Using her career knowledge, St. Louis businesswoman helps immigrants find jobs
The number of international workers in the St. Louis area is on the rise and Betsy Cohen is largely to thank.
Betsy is the executive director of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, which is part of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. This program works to attract and retain international people to the city, to aid them in finding work, understanding American culture and dealing with paperwork.
She has worked with the project for eight years and in that time estimates she’s helped hundreds of people network towards finding jobs, from countries as diverse as Korea, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Nigeria.
And during the pandemic, Betsy’s taken on more work, in order to help more hopeful immigrants. Since she was attending significantly fewer events and counselling sessions, in March 2021 she decided to write a book, inspired by all the tips she was posting on LinkedIn.
“It seemed the business world would be opening up again and there would be more immigration with a new president so I felt if I got a book out quickly, it would be useful,” she says.
The book is Welcome to the USA - You’re Hired!, which launched in September 2021.
There was nothing like this in publication, she points out. “There is no other book and nothing that speaks the immigrant’s language on what do you do, how are interviews held, how can you negotiate your salary, how do you network here.” Betsy worked with a number of expert contributors who who added to chapters on subjects such as immigration law, or international students, which, she says, “made the book that much more valuable.” The book also features case studies, all of which are examples of real-life experiences of people Betsy has worked with.
The book is mostly geared towards foreign-born people who are already in the U.S. and are work-authorized but she’s heard that it’s being read abroad, too, and she may consider translations down the line to make it accessible to a broader audience.
It’s hard to boil a book packed with information down to three things but Betsy offers these three takeaways:
1. Recognize that foreign-born people have many more stresses in their job search because of language, context, visas and family.
2. Networking and relationships are key to finding a job and that means using LinkedIn and personal networks to meet people — it’s the people you meet who open up jobs and referrals for you.
3. Find ways to bond with colleagues and be likeable in the workplace so you can get access to higher level jobs and not be looked over. Many foreign people don’t understand that promotions come from relationships and their likeability and that things like the company softball team matter.
Capitalizing on her career knowledge to help
Betsy hasn’t always worked to help international people move to the U.S. Her previous career was in corporate America, as a senior marketing executive. However, it became time for her to move on, she says. “I wanted to use my marketing skills, my connectivity skills and my international skills. I heard there had been studies and funding to market the region of St Louis to draw foreign-born people to work here.”
She felt she’d be a good fit to help foreigners move to the U.S., particularly St. Louis, whose population was made up of only 5% foreigners, and was hired to set up the Mosaic Project with herself as executive director and two colleagues. “I had run organizations and understood marketing and communications and how to work with foreign-born people and how to mentor them.”
She immediately knew this was right for her. “It called to me and I turned it into a brand and a mission with plans. I got to start something new and felt I could be a big impact player.”
Now, she says, she helps steer foreigners through the immigration and job-search process. “We’re a concierge, we’re a navigator, we connect people. We are not a service agency, we don’t take on case management. We’re a marketing agency, we connect people and make professional networks.”
And the work has been incredibly rewarding for Betsy herself. “We’ve helped refugees, international students, executives. The range is really rewarding and that makes a variety that’s exciting. My expertise and knowledge pay off with the right matches and the right people funding things in the communities and finding solutions so foreign-born people can be successful.”
The Mosaic Project can help at any point of a foreigner’s job hunt or immigration process. Betsy and her colleagues will help with resumes and introduce job applicants to others who might be able to help.
Along the way, Betsy has also learned a lot herself, befriending international people and learning about “their cultures, their values, their dreams,” she says.
January 4th, 2022