How do you find a job in Australia if you are a Skilled Migrant Engineer, but have no local experience?
Although Australia is in the middle of a $100 billion infrastructure boom, skilled migrant engineers often struggle to find a job in their profession. According to Professional Engineers Australia, “overseas born engineers currently experience more than double the rate of unemployment of domestic engineers, and only 55% stay working in engineering after arriving in Australia.”
Skilled migrants from non-English speaking countries are affected the most, struggling with cultural barriers, lack of networks, and rejection due to lack of local experience.
At ConsultANZ we strive to raise awareness of the problems skilled migrants face when relocating to Australia. We share advice and information on the steps these migrants can undertake to find work in their profession. As part of our commitment to this cause, we are bringing you the stories of skilled migrants who have managed to overcome the “lack of local experience” hurdle and land a job in the civil engineering profession.
Today we talk to Susana, a Civil Engineer from South America, who moved to Australia at the beginning of 2019 and has kindly agreed to share her experience of moving and finding a job Down Under.
Question: How did you find the visa process, and did it take long?
I found it relatively easy, although a lot of work needed to be done. My partner and I applied together, with me being the main applicant. We started the process with a specialised agency in December 2016, but didn’t send the expression of interest (EOI) until December 2017. It took us one year to actually start the process with the Australian Government, another ten months to receive our invitation in October 2018, and finally our visa in January 2019.
That is a bit more than two years since the beginning of the process, which in my opinion is a considerable amount of time. According to the agency, the whole process should take around 18 months, including the invitation. I will explain below why it took us longer and other details I think might be useful.
The Visa Process
I applied for the 189 skilled independent visa and by the time I sent the EOI the minimum amount of points required for my profession was 60. It took me a while to get the score needed for the English test (“competent” level in my case) so that was my first delay. So, I started with 60 points, but I knew the immigration policies usually changed at the end of the financial year and that the number of invitations being given was decreasing, so following the advice of the agency I started gathering as many more point as I could.
That’s when my partner validated his career with Engineers Australia (5 points) and I waited another six months so I would officially have five years experience (to get 5 more points).
In June 2018, I had the equivalent to 70 points, and I updated my EOI just at the end of the financial year. I don’t remember the details beyond this point very well, but I remember that just after I did the update, they changed the minimum to 65 points and the invitations they were giving wouldn’t have less than 80 points.
I was advised to wait and be patient as the number of invitations was expected to increase at some point, so I did and I finally got the good news in October. It wasn’t such a long wait now that I look back to it, but when I was waiting it felt like forever!
Me and my partner would check the government website daily and read a lot of forums discussing the results and tendencies until we finally got it, just after reading they were starting to give invitations to people with 70 points earlier that day!
From that point on it was all very easy, just paperwork to confirm our information and with the agency knowing how to proceed we got our visa granted a few months later in January 2019, and the rest is history!
Question: What were your first impressions when you arrived in Australia?
I like to speak of “we” sometimes because all my process have been shared with my partner. We came here with a lot of expectations. We wanted to be able to reach our goals, trying to keep a positive attitude, believing we deserved good things, but willing to face challenges in order to get them.
We first arrived in Sydney and the spirit we had at that time helped us enjoy all its beauty. It was winter and we didn’t miss a walk around the city, we took some hours a day to enjoy every place in terms of entertainment. For the rest of the day we persistently looked for advice at every corner trying to find a job in our profession.
We weren’t getting any positive answers, and I guess that made my first impression bittersweet. I have to say I found the city beautiful and the people nice and welcoming, but the idea of not finding job and facing so many obstacles in the process wasn’t easy.
Q: Was there anything that really surprised you when you first moved here?
The seagulls stealing my food while I still had it in my hand!
Question: What are the things you really enjoy about Australia and what things do you miss about home?
I enjoy how safe I feel everywhere. I enjoy that you can find opportunities if you look for them (although I think you have to fit well enough in the society to find them) and that you can enjoy a very good quality of life without having the highest wage.
I also enjoy the landscapes and that there are so many public places you can enjoy “for free”. I love having the beach and an ocean view near my house and at the same time the city centre where I can find any product I need. I miss my family and my friends. Although the internet has made communication very easy, sharing a time in person with someone is a different experience.
Question: Did finding a job in Australia come with any challenges? What were they?
Yes, many! As I said before, they were what made me had a bittersweet first impression of this country. In order to find a job, I visited as many recruitment agencies I found out about, wrote to every recruiter I could, went to every networking event and told my story to as many people my shyness allowed me to. That way I began to understand how things worked in the Australian market.
Here are some of the main things I can point out:
I changed my CV several times trying to adjust it to the “Australian way”. I wasn’t really sure of how much information I should add, as sometimes I was told to add as much as I could so I could explain my experience and other times I was told to keep it as short as possible.
Sometimes I was told to change it and adapt it to every role and other times to make it as complete as possible so that I didn’t have to change it every time. One person would tell me not to add a photo of me and the next one would tell me I shouldn’t be afraid of showing my face.
I asked only qualified people, professionals in the engineering field, or recruiters for advice. Some of them had gone through a similar situation as me and others were dedicated to help people like me; and these were the kind of contradictory comments I got.
I wrote cover letters to every job I applied to, signed in to every job-seeking app, updated my LinkedIn profile and kept on checking the offers. After two months and having tried a lot of different things nothing was happening.
I realised how important it was to keep my LinkedIn profile updated and attractive, as anyone slightly interested would view my profile even before answering my messages.
Early on, I realized my experience wasn’t worth much to get into the selection process. I realised that once it was known that my general experience was all overseas my application would be discarded.
I came to conclusion that recruitment agencies have very specific types of professionals in mind and even though most of the time they are willing to help and showed sympathy for my situation, an overseas professional like me would rarely meet their requirement.
Recruitment agencies could do very little to help me get a job, although they advised me to look for companies from overseas as they tend to value overseas experience more.
That made me think I had to make my specific experience look valuable and look for job descriptions that I could match with it.
Follow your instincts
I reached a point when I told myself I had to follow my instincts and send the information I thought was relevant and valuable for each case. I guess things work different for each person and each job and company is different, so I though I would try to fit my application to what I thought the company was expecting.
Change of direction
Based on the advice I was receiving, I started looking for jobs advertised directly by the companies hiring. I thought it would be easier to sell them my skills and experience and I thought that they would be willing to take more risks than a recruitment agency.
Between two and three months after I started sending applications, I got four replies asking me to move to the next step: the interview! Some of the answers I got were from applications I had sent the week after I arrived,
some of them were more recent. I made a lot of changes in my application process in that period, so that is why I say I don’t know what works and what doesn’t.
Finding a job
I found the job I have now through a “Quick application” on Linked In, so I didn’t even attach my CV on that one or wrote a cover letter before receiving the first response, so I don’t know if any of the cover letters I wrote so specifically for the job made any impact.
I did prepare very well for all the interviews I had. I think being prepared really made an impact in the process, so that is something I would definitively recommend.
All of these are personal impressions and opinions. As I said, I think things work differently for everyone, and I’m still not sure of all the things I tried what worked for me. One of the only things I am sure about is that I always kept trying. I kept being critical with myself and change the things I thought I could improve. Never give up in looking for new positions and try not to lose contact with the few people that replied.
If you are a recent Skilled Migrant struggling to get a job in your profession, we recommend you read our comprehensive blog: How to overcome lack of local experience in Australia For more Migrant Stories follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook.
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