The world today is a borderless frontier. Especially for professionals. Qualified and experienced professionals are increasingly migrating between countries to enhance their personal and professional lives. However, the cultural distinctions between countries have not disappeared with the trading borders. Each country has its own set of social, political, academic and workplace cultures. For instance, work cultures vary significantly between India (my country of birth) and Australia (my adopted country as an adult).
As they say, East is East and West is West.
Therefore, for a professional migrant who intends to shift base and navigate the cultural divisions of the "East" and the "West", finding that first professional break can become a daunting task. Not because of a lack of skills, but because of a lack of know-how on how to seek the right job in the right way.
So, if you are intending to migrate, or have recently done so, give the points listed below a thought before you embark on your job search. It may help you mitigate some cultural barriers. Or at least, be mindful of them.
1. In the Western world, work experience may have more weight than your qualifications
Growing up in India I was told to go through a regimented academic process. Get an MBA, or another Master's or Bachelor's degree (often a doctorate as well), before seeking and starting work, went the advice.
"When I first arrived in Australia I was rejected for almost 250 jobs that I applied for... Then by a stroke of luck I got an interview call for an entry-level 'clerical' role."
However, most Western work cultures have different norms. You can enter the labour market without an impressive degree. As you enhance your work experience over the years, you may then go back to school to obtain higher qualifications directly in line with your field of work.
So, an MBA from India (or similar qualifications) may not always guarantee an equivalent job title overseas if you do not have demonstrated levels of work experience to back it up with.
2. Highlight your achievements in your CV, not your role description
While writing up your CV for a Western job market, emphasise your achievements in your previous roles. Recruiters do not expect to read a description of your day to day tasks in your CV (most jobs at a certain level within any respective sector will have comparable tasks).
Use your CV to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Talk about your achievements, how you may have added value to an organisation or a department in previous roles.
Be succinct. Be clear. Avoid cramming in a lot of information. Use bullet points. Make sure there are no typos.
Gender or age is not required on a CV. Nor is your photo.
3. If you're struggling, get a foot in the door and then work your way up
When I first arrived in Australia I was rejected for almost 250 jobs that I applied for. Without even an interview. Then by a stroke of luck I got an interview call for an entry-level "clerical" role on a casual basis. I took the opportunity. And worked my way up from there.
Point being, you may not get a break initially in a new country at your desired level of seniority or skill. Do not shy away from taking a lower-level opportunity if you are presented with one. If you have the skills and the aptitude, you will work your way up from there. If you keep rejecting opportunities for that one "ideal" role, you may be waiting for a long time.
4. Be prepared to change career streams
I'm qualified in microbiology, but I work as a human resources professional. I struggled to find job opportunities in my field of specialisation when I moved to Australia. The first real "professional" opening I got was in human resources. When I was undertaking business studies at university, human resources was my least preferred area of choice for a career. But I knew I would not get many shots at a real career if I did not take up the opportunity that came my way. And as they say, the rest is now history.
"I'm qualified in microbiology, but I work as a human resources professional. I struggled to find job opportunities in my field of specialisation when I moved to Australia."
So be prepared to change career paths. The global job market will allow you to do so. And once you find your feet, you can build on it through further education and development.
5. Volunteering and short-term projects will open doors for you
Do not shy away from taking on short-term projects to showcase your skills in a new job market. Even if that work is not paid work. You may end up with some handy local referees to put in a good word for your skill and competence. And that will go a long way in securing more substantial opportunities.
So while you endeavour to find a meaningful ongoing job for yourself, why not start off with some short-term work if it is available?
The global economies are in the midst of a severe downturn. The market sentiment is volatile. This makes it very hard for newly arrived migrants to kick-start their professional careers. However, perseverance, determination, and a can-do attitude will never go unrewarded in life.
So if you are a new migrant, or seeking to move countries, buckle up. It is not going to be easy, at least initially. But keep at it. Believe in your dreams and go all out. Opportunities will come your way, eventually. Don't pass up any of them. Take them all. And make them your own.
You only live once...
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