Lara Kapovic is our neighbor from Croatia who has a two-year experience with the Work and Travel program. She recently had her article published about the so-called Generation Y, which she is a part of, that helped her find her way through traveling and that helped her find herself during the program (open the following link at the end of the article). Here you can read what she wrote for us and find out what is the best way to get a good job in the US- which is currently one of the most popular topics.
They often asked me how I got several job offers and they had sent 500-600 e-mails and they got no answer… It is true that you cannot easily find a job in America, even the seasonal one, like before, especially taking into account the fact that you are searching for it on the Internet, miles away from America, and Americans prefer personal contact. In spite of that, Work and Travel program is very well-known and most employers are familiar with it since they can pay our students the minimal wage, and they work much harder than Americans who are usually dissatisfied with these kinds of jobs, wages and are often very lazy. Several times I heard employers, restaurant managers with whom I worked praise international students (especially Serbs who are extremely hard-working and responsible), so you have an advantage over others at the very beginning.
Now, the only question left to answer is how to get the desired job?
The first thing you should ask yourself is whether you are okay with being in any part of America or you have a specific state and location in mind. If you do not mind, then it is much easier- you have more choice. If you have a specific city in mind, which is usually New York things get harder, but not impossible. You have to realize that NYC is the city half the size of the Balkans and that employers choose workers every day so they are not really enthusiastic about responding to questions of some Serb or Croat, they are not even sure which part of Europe these countries are (or are they even in Europe?).
In such situations advice is everything you need! Look for it, dig out some information, find someone who has already worked in New York, and who is willing to give you the employer’s name or even better recommend you to them (believe me, this is the most effective way, connections do not only work on the Balkans). It is really important to get the job offer even if you are not very satisfied with the job description or whatever it is you are dissatisfied with on that job, when you get there, you can easily find a second job, you just have to check your agency’s rules regarding that- some of them can ask of you to spend a few weeks on your first job, some of them can ask of you to pay for the job change, in any case, check that before you choose the agency.
I looked for jobs through the website J1 jobs, my agency’s platform, and like that I looked through the pages of certain restaurants and sent them my questions (no matter if they had an open position or not). I wanted to go to some tourist place on the ocean, with bonfires and marshmallows every night since I wanted to earn as much as possible and to spend as little as I could just so that I could travel for a month after the program, go shopping, etc. Other people wanted different things, someone just wants to live in New York and they do not care about traveling afterwards so if you want such things then you should only focus on that particular city.
How to write a really interesting resume (CV)?
To put it bluntly, just LIE! Okay, okay, okay… don’t take this too literally, I am not saying you should write that you speak Spanish fluently, and all you can say in Spanish is Hola and tu madre es tu Hermana. Not that kind of lying. But you can definitely exaggerate some things and experiences. Because nothing you will be doing there is not going to be anything scientific, you can learn everything.
No experience from home will prepare you 100% for what you will encounter in the US, they want to see that you are ready to work hard, that you are responsible, that you already had a job (this is really important because Americans start working at the age of 16, so in your resume do not leave out any job that you have ever had, especially the ones related to hospitality services).
You handed out some leaflets? Just write Customer Service Agent. You worked as a hostess one evening in some bar in Pristina doing the Jelen Party? Just write worked in hospitality service (every now and again slip in the word agent or manager, since every other waiter is some kind of a manager there). The only thing that I would stress is English language, since it is really important to them. It is important to be proficient in English if you want to get a better job (jobs at which you have to talk to the guests- waiter, bartender, those are best paid with a bunch of tips), so if you have any experience as a bartender and you are proficient in English- do not worry, just stick to your story and you will be interesting to them because you are different, you have an accent and therefore you are exotic.
If you do not speak English fluently and the biggest contact with bartending is pouring drinks to your friends at some party, do not despair. You will find a job that suits you, not working as a bartender or a waiter, but you will find it. I had a few friends from Serbia that did not speak fluent English (hi Bora) but they managed to get noticed and their bosses loved them because they were hard-working.
The third step is to try to personalize your emails. I know, it is the hardest thing to do, since you are sending hundreds of emails and you do not feel like changing the name of the restaurant and your story so the majority of you just write a generic email and sends it to a bunch of addresses. That is not good. Okay, you will definitely send some of those too, but try to write emails for the jobs you care about something you know about them – you can write that you really want to work for them because you heard from this or that person that they are really good employers, or that you really like their style/offer or whatever. You get the point, make it personal.
You will probably send hundreds of emails and you will surely be a little desperate at times, because you cannot wait to get any job offer. You have to be cautious and smart. I say that because you can apply for different kinds of jobs, often not even knowing who that employer is or someone else can bump into your email if you announced on some page that you are looking for a job, etc. What can happen is that you get a job offer that seems a little too suspicious.
I have an example of this kind. I received an e-mail from a company that does door-to-door magazine sale. They explained to me that it is such a great job since you travel across the US and they pay you for it, you sleep at a five-star hotels and work just a few hours a day selling magazines for a great wage. Just forget about such job offers! Not now, but yesterday. You forgot about them. If you still think that that would be a great job, do yourself a favor and Google beforehand.
That would be it- a couple of pieces of advice from your neighbor from Croatia who went through all of that couple of years ago. Just be courageous because that would turn out to be an adventure and experience of a lifetime, and I think that I did not hear anyone complain that they regretted going in the first place and said that they should have just stayed in Croatia, Serbia, or where else during the summer. Good luck!
A reminder of the text that Lara wrote about the Work and Travel program, traveling and Generation Y.
This post is also available in: RS