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Landing a Job during the Pandemic: Gabriela’s Story


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!

Finding A Job in America: Laura’s Story


Laura Grau[dropcap]L[/dropcap]aura is from Barcelona, Spain and is 37 years old.  She first came to the US with her boyfriend three years ago. When she arrived, she was holding a fellowship that allowed her to work in the communications department at the Advanced Light Source in the Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBL).  After that, she returned to Barcelona for 4 months and decided to come back to Berkeley to do a masters in Project Management. As soon as she finished her masters, her boyfriend and she decided to get married so that she could stay in the US. Her husband is a postdoc at UC Berkeley. 

I interviewed Laura about her job search and how she got her first job in America. Here’s her story.

What was your professional background before you came to the U.S. and how did you conduct your job search here in the San Francisco Bay Area?

In Barcelona, I worked for 6 years as an event manager in a research center and I wanted to further my career in the US. It took me more than half a year to find a position. It was harder than I thought it would be. During that time, besides spending lots of hours every day in front of my computer searching for a position and getting ready for interviews, I took advantage of all the opportunities that are offered here in the Bay Area: English classes, workshops and courses at UC Berkeley, the program English in Action, Berkeley Toastmasters, informational interviews, movie clubs, etc.

Where are you working, what does the organization do, and what is your current position? How long have you been there?

One month ago, I started working at OWASP  (the Open Web Application Security Project) as a Global Event Manager. The OWASP is a worldwide not-for-profit charitable organization focused on improving the security of software. Its mission is to make software security visible so that individuals and organizations worldwide can make informed decisions about true software security risks.  Everyone is free to participate in OWASP and all of its materials are available under a free and open software license.

How did you find this job and how long did it take?  How was looking for a job here different from looking for a job in Spain?

I found this position through LinkedIn, but I also used other resources to search for a position. I regularly checked UC Berkeley Jobs, UCSF careers, Glassdoor, Careerbuilder, Monster, etc.  I subscribed to some career websites so that every day I would receive e-mails advertising positions for event managers.

The first thing I did was to write a resume in “the American way.” I asked for advice from some Americans to make sure it was all right! Apart from that, I wouldn’t say the process would have been different if I had been in Spain. However, for me, the interviewing process was hard. I felt frustrated after every interview I did because I am not a native English speaker and I can’t express myself as I do in my own language.

What was the most difficult interview question you were asked? 

Once I was asked what my communication strategy was in my previous job. To me it is funny how some interviewers use grandiloquent expressions. He just wanted to know how and how often I communicated with my team. Apart from that, the questions are more or less always the same and the more common job interview questions can easily be found on the internet.

Given that you’re from another country and didn’t have American work experience, how were you able to sell yourself to your employer and get hired?

OWASP is a foundation that involves people from all over the world. A couple of months ago they were looking for a Global Event Manager able to organize conferences across the five continents. I don’t know much about selling myself, and actually I don’t like doing it. I know that there are plenty of people out there very well prepared to do what I do, but I also know that I am a very good Event Manager, I have six years experience, and I enjoy doing my job.  I think that was enough for them to see me as a good match for the organization.

What is one thing that you wish you had known at the beginning of your job search that you know now?

I wish I would have known that it would be such a long process. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten so frustrated during those months.

What advice would you give to other spouses who are looking for employment in the U.S.? 

What worked for me was not ever losing hope, and being open-minded about other things I could do while looking for a job. There are plenty of good opportunities out there! It is not only about finding a position, but enjoying the learning process!


Getting a Job in America – A UC Berkeley Spouse from Portugal Shares Her Story


Patricia is an international spouse from Portugal who is currently living in Berkeley while her husband does a post-doc at UC Berkeley. In this interview, Patricia talks about getting a job and describes what it has been like for her to work for an American company.

Briefly describe who you are, where you’re from, why you’re here and for how long, and what your professional background was before you came to the U.S.

I’m Patricia from Portugal and I’ve been living in Berkeley for 1 year and 7 months. Before I lived and worked in Barcelona for a licensing company for over 3 years in the Product Development Department. I decided to move to USA together with my husband when he got the chance to do his post-doc at UC Berkeley. We both thought it was a great opportunity in a great university we couldn’t say no. At the same time it was a tough decision to leave all friends and family behind but when you travel together with someone you love everything is just easier. We initially came for 1 year and decided to take advantage of everything to make this experience very valuable for both of us.

Where are you working, what does the organization do, and what is your current position? How long have you been there?

I am currently working as Project Marketing Manager at a confectionary company in the Bay Area. I’ve been there for a year and a half and fortunately I can tell this has been a great true to life American experience. I’m essentially responsible for new product development, social media and launch of online campaigns.  Since I’m the only foreigner working at the corporate office, this experience has been a real challenge and is helping me grow as a professional.

How did you find this job and how long did it take? (i.e. What methods did you use to conduct your job search? Which were the most effective? Least effective?)

Even before getting my work permit which took about 2 months, I start looking for jobs. I tried not to be too narrow on my search as I knew I was in disadvantage comparing with an American native. Unfortunately we all know companies try to invest on their employees to keep them as long as possible and for non residents this may be the biggest obstacle. Here we are temporary employees waiting for someone to give us a chance to prove what we professionally capable of. From my experience applying to offers through recruiting agencies was more effective than directly to the companies. Surprisingly it wasn’t me finding the job but the recruiting agency finding my resume online.  It took me over 2 months to find this job. Besides applying for existing offers, I also did spontaneous applications. It is important to adapt your CV to the standard resume. Talking with career centers or even asking American friends/colleagues for advice will help you get your resume done.

What is one thing that you wish you had known at the beginning of your job search that you know now?

Now I understand how important it is to mention you’re authorized to work in the USA on your resume to keep you on the candidate’s selection, since it’s very unlikely that a company will sponsor a working visa.

Given that you’re from another country and didn’t have American work experience, how were you able to sell yourself to your employer and get hired?

Essentially you have to be honest and try to best communicate your international experience. It took me lot of interviews to gain experience and confidence on myself so I was able to mention the highlights from my previous experiences. It takes time for us to understand how things work so you better go to as many interviews as you can even if they don’t perfectly match with your profile.  Additionally, here interviewees perform in a very different way – you have to be really self confident on your statements. Takes a lot of work even more when you’re not used to act like that but that’s how it works here.  Having worked with other international companies around the world (including USA) had helped me on my application. At the end it wasn’t the first time I was contacting with this market. 

What have you learned about the American workplace from your experience at your job?

Here I found a more organized, responsible and proactive environment when compared with the European companies I’ve worked for. It’s also a very competitive workplace, even internally, which motivates you give your best. There’s no time to stop – time is money! A quick lunch or even a meeting/lunch is quite common and help you keep moving. Also there’s a great sense of punctuality so you better watch the clock.

In order for you to be successful in your organization, what is necessary? (i.e. what qualities/skills does your employer value?)

In my case you need lot of good communication skills to be able to present your proposals and convince your colleagues of a great idea. A lot of planning, proactivity, attention to detail and organization mixed with politeness are also very important skills for my position.

What advice would you give to other spouses who are looking for employment in the U.S.?

Immediately apply for the work permit and start looking for jobs when you get to USA as it may take longer than expected, post your resume in LinkedIn as well as the different job search websites as Monster or Career Building, let people know you’re actively looking for a job and organize yourself with a daily plan for your job search. If you try hard, one day you’ll make it.