Hear the first-hand experience of young Irish people living and working in the US in IrishCentral’s latest series on the J1 graduate visa. We speak to recent Irish graduates working across a range of industries on their careers, motivations, and the highs and lows of their stateside adventure.

This week, we look at the world of marketing within the business sector with Ross Wherity.

Ross, 26, from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, graduated from Economics, Politics and Law from DCU in 2012.

He is currently a Marketing Executive with IDA Ireland in New York and works in the Emerging Business sector helping smaller to medium sized companies set up operations in Ireland.

Ross began his time in New York on the J-1 visa but has since received a H1B visa, granting him permission to work in the States for a further three years.

Taking the plunge

The main reason I decided to come to New York was for an adventure. I thought the opportunity was too good to pass up and I knew the life experiences that I could sample here would surpass anything I could experience at home.

I always had an affinity to America having spent a few summers here and I enjoy the lifestyle and culture that Americans have created for themselves.

I found the application seamless enough as I went through an organisation in Dublin who offer a complete service from visa application to flights etc. I feel like the commercialization of this sector is great in some ways for the ease of achieving your visa goals.

However, I would like there to be a route where applicants could apply independently of a specialist business, much in the same way Australia operates their holiday visa system which is a lot less costly.

Job opportunities

New York is a very network-orientated city when it comes to employment opportunities. The Irish network is something any prospective J-1’er should look to leverage and take advantage of while they are seeking employment.

I was upfront about my visa status and let potential employers know from the outset that I was completely eligible for legal employment in USA but I was a lot more ambiguous on the time-frame constraints that a J visa entails!

On the surface, there seemed to be plenty of opportunities from my many weeks of applying for positions through Craigslist, LinkedIn, and various recruiters and employment websites. However, the response rate to applications to the majority of these jobs is very limited and disheartening. New York seems to be more about who you know rather than what you might know.

“Apply early, apply often” to paraphrase the slogan of the once mighty Tammany Hall!

Also, smaller start-up companies tend to be a lot less clued in or are perhaps openly willing to negotiate the visa process as compared to more established institutions who are firmly set in their ways when it comes to processing visa dependent employees.

From here [through the Irish Network], I was offered a job in Barclays Capital working as a financial analyst. In order to extend my stay in NY, I needed to find an employer who was willing to sponsor a H1B visa application and that’s how I ended up spending a year with Fora Financial who had previously accepted potential H1B applicants.

After I was lucky enough to receive my 3-year H1B visa, I took the opportunity to apply for my current position in IDA Ireland knowing that my immediate career future would be based in America for the next number of years.

Professional Experience

The clientele that one has the opportunity to connect with in America is something that would never be available to me in Ireland. International experience and the ability to interact and engage with many different cultures and platforms is something that will be invaluable to my career moving forward.

In certain sectors of the economy, the US definitely provides better opportunities for young Irish emigrants. Many of my friends have carved out successful and prosperous careers in engineering and construction which couldn’t have been possible in Ireland. The level of exposure and financial reward available in USA far exceeds that of Ireland.

In addition, I also had the opportunity to work in an industry that is in it’s infancy (Merchant Cash Advance and Alternative Small Business Financing) and it’s fascinating to see the growth, innovation and emergence of these companies from the periphery to the mainstream.

The openness and willingness of America to embrace and expose itself to new ideas is something that I know will stand to me in the long run.

Working in a US office

I have worked for British, American and Irish companies in my time here so I have a unique exposure to different workplace cultures. New Yorkers love to work so I was quite surprised/astonished when I was informed I had 5 personal holidays for the year!

In general, I find working with Americans a pleasant and rewarding experience … You become instantly recognisable as the token Irish guy. People want to get to know you and hear about your experiences and what it’s like to be Irish in America.

Life experience

Americans are very embracing and I try to take aspects of that and use it in my own life whether it be making new friends, trying new experiences and exposing yourself to different experiences. I also enjoy the positivity that Americans exude as compared to the sometimes negative insular vibe that Ireland as a nation can sometimes display.

Some of my favourite advantages of living in NYC include the American weather, the strong American Dollar, the nightlife and the possibility to encounter every race in the world in such a small confined area. Some of the things I would change about NYC is the slog of a daily commute -- never get on an empty subway car!

Obviously, my family and friends who I grew up with are what I miss most. Missing out on special events like nieces and nephews growing up and being born is also tough to take. Not being involved with elite GAA teams and the culture, friendships and experiences gained through teamwork is also hard to take.

Everything else is material and is easily replicated on this side of the world.

Visa status woes

The most difficult part was trying to stay here legally, but I was fortunate enough to have been selected in the H1B lottery which has a success ratio of 50:50. I honestly believe that if you really want to continue your stay in America past your J-1 then there are numerous ways and means to achieve this.

The high cost of visa applications is also a bone of contention for young college graduates who may find themselves having to pay thousands of dollars in government and legal fees.

What do you wish you knew before coming to the US?

Having spent a few summers here before, I knew how expensive it would be to set up in USA from scratch. Finding accommodation is the biggest burden given college graduates general lack of credit rating or ability to pay substantial brokers fees and upfront rental payments. Health insurance is provided with most companies but doesn’t come cheap.

Have you taken the plunge and moved to the US on the J1 Graduate visa? Tackled the visa process, the job and apartment hunt and lived to tell the tale? IrishCentral wants to hear from you! Share your J1 Graduate visa story with [email protected] to take part in our series and advise the next batch of US recruits.