Gabriela is an international accompanying spouse from Argentina. She came to the United States a few years ago with her husband, a postdoc at an American university. In Argentina, she worked as an online marketing specialist. She is now an Account Executive at an American company, helping them expand their footprint in Latin America.
I interviewed Gabriela about her job search during the pandemic. Here’s her story.
Tell me about your process of finding work in the U.S. What were your main challenges?
My main challenge was not having a network. You don’t know anyone, and nobody knows you and how you work.
Another challenge was that even though I work in an industry that is known worldwide, the main topics in an industry are different from region to region. Things that I thought were “hot” topics in my home country are different from what companies or advertisers think are important here. So, you need to understand and update the hot topics for your profession in the region or city you want to work.
Lastly, a challenge for me was learning how to sell myself. How you engage in an interview here is culturally really different compared to in Argentina.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I studied for a one-year certification in marketing at a university extension program. It was great because you can meet other people who are facing the same challenges you’re facing, so you have a community. It also helps you make new friends in the area. In addition, you get practice in public speaking and meet professors who can give you a recommendation for your LinkedIn profile and advise you on how things are going in the industry.
I also took workshops on “How to Write an American Resume” and “How to Toot Your Own Horn” and went to a few meetups on resume-writing.
Another very valuable resource was joining Facebook groups for women professionals in my industry. Women are very supportive to each other no matter where you are. You can send your resume to someone and they can give you feedback for free. They can tell you what the main challenges are in your industry, which companies are hiring, share contacts, tell you where to go to find more news or information. It’s a very open environment with people who understand your profession.
What job search strategies did you use?
I used LinkedIn and other listings such as Glassdoor and Indeed. LinkedIn was the best and most reliable source. You can get good information about the company, see trends and find out if the company is growing. I checked a company’s reputation on Glassdoor. It’s important to apply to jobs that are a good match for your background and experience. I applied to many jobs. It took me about 2.5 months to get an offer, which I got in May. I now work for a mobile marketing company, doing business development and account management for their Latin American territory.
How was the interview process? What questions did you find the most difficult?
The process took a month. I had three screening calls and later with four virtual interviews in a row with different people. I prepared a “pitch,” which is common here but not as common in Argentina.
“Tell me about yourself “was the most difficult question. What did people want me to say? Should I talk about my resume, my hobbies? I was tempted to start with explaining that I’m from Argentina but decided it’s not the best place to start. Your nationality is not the only thing that defines you so don’t start at the beginning with this topic. You need to know how to sell yourself besides talking about your nationality.
Some people might think that not having American work experience is a drawback. I turned not being from here, or not having experience here, into a valuable and unique asset. I included part of my personal experience in my cover letter. In addition to talking about my previous experience, I explained in the last paragraph that I’m from Argentina and that I’m multicultural. I talked about how my experience working in emerging markets could have value. I explained that I’m unique because I can work in different environments, and that I can add diversity and a different perspective.
I think that deciding to leave a great job in Argentina and having another life experience is a risk that not everyone is willing to take. This is a valuable skill. It showed that I’m willing to take risks and step outside my comfort zone.
It’s also important to recognize your limitations. It’s obvious I’m not American. I can’t fake that. You’re not going to hire me because I’m American. If you’re looking for that, you’re not my company. But if you really want someone different who can offer a different value, maybe I can give you things that you don’t have now.
Is there anything that you wish you had known at the beginning of your job search that you know now?
Yes. Don’t say “we did.” Say “I did.”
Be patient. It’s going to take time. Don’t worry about rejections. It’s not about you. There are many great people here applying to jobs. Be resilient. Keep learning. There’s a place for everyone. Keep going!