Start your job search

Are you ready to start looking for a job? You can take steps to prepare for a successful job search, like deciding what job you want to get, gathering information, your past education, building professional references, and even considering getting your degree evaluated. Learn how to prepare your information and find out where to look for jobs.


young man with laptop by a window

The first thing you should do is start thinking about the job skills you have. What experience do you have that will help you in your job search? Can your certifications from another country be used in the United States? What days, hours, and times are you willing and able to work? Thinking about these things ahead of time will prepare you to start your job search.

Gather information for your job search

Gather together all the information you will need. You will use this information to fill out paper job applications or apply for jobs online. You will also need it to write your resume and cover letters.

Here is the information you will need to gather:

Your work history

What kind of work have you done in the past? What type 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 find work as a mechanic again. If you have worked in medicine, you can research how to get a certification.

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 know how to do. If you think about your job skills and the types of jobs you have had, you will realize that you can apply for new types of employment if you have the right skills.

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

 1. General job skills applicable to many jobs; they include being

on time, being friendly, the ability to work with other people, being able to work safely, and learning quickly. These types of skills are sometimes called “soft skills.”

2. Work-related skills include operating a forklift, measuring accurately, driving a truck, preparing legal documents, or operating software. These types of skills are sometimes called “hard skills.”

Can you apply your skills in other areas?

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 and whether you graduated.

The educational system in your native country may be different from the American system – a different number 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 jobseekers. 

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

Your training

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 activity you have taken.

Your languages

If you speak more than one language, that is an essential asset in your job search. Make sure also to write down every language you speak besides English. Do not write down English. Employers will assume you speak English from reading your resume.

Read more resume tips and download a resume template.

Professional references

Professional references are people who will say you are a good worker. 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 your overseas employer as a reference.

You can read more about professional references. You can also see and download a template for a professional reference list.

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. You will not need to include personal information such as your date of birth, age, or marital status in your resume. You might need to share that information in applications.

Read resume tips and find a resume template.

Proof that you are allowed to work

You will need to prove you are legally allowed to work in the USA. You must give your social security number to your employer. You may also have to complete a background check and prove that you have not committed any crimes.

What comes next in a job search?

Once you have gathered your information, there are other things you can do to help you in your job search.

Job search networking

It would be best to build a professional network; this means connecting with people who may give you references or help you find jobs. For example, in your first job, get to know the people who work with you when you can. They can become professional references in the future. 

You can attend job fairs in your community. Companies often hold events to tell you about their job openings, 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.

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. You can also read more about networking events.

Sign up for online job search tools

Create a professional presence online by creating a profile on job search websites. Some of the most popular job search websites are Upwork, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, SimplyHired, ZipRecruiter, USJobs, etc. You can read more about how to look for job opportunities in the United States.

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 American culture. You will also create contacts who might be able to speak on your behalf when you need a job reference.

Read more about volunteering and internship jobs.

Get your degree evaluated

You may want to consider having your degree evaluated. To do this, you submit your credentials to a transcript evaluation company. The company will look at your past education and say if your degree or certification is valid to use in the U.S. 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. Read more about how to get your foreign transcripts or diploma evaluated.