Ben Goebel

Guest commentator: Ben Goebel, Program Manager – IPP, The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians @welcomingcenter

How can young leaders do their part in embracing immigrant talent into the city’s professional spaces and networks?

Finding a job is tough. For everyone. But it’s especially hard for those who have immigrated to the city. Numerous immigrants come to Philadelphia as adults, leaving a thriving professional career in their home countries. When they arrive here, they have to face many barriers to their everyday lives such as understanding and being understood in English, understanding the U.S. bureaucracy, and the need to sustain themselves.

Most of them do not come here with enough resources to live months without a job; this is why you end up being served coffee by an engineer or driven around by an accountant. And with all of this going on, they still are hoping to find a job that matches their skills. But it’s tough. Most of the skills you need to navigate the U.S. job market are different than in other countries.

Back when I was in France, I had to include my picture, my marital status, and my hobbies in my resume. And it is the same in many countries. Imagine the face of an American recruiter when they receive such a resume. It’s not enough to just translate the resume you used in your home country, but there’s additional information you need to learn.

Just like the importance of networking, there are differences in job interview skills and the U.S. workplace culture. This is why the program I work for, the International Professionals Program, exists. This is why, when you hear someone struggling in English, you shouldn’t judge them; judge them for the efforts they are making and for the effort and the courage you need to start everything all over again in a new country.

This is why we need the business community of Philadelphia to be more aware of the talented immigrants which are right here. To reach this goal, the Welcoming Center, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Workforce Development, launched the “Engaging Immigrant Talent” initiative. We are looking to identify and promote best practices among employers and HR professionals who are investing in Philadelphia’s immigrant talent. This goal of the initiative is to advance immigrant workforce integration, at all skill and education levels and across industry sectors. It builds on the existing citywide workforce strategy that aims to prepare Philadelphians for today’s jobs and tomorrow’s economy. It is supported by a $242,000 grant from the World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund.

As young professionals, we can also do our part in being open to share our networks to immigrant professionals. Also, we can remind ourselves that if it is hard to thrive in the U.S. as an immigrant professional, imagine how difficult it is for immigrants who are not working in a professional space. To learn more about the initiative or to get involved, please visit our website.