How skilled newcomers can stave off major career sacrifices when job-seeking - New Canadian Media
Skilled migrants often face big challenges trying to find work that matches their credentials. (Nicola Barts/Pexels)

How skilled newcomers can stave off major career sacrifices when job-seeking

Though Canada accepts skilled migrants based on their credentials, that doesn’t guarantee success in the local labour market. Here's how newcomers self-regulate to find quality employment.

Many people experience career interruptions at some point in their lives. But the interruptions that result from immigrating to other countries involve entirely different challenges.

The move to a new country requires skilled migrants to make decisions not just about work but also about their family’s needs and their overall well-being as newcomers. It’s very common for them to be forced into sacrificing their careers in order to work in their new home, especially if their credentials are deemed not transferrable.

A pediatrician, for example, may take on a job as an ultrasound technician, or a teacher may instead take a job as a caregiver to the elderly.

While some countries — like Canada, for example — rate highly for their appeal to skilled migrants, settling still poses major career barriers. One of the major paradoxes that skilled migrants face is that despite gaining entry into a host country based on their credentials (for example, accumulated foreign capital), that doesn’t guarantee success in the local labour market.

Seeking a better life

Motivations for migration vary, but many people migrate with their families seeking better opportunities for their children and a better quality of life. Upon arrival, they learn that many of their career expectations may not materialize, and they must rethink how to re-establish themselves and make sense of the new situation.

Often, many of these professionals will end up underemployed. That means they take jobs that are lower quality and dissatisfying since their career prospects don’t match their expertise. They often experience some type of career sacrifice in the hope of providing opportunities and a better life for their families.

A young boy in a tuxedo raises his right arm.
A young boy takes the oath as he attends a citizenship ceremony at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., in March 2020. Many immigrants choose to migrate to provide a better life for their families but that sometimes requires sacrificing their career trajectory. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

Our study shows that to improve their chances of finding quality employment, migrants must engage in career self-management. This involves weighing the pros and cons of various career options and carefully planning the next steps in their career, while at the same time learning about their new situation and any potential career barriers in the job market where they’ll be looking for employment.

It requires hard work in the absence of any organizational support structures, and it means migrants must become active career agents for themselves.

Our research illustrates that migrants who are proactive and engage in career self-management may have better chances of finding quality work that aligns with their expertise. One of the most important ways to do this is to engage in career planning in their new country. Even though some city-based settlement programs and agencies may help during career planning, those efforts are largely left to the job-seekers themselves.

Learning new routines

While skilled migrants are often experienced job-seekers, they must learn new career routines that are characteristic of their new local working environment. That means understanding the unspoken rules and norms that are common in their new labour market and adjusting their career goals and strategies accordingly. These may vary from learning new networking routines and even how to engage in informal work conversations.

It also involves weighing the pros and cons of various career options and understanding what type of sacrifice, if any, they’ll have to make to secure local employment and restart their careers.

This kind of analysis may require them to give up some parts of their work routines and redefine their professional lives, but they can also gain new knowledge and networks. Once they’re in the midst of this major transition, often characterized by career sacrifice, our study found that supportive social networks play a big role in successful employment.

Newcomers leave behind their established social networks and relationships when they migrate to a new country. So support in their adopted home is critically important to helping them explore local job options and pursue new careers.

A bearded man sits next to a woman as they look at a laptop
Skilled migrants must become more active career agents. (Anna Shvets/Pexels)

Career planning is critical

Finally, contrary to popular wisdom about more job searches leading to better outcomes, we conclude with somewhat different advice.

Based on our findings, it may not be the intensity of someone’s job search, but instead the type and quality of their career planning that may matter more when it comes to finding quality employment.

Skilled migrants may have to let go of aspects of their original career path and sacrifice some of their professional goals and plans. But proactive approach to job searches, social support and engaging in specific career planning activities from the start can help them succeed. This could involve making connections and reaching out to local organizations and employers even before they arrive.

This can give newcomers a realistic preview of employment prospects even before they leave their native country, and can create more realistic expectations — and perhaps even result in a lesser degree of career sacrifice once they arrive.

This piece was originally published by The Conversation. It appears here with the authors’ permission.

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Jelena Zikic and Ute-Christine Klehe

1 Comment

  1. If Canada campaigns for specific skills, education, and experience which it does then it should make sure employers are open to recruiting them and most are not. That is mis-selling and deception. When 75% of newcomers cannot get work as Ontario Minister for Labour Monte McNaughton recently reports then it is not the newcomer at fault and who should change career. It is Canada attracting the wrong people with promises they can resurrect their careers in Canada when they cannot. Figures like that Canada should completely audit its immigration requirements to match the demand of employers and until such time as done should stop immigration as it destroys peoples lives.

    I disagree with the author as it assumes newcomers must stay in Canada but it is not that special they have to make sacrifices especially when deceived to get them here. Ontario Human Rights Commission admit 40% of newcomers leave within 5 years rising to 80% by the 10th year. Many return home or go to another country where they don’t have to make any sacrifices. There is a weird belief in Canada that once in an immigrant must do as they are told and not leave.

    People immigrate to get better not go backward but 75% of immigrants are told to go backwards.

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