Career success is the “golden egg” for so many immigrants and internationals who commit their lives to “making it” in the United States. As a child immigrant of parents who gave up a comfortable life in Taiwan to pursue the American Dream, I know the intensity of an immigrant’s desire for career success, for themselves and for their children. Career success was not only for the sake of the individual or immediate family, but a face-saving requirement for their larger social network, in the US and back in their native country.
But career success for many immigrant and international professionals can be elusive. They feel they work incredibly hard, some even get more degrees, only to find their advancement limited. They know they are the trusted and reliable employees in their organization, but many feel they are overlooked when it’s time for recognition and promotions.
As a career and leadership development coach, I see their incredible yearning to succeed in America. I see their desire to understand “how” they can make it here. How do they interact socially with Americans? How can they make a strong impression at work or in interviews? How can they be noticed and respected?
Of the many things that can help these immigrant and international persons succeed, it’s clear to me that there are a few musts. I’ve seen it time and again. Here they are:
1) You must know your specific goal and be willing to do what is socially necessary
2) You must recognize your gifts and talents and be willing to publicize it to the people who matter, your boss and senior managers
3) You must take full responsibility of your career and not wait for others to bestow you with recognition and promotions
America is a country who respects self-made success stories. Just look at “American Idol”. It rewards people who are willing to stand out and say “Look at me! I’m great! I deserve a chance”. In so many cultures around the world, this behavior is highly discouraged. They respond to personal promotion with “how dare you? Who do you think you are?” Standing out to be noticed is a social taboo, a sign of an “uncultured” person. Talent is to be seen, found and appreciated over time.
But to succeed in the US, you must be willing to develop another way of seeing yourself and the world around you. You have the opportunity to celebrate your unique talents and accomplishments. You have the opportunity to embrace your passions. You have the opportunity to express your pride publicly for all that you have done. Letting others know about your accomplishment is not optional for success, it’s critical. It’s the only way American culture notices success. Otherwise, you become almost invisible to the people who make decisions about your professional future.
Next time your manager says, “how are things going?”, try responding with, “Things are very good. In fact, I want to tell you about significant progress I made on…”
In America, if you want a successful career, you must be willing to recognize your uniqueness and your capability. You must proudly let the world know. Be open to respecting and celebrating all your wonderful accomplishment.
You want career success? I dare you!