Dear Potential Employer:
If you’re reading this, you are likely looking for someone to join your team. You’re bound to be searching for a candidate who is hard-working, dependable, and has the exact skills you’re looking for. You’re also bound to be looking for someone who is American.
Allow me to introduce myself, the three-out-of-fourer.
I’m a college graduate, holding two degrees. I’ve worked mostly in a communications capacity and, since completing my B.A. in 2011, have accrued some solid in-house public relations experience. For the past two years, I have been a master’s student in New York University’s Public Relations and Corporate Communication program. Alongside this, I have volunteered for non-profits in a communications capacity and have acted as a consultant for small businesses.
Since my graduation in May, I’ve spent the majority of my time writing and rewriting covering letters. I’ve scoured job websites for entry-level public relations positions; places that will allow me to use my writing skills, while contributing and continuing to grow as a communicator. I rigorously prepare for my interviews: I research thoroughly (to the point where I feign a modicum of ignorance in interviews so not to terrify potential employers) and I ask intelligent questions.
So, why haven’t I been hired? Time and again, my nationality has stood in the way. I’m British and currently in New York City on Optional Practical Training, a clause of my student visa that allows me to seek employment until February of next year. When my OPT ends, however, I will require sponsorship in order to remain in the country and continue my work. This is the time in the conversation where I can pinpoint the interviewer being turned off; their eyes glaze over, their body language shifts, and a line is struck through my name on a mental list. Sometimes the “will you require sponsorship?” question is asked at the end of the conversation. Sometimes it’s asked at the beginning, the charade of the interview then continued out of polite obligation. Neither is preferable to the other.
I understand why the “visa issue” is daunting, it’s an unnecessary cost, paired with seemingly unwanted baggage. Despite the preordained ideas, however, I can assure you that it’s anything but negative – and the process of hiring a foreigner is entirely worth it. Why? Because the visa “issue” represents a journey and a set of staunch values: an intrinsic courage, a native curiosity, and a social mettle earned through carving out a place in a new city, on a new continent.
- Foreign perspectives bring ideas and insight which can lead to opportunity.
- International candidates come with an uncommon level of resourcefulness and devotion, becoming dependent on their employers after moving across continents.
Admittedly, ignoring the obvious, there are a few downsides to being foreign in an American job market. Due to the employment restrictions placed on me by my student visa while I was studying, it’s possible that I don’t meet all of your experience criteria. Even taking into account my somewhat-lengthy employment history, I am still relatively green. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have professional experience PR, however. I do, and it’s arguably substantial for an entry-level candidate. It just means that there are gaps in my repertoire where I haven’t yet turned theory into practice.
It’s this which brings me to the point of this open letter. I wanted to ask a question of you, prospective employer. Should I smooth over my rougher edges and minimize my so-called gaps?
Being a communicator, I have become adept at altering my writing style to package information in ways that appeal to, and resonate with, target audiences. Basing my decisions on advice from professors and peers – those who have already succeeded in making the jump between school and employment – I have used this skill to craft my resume and covering letters.
I have read countless articles from those within the HR field: How to Write the Perfect Covering Letter, 8 Tips for a Standout Resume, The Biggest Mistakes Job Seekers Make. Every time, the suggestion is made for me to gloss over the areas in which I am lacking. If this is what you want me to do, I can continue to be a little avatar of success, but I suspect that’s not really what you want and it’s certainly not what’s going to make me stand out. It just isn’t a realistic interpretation of who I am.
I can showcase my GPA (3.93, by the way), or frame my history in such a way that makes it sound like my volunteer roles are the New York equivalent of digging wells in Peru, but that’s uninspired and inauthentic. In truth, I’m bored with writing the same covering letter as everyone else and I’m bored of portraying myself in a calculated, flavorless way; as if I have been photoshopped to be at my most agreeable. If you’ll let me, I’d love to show you more than simply my ability to fit a pre-approved mold or my deftness for lexical camouflage.
So: if you have received an unapologetically honest covering letter, which has led you here, let this serve as an explanation. If you haven’t, let this provide insight into who I am as a person (but not so much that you find yourself not needing to meet me or wanting to look at my résumé).
And, if you interpret any of the above as presenting an imperfect candidate, or someone unsuitable for a full-time position, just remember that in addition to being more authentic, this is also more human. And, as PR is in the business of people, you should definitely take that into consideration when deciding who to hire.
James Steers, THEPRGRADUATE.