Migrant job seekers tell small business – we’re skilled but it’s hard to break through

IT specialist Ian Park, 33, was having no luck finding work in his profession in Melbourne after moving to Australia from South Korea in March last year.

Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, he says 70% of jobs were not advertised.

“You actually have to do networking here,” he says.

It’s not what Park was used to in South Korea. “Back then I was busy applying for jobs, now I go to church or soccer, that sort of thing,” he says.

Migrant job seekers face many hurdles when dealing with Australian employers, states humanitarian settlement group AMES in new research released today.

AMES lists hurdles such as language and accent, having employers recognise overseas qualifications and jobseekers lacking local referees. 

AMES has run a course called the Skilled Professional Migrants Program for 408 migrants, mostly on skilled migrant or student visas; less than 35% had worked in Australia, mostly in low-skilled roles, prior to enrolling in the sessions.

“After the SPMP, employment situations had significantly improved; 89% had found work, and of this group 64% were in a professional position,” a report surveying 239 participants stated.

While breaking into small business jobs can be hard, applying for government jobs can be even more challenging for migrants due to the extensive criteria required to be filled out in an application.

“I didn’t really apply for that many jobs because for university jobs or hospital or government jobs you had to write selection criteria, and it takes a lot of time,” he says. He was writing them his own way.

Park learned from mock interviews with Telstra HR staff, and through these programs realised he had to appear confident, and that selections were based on personality.

“You have to be confident, if you seem to be desperate you won’t get a job,” he says.

It can be a difficult balance. Park says in South Korea employers would give a date when they would tell applicants whether they were in the next round or not, but Australian employers want job seekers to follow up.

“I think before the course I was trying to follow up every week, which makes me seem desperate. That could be one reason,” he says.


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