How Long Does It Take to Find a Job in the U.S.?

After a few weeks of searching, many job-seekers begin to get frustrated in their job search. They feel like they’re putting in tons of time applying to jobs and meeting recruiters, and still failing to see results.


So that’s when the question arises: How long should it take to find an American job?

And the answer is, it depends — on several factors:

  1. What industry you’re searching in. If you are searching for a job in an industry such as retail and hospitality (for example, as a sales clerk or restaurant staff member), your search is likely to be quite short. The same is true if you work in a profession that is currently suffering from a shortage, like nursing (although this will vary somewhat from one city or region to another).
  2. How much you want to earn. There used to be a saying among career professionals that you should expect to spend one month on your job search for every $10,000 you want to earn — in other words, if you are looking for a salary of $50,000, your job search is likely to last 5 months. Fortunately, most people agree that this framework is outdated; however, it is true that the higher your desired position, the more time you will likely need to invest into networking and building relationships which will ultimately lead to your desired job.
  3. How much time you invest in your job search. The truth is, finding a job takes time and patience, and unless you are lucky enough to be in one of those in-demand professions, it will take some effort to get a great American job. However, the more time you spend every week looking for your next great U.S. work opportunity, the sooner you are likely to see results. (Here is an article suggesting how many hours you should spend on your job search per week, depending on your situation.)


However, there is an even more important factor that will determine how much time it will likely take to finally get your ID badge to that great new office: whether or not you are conducting your job search strategically.


Many job-seekers — especially those who are new to the U.S. — feel overwhelmed trying to find a job in a new environment and manage all the contradicting advice they hear, in what may be their second language. As a result, they often stick to what seems like an easy formula: go online, search through job boards, and send a resume to jobs that seem like they might be a good fit.


While some job candidates are lucky and get hired using this strategy, for many, this is ultimately a waste of time. It may feel productive; but in most cases, nobody even looks at their submissions. Why?


  • Nobody ever looks at their resume. When a resume is not properly customized to specific positions, the automated software that sorts submitted job applications is much less likely to consider it relevant to the job… and may therefore discard it, before a real live person ever reads it.


  • They are just another name on a computer screen. When you apply to a job you found online, you are usually competing with hundreds of other applicants. Thus, even if a hiring manager reads your resume, to them, you’re just another set of data on a piece of paper. In order to increase your chances of being considered, you should try to build connections with people inside your target company.


  • The best positions are not listed on job websites. Top companies rarely use or Indeed to get the word out about new openings. Some of their jobs are listed on their own websites in the “Careers” section, while many others are never made known to the general public at all — the only way to find out about these opportunities is by networking.


So what should you do if you want to reduce the length of your search, and get offers to U.S. jobs as soon as possible?


First, look for the road less traveled. If most job-seekers are looking for jobs online, you know the competition there is greater. So be creative about finding other opportunities to connect with employers. Go to meetups for members of your industry, reach out to companies even if they don’t have any positions listed at this time, and build relationships with people around you who might be able to introduce you to employers.


Second, focus on relationships, not job postings. When you attend events or meet for coffee with someone who may help connect you with a job opportunity, do not make them feel like you are using them as a stepping stone toward an end goal. Befriend people with whom you genuinely want to build a relationship… whether or not it ever results in an introduction or recommendation that leads to a job. All of us want to help our friends… not some random stranger who seems to want something from us.


And finally, as frustrating as it may feel, be patient. Even seasoned American job-seekers often take months to find jobs that are right for them. Finding the next step in your career will take time, but it will be a great, educational experience that will help you learn about yourself and American culture.


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