Adjusting to American culture can take a tremendous amount of focus and patience.
While adapting to the time zone, language, and behavioral norms, immigrants are also tasked with satisfying a variety of professional expectations and demands.
Though they are undoubtedly equipped for the challenge, many immigrants encounter a seemingly insurmountable hurdle: the rejection of their hard-won foreign degrees and certifications.
This challenge has led to millions of immigrants becoming both unemployed and underemployed in jobs and professions far below their qualifications. In academic circles, this underemployment phenomenon is rather crudely regarded as “brain waste.”
According to recent studies, over 2 million college-educated immigrants are currently unemployed or working jobs that don’t require more than a high school diploma.
If you are in a similar situation and are underemployed, don’t worry: there’s hope on the horizon.
By following these three tips, you can promote the value of your foreign degree and continue advancing in the American workforce.
1. Validate Your Degrees & Certifications
If you have a foreign degree or certification, you can get those credentials “validated.”
Though that may sound like mere approval, “validation” is actually the official term for the “Recognition of a foreign higher education qualification as equivalent to a bachelor’s, master’s, diploma or doctorate degree.”
In other words, this process is the translation of your foreign degree into an American certification.
Though the federal government does not manage this process, they delegate validation to two key agencies:
- The National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES), which is a conglomerate of 19 credential evaluation services. As you can see on their website, NACES works closely with individuals who completed their education abroad.
If you decide to hire their services, you’ll be able to select one of their subsidiary agencies to assess and honor your educational investment and help you prepare for your future career.
- The Association of International Credential Evaluators, Inc. (AICE), which is an association of nine credential evaluation service providers.
As shown on their website, you can view, select, and hire any of their members to evaluate your credentials.
As you compare and contrast these two providers, please note the following stipulations:
- Both NACES and AICE will charge a fee for their evaluations, though these costs are typically well worth the initial investment if they lead to gainful employment.
- Depending on the depth of your qualifications and the demands of the job to which you’ve applied, the cost and timeframe of validation often vary. In more extreme cases, the entire credentialing process can take several weeks and occasionally several months.
- Be aware that you will likely be asked to obtain English translations of any foreign language documents submitted to a credential evaluation service.
2. Pursue Industry Certifications
Countless professionals pursue new certifications and qualifications to assert their expertise.
For example, if you’re in the financial services industry and have a degree from a foreign country, you can easily become a Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®). In fact, you can enroll in this respected designation without even having an American bachelor’s degree.
Or, if you work in the world of information technology (IT) and have a foreign degree, you can take the Amazon Web Series Cloud Practitioner certification. This also doesn’t require an American degree as a prerequisite.
Across all industries, such certifications are now the norm. Simply run a quick Google search to identify appealing opportunities in your line of work.
At the end of the day, your combination of a foreign degree and domestic certifications may be hard to beat!
3. Become A Thought Leader
Few things in life are as democratic as the internet. Just ask any of the countless trending TikTok stars and YouTube hosts dominating the digital airwaves.
To that end, you might also consider pursuing avenues that establish you as a thought leader in your field.
Though that may sound rather overwhelming, it’s relatively easy to achieve. All you have to do is create a personal website (like on SquareSpace), start a blog (on Medium, for example), create a YouTube channel, or provide short-and-sweet insights and content curation on Twitter.
Make no mistake: the aim here isn’t to become famous (although that obviously has its own perks). Instead, the real focus is to leverage your expertise into visibility in the online world, and to make yourself a known quantity.
After all, interested employers will almost certainly Google you to get more information than your resume alone can provide. In fact, 80% of employers admit to looking up candidates online.
By positioning yourself as a subject-matter expert (SME), you’ll help guide the conversation beyond the stale limitations of where you received your college degree.
That’s the beauty of social media: it helps people see you, not just your profession.
Though American employers may not immediately recognize your alma mater, your foreign degree has significant value.
By validating your degrees, you’ll be in a great position to win the coveted job opportunities a professional of your caliber truly deserves.
Plus, by continuing to earn certifications (and establishing yourself as a thought leader in the digital economy), you’ll confidently assert an even larger truth: that your expertise and learning have continued far beyond the date on your diploma.
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