The 5 best job hunting tips from immigrant women, for immigrant women

Written by Daria Kurdyukova

Panelists from left to right: NWNY founder Arielle Kandel, Sojourn Wei, Akua Adu-Boahene, Lucy Chan, Gwen Shufro, and Jerin Arifa.

On May 2, New Women New Yorkers hosted a roundtable discussion featuring five women guest speakers at the Mid-Manhattan Library. The panelists — professionals in different industries — addressed an audience made up of participants from the LEAD program, NWNY’s free workforce development program for young immigrant women.

The guest speakers included Jerin Arifa, originally from Bangladesh, an award-winning community organizer and communications specialist and Founder and President of the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) inaugural virtual chapter; Gwen Shufro, director of the Nonprofit Board Leadership Program (NBLP) at the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School; Lucy Chan, born in Hong Kong in a refugee family, who came to the US as a young woman and worked at IBM for more than three decades; Akua Adu-Boahene, a strategy and management consultant originally from Ghana, working with medical communications agency Prime Global; and Sojourn Wei, from China, who is an account manager at a fund administrator.


The five guest speakers pose for a photo with NWNY volunteers and LEAD program attendees.

While listening to the panelists talk about their immigration and work experience, each of the LEAD participants attending the roundtable had the same goals in mind: Find encouragement and a boost of confidence during the job search process while also gaining an understanding of how to succeed as a professional in the US.

Here are five of the speakers’ key pieces of advice.

1. Find confidence through support.
“I don’t allow anybody to not help me to be a better person,” says Arifa. “It means that my friends are not discouraging, not negative, not unfriendly. Their energy is important. If they are in my life, they should be lifting me up. It’s the same for my family members.”

2. Networking is essential.
Each of the panelists shared tips about how important it is to network while trying to find a job and contacts in New York. Wei recommends: “Think of the person you meet as someone who could become your friend (…) Think about the long term, not only about the job.”

3. Build relationships.
“The goal [at networking events] is to connect with somebody and build the relationship and follow up,” says Wei. And Chan agrees: “If you send an email to someone, try to build some personal relationship, and get attention this way. And ask something small and simple.”

4. Prepare for job interviews
“Write down all your accomplishments — not only the jobs you had and what you’ve studied at school, but also all the programs and volunteer positions you’ve participated in. Craft a story for each of your accomplishments using the PAR model: Problem – Action – Results,” says Shufro. “This helps you prepare for interviews, and makes you more confident and stronger.” Adu-Boahene also added that reading a book and a blog, and meeting and talking with people at networking events can all be part of preparing for a job interview. Being able to talk about things beyond the position description and what makes you a good candidate can make you outshine the competition.

5. Connect with people who inspire you
“Look for inspirations: Meet people who can inspire you to move on and create something beautiful,” says Chan. “Think about the imagination and possibilities.”

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