Elevate Your Pay: An “Upskilling” Guide for Immigrants

By August 30, 2023 September 7th, 2023 uLink Blog
A woman smiles as she looks at her laptop and takes notes on a notebook while upskilling.

While many new expressions are added to the English dictionary each year, few get much mainstream media attention.

A recent one, however, is dominating the working world: upskilling

Maybe you’ve heard the word in a recent TED Talk or Forbes interview. But even if you’re unfamiliar with it, you’ll start hearing it a lot.  

At uLink, we’re very enthusiastic about upskilling, and we want to share this concept with you. 

We’re relentlessly pursuing newer and faster ways to connect people with their loved ones around the world—helping them grow professionally along the way.

In this article, we’ll tell you what upskilling is all about, discuss why it matters, and show you how to embrace its precepts and supercharge your career.

What Is Upskilling?

If this is the first time you’re hearing of upskilling, that’s okay. 

After all, it’s most often used by employers assessing internal talent and potential new hires.

While upskilling certainly has a corporate vibe, every one of us is in the process of achieving it—whether we know it or not!

Indeed, every time we read a book, take an online course, or attend a conference, we’re growing in some way. We’re learning.

That’s what upskilling is all about: acquiring new skills, broadening knowledge, and increasing our marketable value in the modern economy.

Upskilling is a declaration to the working world that humbly asserts, “I’m really good at my job, but I’m not stopping here: I’m going to get even better.”

Why Upskilling Matters

It’s no secret the workforce is getting increasingly competitive. 

In 2023, we’re not just grappling with other people: we’re staring down the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), which took away 4,000 jobs in May alone.

As many analysts suggest, we’re smack in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

That’s why upskilling is essential in our fast-paced and increasingly digital marketplace.

More than anything, upskilling is a mindset. It embraces a learning-for-life philosophy that hungers for new information, sharpened skills, and enriched perspectives.

In every industry, upskilling encourages the tenacious pursuit of excellence. That’s why nearly 70% of companies have increased their emphasis on internal skill-building since the pandemic.

Above all, upskilling can deliver very tangible results, including an increased salary. In fact, workers who pursue upskilling average $8,000 more per year than those who do not.

Upskilling vs. Reskilling 

Before we move on, let’s clarify the difference between upskilling and reskilling

While both terms obviously relate to learning new skills, they’re very different in application.

For starters, upskilling refers to developing new competencies within a chosen career path.

For example, an aspiring marketing manager might take an in-depth SEO course to increase their knowledge about listing optimization. Or, a programmer might enroll in a cloud computing class to brush up their coding expertise.

Reskilling, on the other hand, refers to a lateral move within a career or organization.

In a corporate context, for example, a retail worker may get shifted into becoming a software developer. Or, a sales team manager might transition into product development.

Here’s another way to help distinguish the two: whereas upskilling refers to a worker driving down the highway of a particular career path, reskilling would see that individual take the exit ramp to a new role (or an entirely different industry).

Professional Development Challenges (and Opportunities)

The first question asked at parties in the United States isn’t “How are you?” 

It’s “What do you do?”

But here’s the catch: what you “do” today isn’t necessarily what you’ll be doing tomorrow, let alone a year or a decade from now.

In other words, you are the architect of your own ambition.

You’re the one who can unlock your potential, and that’s why you’re investigating and expanding your talent every day—that’s why you’re upskilling.

Sure, there are obstacles along the way.

It almost always feels like there’s never enough time, money, or support to reach the next rung.

If you’re an immigrant, you have additional hurdles to clear, like cultural differences, language barriers, and a lack of recognition for foreign degrees and qualifications.

But professional development—whether it’s upskilling or reskilling—isn’t impossible for immigrants. Far from it!

In fact, nearly 44% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. While that statistic is truly impressive, it’s even more staggering when you consider that immigrants represent just 13.6% of the U.S. population.

Immigrants are leading the entrepreneurial workforce in truly remarkable ways.

Here’s another way of seeing it: the Latin root of the word “career” means “to run a course.”

That’s what you’re doing, step by step. Your career is a marathon, an extended journey that allows for perpetual growth, occasional setbacks, and ultimately, long-term success.

Stay on the path. Keep running the race.

3 Professional Development Strategies for Immigrants

Though there are no fixed rules in the working world, some tactics are time-tested.

One such strategy is the 80/20 rule, which posits that 80% of all outcomes are derived from 20% of causes.

Many sales professionals embrace this rule, as it reminds them that roughly 80% of their earnings will come from just 20% of their clientele.

Here’s why we bring this up: the 80/20 rule encourages us to stay focused on the resources we already have in our orbit, rather than pursuing new ones that could take considerable time to harvest.

In other words, make the most of the resources you have right now before you look elsewhere.

To that end, consider these professional development resources and strategies as you move forward.

1. Seek Mentorship & Coaching

We all need advice, especially in our careers. 

Whether you find them within your company, your family, or your local community, seek out a trusted mentor who can help you fulfill your potential.

A mentor is kind of like a life counselor—someone who offers guidance based on actual lived experience.

After all, why should you make mistakes when someone with more perspective could help you avoid them entirely? And it’s not just mistakes: a good mentor can help you get the results you seek faster.

As the old proverb says: “where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety.”

Free Professional Development Resource: check out Upwardly Global, a 100% free mentoring program built exclusively for recent immigrants.

2.   Join Professional Networks

Many job opportunities come via referral. In fact, employee referrals account for up to 50% of all hires!

Personal relationships are essential to career growth, and joining networks is a wonderful way to expand your professional horizons.

That’s especially true in our increasingly remote workforce, where face-to-face interactions are a luxury. 

While some networks can be found on popular social media platforms, many more are just a quick Google search away. 

Seek out opportunities to join local clubs, groups, and conferences—both within your current industry and, if you’re feeling adventurous, outside of it.

Free Professional Development Resource: having trouble finding networks in your area? Consider joining the Immiducation Network, which provides immigrants with a built-in cohort of peers, live events, online workshops, and even job opportunities.

3.   Leverage Online Learning Platforms

The digital world has unlocked a plethora of exciting educational opportunities. 

Whether you’re a coder, a creative, a copywriter, or a Constitutional scholar, you can find challenging courses online to help strengthen your skills. 

Many of the courses are free-of-charge and flexibly designed with working professionals in mind. 

In other words, you can take classes and certification courses on your own time, without infringing on your already busy schedule. 


  • Want to go the extra mile for coding and data analytics? Check out edX, which was designed by Harvard University and offers over 4,000 in-depth courses.
  • Want to master the fundamentals of digital marketing? Take Google’s masterclass for free (and earn a certificate along the way).
  • Want to dive into graphic design? Explore Coursera, which offers thousands of unique classes catered to UX designers of all experience levels. 


While there are many amazing resources to consider, Coursera might be the best place to start—whatever your interests and skills may be. 

After all, they partner with over 300 leading universities and companies to help workers upskill, reskill, and thrive in every setting. 

P.S. Want more resources on adapting to life in the United States? Be sure to check out our Comprehensive Guide to Immigrant Life in America.

Moving Forward

We truly admire your tenacity in the working world. 

While times are tough, we’re confident your work ethic—and your continuing efforts at upskilling (or reskilling!)—will yield amazing results in the near future

At uLink, we share your commitment to excellence. 

That’s why we provide great exchange rates and fees as low as $0: so you can send more money overseas than ever before. 

Miles from home—just moments away with uLink. 

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