Meet Nayla: an asylee from Tanzania who is working with employment counselors at MCC Refugee Services. Unlike some refugees, Nayla had extensive experience with formal education and employment in her home country. When she needed to come to the US, Nayla had to leave behind a thriving career and impressive credentials, including a degree and 11 years of experience as an accountant. “I decided to study accounting because I thought I could get job anywhere,” said Nayla.
Nayla worried about whether or not she’d be able to continue in her career path before she came to America to join her husband. “When I was in Tanzania, my expectation was zero [for finding a job in America]… because everything is new for me. New country, new people, new culture, new language.” She worried that employers would not recognize her university degree. “How can I express that I went to school? People didn’t know about me!”
Imagine Nayla’s relief when she discovered that she would have professional assistance in navigating the employment search after arriving in Minnesota. She chose to enroll in Employment Services with MCC Refugee Services because, “I want to be employed. You cannot live without being employed.” Nayla was open to any kind of work, but even with assistance finding work has not been easy for Nayla. As she suspected, her credentials do not transfer over easily and sometimes make her overqualified for positions.
Nayla interviewed at three different companies. When recalling this process, she explained that “interviews in Tanzania are very different.” She described a room filled with six to eight men sitting around a large panel table. Laughing, she expressed her preference for the one-on-one interview style in the US. She also explained that interview questions are different in Tanzania. Speaking of MCC Refugee Service’s Job Readiness Class, Nayla said, “That class helped me a lot. I didn’t know what I would say in an interview. For me it was very helpful.”
At Nayla’s third interview she was hired at Kohl’s for a part-time position in sales. Her first day of work was, she said, “very exciting. It is my first job history for my life in America.” She enjoys her co-workers. “[They are] very nice and not allowing me to be uncomfortable.” Although she enjoys her work at Kohl’s, she still hopes to work full-time and to go back to her profession of accounting. “It is something I know all my life.”
Many refugees and asylees navigate this complex balancing act every year. You can help encourage them along the way through practicing interview skills and talking about US employment culture as a Job Readiness Mentor. Visit our Volunteer page to learn more.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.