Global Talent Finds a Home: Ukrainian Immigrant’s Career Blossoms in Support of Others

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Ukrainian immigrant in Upwardly Global office

Lyubava, a Ukrainian immigrant, builds career with impact in New York City

By the mid-2010s, Lyubava sensed that it was time to leave Ukraine. With tensions escalating between Russia and her home country, she saw the potential of living and working internationally — both for her safety and the broadening of her professional horizons. 

After earning her master’s degree in Germanic languages and international communications, Lyubava worked for nearly a decade as an Executive Assistant and later as Chief of Staff at various tech companies around the world. However, when the pandemic struck in 2020, she had no choice but to reassess her living situation.

“There was a lot of uncertainty [in Ukraine], and I didn’t feel like my future was safe and secure there, so I decided to move to New York,” Lyubava explains of her move to U.S. soil. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, over 300,000 other Ukrainians have followed suit, and more than 70% of these adult refugees have been women.

Starting over as an overqualified Ukrainian immigrant

On arrival, Lyubava — like two million other immigrants, refugees, and asylees — faced challenges finding a job aligned with her qualifications. She applied to over 100 positions, securing only 10 callbacks for interviews. The interviews, though polite, often turned superficial due to her lack of direct U.S. work experience.

“I felt really angry. I put in a lot of effort,” she remembers. “My self-confidence and my self-esteem, it definitely got damaged for a while.”

 As financial strain mounted, Lyubava drained her savings to cover legal expenses and make ends meet — a harsh reality faced by many immigrants in pursuit of employment. In fact, 60% of young immigrants find their professional skills overlooked by U.S. employers, who often disregard professional experience and education gained overseas.

Working with her Upwardly Global job coach

The tide shifted when Lyubava discovered Upwardly Global, an organization dedicated to assisting immigrants and refugees in finding professional employment in the U.S. Through the support and guidance of her job coach, Esmeralda, Lyubava learned to navigate the intricacies of the U.S. job market, from resume building to interview preparation.

“When I first found Upwardly Global, I felt so relieved,” she remembers. “Finally, I found someone who could understand me, who could support me, who could answer all my stupid questions.”

Esmeralda not only provided practical insights but also served as a source of emotional support, helping Lyubava overcome moments of self-doubt and frustration. The targeted career coaching offered by Upwardly Global was a game-changer.

“Esmeralda was helping me to keep going through all the failures,” says Lyubava. “You had someone who could explain to you what exactly went wrong and how you could fix it.”

In August of 2023, Lyubava secured a consulting role at Upwardly Global itself, where a large portion of the staff are also immigrants, refugees, or asylees. During the preparations for their annual gala, she worked for about a month as Development Associate.

“Working on the development team at Upwardly Global was so satisfying,” Lyubava says. “It was my first legit job in the U.S., [and] it was the best option I could ever have — it was like a completely different magical world of people who really care.”

Supporting other Ukrainian immigrants

Soon into the role, Lyubava discovered a new opportunity that better aligned with her skills and aspirations, yet promised a similarly positive impact on her community. In late September, she transitioned into a leading role at a tech startup called A-Players, which helps displaced Ukrainian immigrants secure jobs with startup founders.

“Every time I have an interview with a new candidate, it’s heartbreaking — how extremely gifted, talented people are struggling,” she says. “And on the other hand, being able to give back and help your community thrive … it’s also extremely satisfying that I am able to build a great future for them.”

As Lyubava settles into her new career in New York, she hasn’t forgotten about the indelible mark that Upwardly Global left on her.

“The hope that Upwardly Global provides for refugees and immigrants is that … you’re capable enough,” she says. “You’re extremely talented, and sometimes you just really need a little bit of help.”

Find out more about Upwardly Global’s career resources for immigrants and refugees here.

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