A different approach to migrant job search

Blog post courtesy of Ayesha Umar.

This article was originally printed in The Border Mail on 29/07/19

Australia is home to people hailing from diverse nationalities, cultures, ethnicities and religions. Some come to the country to study as students and avail the option to stay back for two year to find a job and then apply for permanent residency. While a handful come through job sponsors, business or even asylum, most immigrate based on skilled job requirements in the country.

In 2017 alone 799,371 international students were enrolled in education programs in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were 526,300 migrant arrivals in Australia in 2018. These numbers are huge compared to the total population of the country which was 24.6 million in 2017. Imagine the massive number of migrants applying for jobs in a country which has a different language, job market and professional culture.

Most begin their journey with the conventional ways of searching for jobs through newspapers, job boards, company websites and job search engines. With this begins an endless charade of sending the same resume and cover letter to any or every job that seems even slightly familiar. There are only a few exceptions of miraculous successes through these means.

I often come across skilled migrants who are either disheartened because of being jobless over a long period of time or have given up hope for finding a job in their field and take up odd jobs to get by. It is both a loss on an individual level and also on a country’s economy where these residents are provided financial help from taxpayer’s money for survival.

The tables can be turned only if we looked at the whole job search scenario in a different way. The first step for any migrant to get a job is to get recognition of their prior learning to meet work, licence and registration requirements. During the process they are most likely to discover gaps in their learning in this new industry. These gaps can be filled through ‘bridge study’.

It is important to evaluate bridge study options smartly in order to take the best approach available. This could be done through formal and informal means of research. You could begin by analysing the qualifications, experience and personal requirements for jobs that are suitable for you through job adverts.

Every city and suburb have a council. Visiting the council could help. Ask questions around your industry. I remember when I moved here 3 years ago, council was my first stop and I received a lot of help from the people there. They not only identified resources for me but also gave me contacts and leads to find my way around. Paying a visit to the career counsellor at TAFE or a local university could help identify bridge study options too.

Once you take up your studies either full time or part time, you have opened the door to progress. It is imperative that we remember that various surveys and researches in recent times have determined that 70% to 85% of the job vacancies are filled through networking. This tells us that we do not need to be at the mercy of the applicant tracking systems (ATS), a software application that picks up resumes from a pool of hundreds or even thousands in some cases based on keywords that were used in the job description.

How do bridge study and networking fit in? Most bridge studies require work placements. They are not only a conducive way of understanding your industry but also provide an opportunity to connect with professionals. In my experience most people get hired through work placements or internships. These are a prerequisite that usually fall in the last semester of your study program. Those looking to step it up and hold the reins of their careers could look in to negotiating their research based or subjective assignments into real time case studies with their course leader. This would involve them meeting potential clients and/or industry connections. It could be challenging. But it provides you with the opportunity to see the real picture and open doors to related organisations. Volunteering during the study period would also get similar results.

Industry research, volunteering and internships are all applicable to those who do not need to take up further studies. However, with the changing world of work, the process of learning never stops. It is the only means of ensuring constant progress, no matter what industry you belong to. Keep an open mind and develop a growth mindset.

One of my migrant friends who is an engineer was hired at a managerial position by developing connections through attending different industry seminars. Another, an interior designer gained a job opportunity through a connection made during volunteer work.

Chamber of Commerce is a form of a business network. It’s in different cities, towns and suburbs. The chamber provides its members with various networking opportunities with the industry professionals. Joining the chamber can help develop connections that may also create work opportunities.

Now a quick tip for your resume. Avoid using templates. Use the industry jargon from the job advertisement. Keep it short, one or maximum two pages. Edit for language errors. Highlight experience relevant to the job description. This last bit may require you to edit your resume every time you apply for a job.

Avoid using the same cover letter for every job. Personalise it to the organisational values. Refer to the job description and use the key words and phrases. If there is a contact number given in the advert, then call and ask about the role and the organisation. This will help you write a better cover letter and give you an edge over other candidates. Who knows, the person you called might even remember your name. If you already know someone in the organisation through the networking means we discussed earlier, you could speak to him/her about the job vacancy before you nail that resume and cover letter. Good luck!

About the writer... 

Ayesha is a Career Development Consultant who has two gifted children. She is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA). She has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Graduate Certificate in Careers Education and Development (RMIT) and Certificate of Gifted Education (UNSW). She also holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate of Fashion Illustration. 

She worked for a multinational engineering manufacturing industry before switching to career counselling, writing, teaching and case management.  She has worked in the British and American schooling systems and is now working with the Victorian Selected Entry and Regional Schools. Her diverse experience of working around the globe in the education and corporate sector and strong academic background enables her to see the bigger picture.