NEW YORK—They call it the “luck of the Irish,” but Maurice Landers says it takes more than luck to get a job as a new Irish immigrant in New York City.
“They say you get lucky, but you make your own luck too,” said Landers.
He is a co-founder of Failte 32, an initiative that helps Irish immigrants with visas connect to Irish businesses and associations in the city. It started in May 2010 at O’Casey’s restaurant and pub on 41st Street between Fifth and Madison avenues, which is owned by another co-founder of Failte 32, Paul Hurley.
“We were trying to formalize the up to then informal type of networking through the bars,” said Landers. “For the Irishmen that came over in the old days, the first port of call was the bar, because that’s where you met your people and you socialized, and you got referrals for jobs,” he said.
Hurley read the story of a young woman whose grace period on her visa expired before she could find a job and who had returned to Ireland dejected. Hurley, Landers, and Paddy McCarthy of the Irish Examiner newspaper, who is the third co-founder, all felt sure the young lady would have easily found a job had she connected with the right Irish organizations.
“We’re quite tribal sometimes when it comes to the organizations we set up,” said Landers. Some of them are 150 years old or more. “Had she linked in with the organizations, we’re confident that she would have found work because we would have helped our own,” he said.
The organization came full circle a few weeks ago when it was able to help a young woman named Louise find a job just days before her grace period was to expire.
Louise was motivated and certainly made her own luck, said Landers.
They told her what organizations and networking events to go to and by following their advice, she got a position at an electrical firm in Yonkers.
Failte works largely with J-1 visa holders, who are able to stay in the United States for a year, with the requirement that they have university degrees, get jobs in their respective fields, and find those jobs within three months of landing. It also works with Irish students eligible to get a summer job in the United States, and other types of visa holders.
Away From the Laptop, Into the Community
Face-to-face interaction is the best way to get a job, said Landers, but can be hard for youth to handle. It is more comfortable to sit in front of a laptop and send off resumes.
The Shamrock Fund can give applicants the networking push they need. It pays membership dues to Irish business associations for job seekers, but it comes with a price. The recipient must attend every association event and get on a committee.
“We know by doing that they will get a job, so we push them a little,” said Landers.
Landers came to America in 1994 through an immigration lottery. He got two general labor jobs in Texas at hotels to support himself. He recalled how, after he’d built up his resume more and came to New York, he handed it out door-to-door, face-to-face.
He popped in to Merrill Lynch and the manager he met there was taken with his accent.
“So I might have embellished my accent a bit,” laughed Landers. “She chatted with me, told me about her ancestors back in Ireland, after about five minutes she said, ‘I get that you’re the right person.’ The next day, I got call and I got the job.”
Maybe there is something to “the luck of the Irish.”