the jobs you are looking for.

Your contact information

You will need to know all of your contact information, including how to format your first, middle and last names in applications, your phone number, address, and email address. In your resume, you will not need to include personal information such as your date of birth, age, or marital status. You might need to share that information in applications.

Proof you are allowed to work in the USA

You will need to give information about your eligibility to work in the US. This means you have to prove you are legally allowed to work. You will need to give your social security number to your employer. You may also have to complete a background check and prove to your employer you have not committed any crimes in the US.

Information about what hours and days you can work

Write down what days, hours, and times you are willing to work. For example, can you work at night? Can you work on the weekends? If you need to, are you willing to travel for work?

Professional references

Professional references are people who will say you are a good worker. In the US, your job references are usually people you have worked with or worked for in the past. It can be hard to supply references when you first arrive. Maybe most or all of your past job references are in another country. You can use an overseas reference if your reference and your employer can speak the same language. If your reference speaks English and your employer speaks English, or if they both speak Somali, you may be able to use them as a reference.

References from overseas

Your employer might accept a job reference who lives outside of the US. But it will help you to have people in the US who can recommend you for a job – for example, someone you know from volunteering. If you have no one else, you can ask a case manager or mentor to be your reference. Usually, you cannot use friends or family as job references for work.

Whoever you use for a reference, you will need to provide their full name, job title, employer, phone number and email address. You will also have to say your relationship with them. You can find a template for your references on our website. Remember to replace the information you find on the template with your own information. If you need fewer references than there is on the template, you can remove those you do not need.

You can download a Word template of a reference list. When you click on the link, the document will go to your downloads folder.

Job networking

It is important that you build a professional network This means connecting with people who may give your references or help you find jobs. In your first job, for example, get to know the people who work with you when you can. 

You can attend job fairs in your community. Companies often hold events where they can tell you about the job openings they have, the kind of employee they are looking for, and how you can apply. When going to a job fair, make sure you bring copies of your resume with you. Introduce yourself to the representatives of the companies you like, explain what type of job you are looking for, and give them your information.

Sign up for online job search tools

Create a professional presence online by creating a profile on job search websites. The most popular tools for your career search include LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Idealist.

Join volunteer efforts

When you have time, volunteer at a local organization. You will be able to use your skills or develop new ones while you help others. The skills you gain will benefit you in your career search, and you will have the chance to learn more about US culture. You will also create contacts who might be able to speak on your behalf when you need a job reference.

You can find networking events in your area by visiting the Facebook events page, checking LinkedIn for upcoming networking opportunities, or signing up for updates on Eventbrite and Meetup.

Learn more

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