On the Job

Finding Work As a Non-Citizen

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By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, January 3, 2008; 6:32 PM

In the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, job searches for foreigners in the United States can be daunting, no matter how experienced one might be.

So where should a willing worker look in a sometimes uninviting employment climate?

I have been in the United States since March and have a green card; I am finding it so hard to find a job. I have a master's degree in Information Systems and a bachelor's degree in Industrial and Telecommunications Systems Engineering. The problem, of course, is that I am not an American citizen. I plan to be a U.S. citizen in two years, but in the meantime is there a sector that I should be looking at that would hire me?

Palmer Suk, the managing principal of Snelling Professional Services, a Tysons Corner job placement company, says "the green card gives him the right to work in the U.S. Being a foreign citizen should not hold him back. Other than government jobs that require citizenship, he should be able to find work. There's a lot of demand for good talent."

That said, Suk advises that this worker, in applying for jobs and touting his credentials in his resume and in interviews, should focus on his "accomplishments for previous employers, not just his skills.

"Quantify it a little bit," Suk says. "Has he increased revenues, solved a problem, instituted a program for cost savings? Push that to the forefront."

Suk says this worker has substantial marketable skills. "Every company has a technology component," he says, so this worker needs to figure out where his experience and skills might best fit, be it in the emerging Web 2.0 market, at an advanced telecommunications firm, one of numerous media companies with interactive Web sites, or some non-technology firm that needs tech help.

"He needs to find something directly transferable from his work [or school] experience" and then show a potential employer how he can help that company, Suk says.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.


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