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

December 13, 2021

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.

In our quantitative study, we examine how skilled migrants cope with this problem and the strategies they use to deal with career sacrifice.

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.

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.

 

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