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Work Culture and Labour Market for Expats in the United States Of America

Submitted: November 2013

Work Culture

Each business has its own specific work culture. However, there are certain traits that are common to most professional environments in the USA. Overall the work atmosphere tends to be rather informal and work colleagues are generally on first name terms. Bosses give clear instructions and regular feedback. Teamwork plays a central role, therefore you can expect to have a number of office meetings and discussions. At the same time, initiative and individual accountability are also highly valued.

Another thing to remember is that punctuality is key in US professional circles! Make sure to arrive to business meetings on time or a few minutes early and stick to agreed deadlines. If you notice you might be running late, make an advance phone call to inform your business partners or colleagues and apologise. When arranging meetings, it is also a good idea to do so several days in advance.

In general, business meetings in the US are structured and formal, but not too stiff. It is common to shake hands at the beginning of the meeting and to exchange business cards. Usually there is also social conversation at the beginning and at the end of the meeting. The overall tone of the meetings tends to be very open and direct, so you can expect your counterparts to communicate clearly what they want and do not want. Also do not be surprised if Americans want to reach a deal at the first meeting already. Overall, the business environment is very fast-paced.

The dress code will depend on the sector you work in. In business circles, the dress code is formal, with dark business suits for both men and women being the norm. For more information about business networking in the USA, see Business Groups, Associations and Networking.


Labour Market

The US labour market has been heavily affected by the financial crisis, though there are now positive signs of recovery. GDP is on a firmer footing once more; the annual growth rate for the third quarter of 2014 was 2.7%. Second-place China has a much faster (official) GDP growth rate, but the USA’s economy is almost twice as large, and hence still by far the world’s biggest.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate stood at 5.6% in December 2014, meaning it has almost fallen by half from its high of 10% in October 2009. This means that job opportunities are opening up again. There is a variety of sectors and regions which have ample job opportunities, so with a bit of luck you may well become part of the US labour force.

There is a strong demand for medical professionals such as nurses, medical technicians and assistants, and also for care work for the elderly. Highly skilled workers in data processing and general positions in the expanding IT industry are also much sought-after. Employment opportunities are currently most abundant in Texas and neighbouring Southern states, and in some Rocky Mountain states. However, note that in the Deep South (the states from Louisiana to South Carolina), it is generally very hard for expats to find employment in business or elsewhere. For information about finding employment and writing applications in the USA, see Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette. For more information on immigration procedures and working conditions in the USA, see Working for Expats.




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