The Daily Pennsylvanian, February 2017

February 9, 2017

This group of Penn Alumni is helping new American residents jumpstart their careers

Mock interviews and speed networking sessions aren’t just for recent graduates. For skilled immigrants, these exercises help them gain insight into the American job search process.

On Wednesday, PennPAC, Penn Club of New York and the Class of 1993 partnered with Upwardly Global on a one-night “imPACt” event in New York City.


The three groups of Penn alumni conducted mock interviews and facilitated informal speed networking sessions, all with the goal of helping Upwardly Global job seekers — skilled immigrants and refugees forging new career paths in the United States — overcome barriers in their job search.

“For anyone coming here that’s already in their careers, one of the biggest concerns is how you translate your success, strengths and experiences from one country to another country,” 1993 College graduate and PennPAC Executive Director Jackie Einstein Astrof said. “What we try to do is help them through the hurdles in the process.”

PennPAC is comprised of Penn alumni who offer pro-bono consulting to nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia and New York. The group has worked with Upwardly Global once before and aims to reconnect with fellow alumni while offering professional support to immigrants.

“It’s just a nice way of getting together with other Penn alumni as a community instead of standing around with a cocktail for two hours,” Astrof said. “Alumni are arguably having just as much fun and finding it quite rewarding and impactful.”

The event occurred less than two weeks after President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily barring citizens of seven countries from entering the United States. Just as the order weighed heavily on the minds of those on campus — including Penn President Amy Gutmann — PennPAC volunteers viewed their efforts to assist immigrants in a new light.

“This event will help show that not everyone feels the same way as our current administration does about the role that immigrants play in American life,” 2007 College graduate Craig Mills said. “This is just one small step in a longer process to show immigrants that we want to work with them and help them succeed, so they can help the country succeed.”

Alicia McMahon, volunteer and events coordinator of Upwardly Global, said she hoped that immigrants unfamiliar with the U.S. job search process will leave the event more confident that their background makes them desirable to American employers.

“Just the fact that they’re not from the United States can really weigh on our job seekers’ confidence,” McMahon said. “Their immigrant story is something that they should be proud of and shouldn’t shy away from.”

“They have tenacity and they have grit and they’ve clearly illustrated that they are adaptable individuals, and that is something that’s marketable to any employer,” she added.

McMahon said the opportunity for Upwardly Global participants to learn lessons from PennPAC volunteers — such as the value of a robust professional network — can help them internalize the skills conducive to professional success in the United States.

“All of our job seekers have been in the U.S. for less than five years, so one of the things we offer is trying to get them a network that they don’t have yet,” McMahon said.

“I think attending an event where you have a strong network of people, who can illustrate the importance of a network and what that can offer you professionally and personally, is really beneficial.”