Meaningful experiences of foreign-born professionals in the United States: Successful career transitions
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The American immigrant worklife adjustment literature over the past few decades has presented the barriers faced by new immigrants. Several scholars have suggested that new immigrants experience difficulty in obtaining employment in their pre-immigration field. Nevertheless, the knowledge of factors contributing to the successful career transition of skilled immigrants’ remains underresearched. In light of the growing numbers of immigrants with professional credentials, this gap urgently needs to be addressed to prevent skill underutilization. This study’s goal was to present a picture of the meaningful experiences of professional immigrants, who were trained in their countries of origin and then relocated to the U.S. and successfully re-entered their professional fields of work. The purpose of this study was to identify the pathways taken by these immigrants and the factors which contributed to their successful career transition. A qualitative methodology was employed and transcripts of in-depth interviews with ten professional immigrants were analyzed using a phenomenological approach to the inquiry. Four themes emerged through data collection and analysis: support network, personality and professional identity, career advancement, and overcoming challenges. The discussion of the findings that includes elaboration on the meaning of what it is to be a successful skilled immigrant is seen through the lens of social cognitive career theory (SCCT) and incorporates construction career theory (CCT). The most significant finding showed that participants exhibited positive perceptions of the barriers on their journey of career transition. The study contributes to SCCT by revealing that a supportive environment comprised of parents, spouses, professional connections, the immigrant community, social media, and culturally sensitive and competent employers strongly contributes to a successful career transition. Also, in light of SCCT, participants’ narratives indicated the following cognitive variables: self-efficacy, interests, personal goals, and outcome expectations practiced as needed in navigating the transition process. Furthermore, in relation to CCT, certain personality characteristics, along with adaptability incorporating expectations without entitlement, planning in advance, and furthering educational credentials in the U.S. positively influenced skilled immigrants’ career development in the U.S. These findings carry implications for research and the practice of career counseling, psychology counseling, and immigration policies that are also discussed.