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How Do I Get Local Job Experience If Nobody Gives Me a Chance?

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by Lisa Johnson

over 2 years ago

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This post is in direct response to a comment on one of my other posts by a new immigrant frustrated at not gaining employment in Australia.  A qualified accountant with many years' experience, he wanted some advice on how he can overcome this. Here is my response. Years ago, I met with a wonderful candidate who had a terrible story to tell.  He was working in a fabulous position in India (a senior financial position) when he was approached by a company that told him to leave that role and come to Australia.  

The company made promises of work, and this man wanted the best life for his children, so he left his job, sold his house and moved to the lucky country. When he arrived, he went to this company and found out that they were a third party agency who would provide sponsorship IF he found himself a job. He had 28 days to find work or be deported out of the country. Not long after this, the government cracked down on these shoddy agents offering sponsorship to overseas people.  But that didn't solve this guy's problem.  He was now living in a tiny apartment in Western Sydney with his family, desperately seeking accounts clerical work, because nobody was going to employ him without local qualifications and experience. He ended up working in tax accounting and was able to slowly build his career back from there. 

I tell you this story as an example of the challenges new immigrants face when looking for work in Australia.  This country is not always as lucky for some as for others.  Here are some reasons why it is so hard for new immigrants to find work:

  • Your qualifications may not be recognised locally. This includes degree and professional qualifications.
  • You have no local work experience. This is a vicious circle, because how do you get experience if nobody employs you because you have no local experience?
  • You may have poor verbal communication skills.
  • Your resume is not appropriate for the kind of work that you are likely to get.
  • You are applying for too many jobs. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but it's true – if you apply for too many roles at too many different levels, you can put recruiters off.

How Do I Get Local Job Experience If Nobody Gives Me a Chance?

There is no magic answer to any of this. I can't tell you that by rewriting your resume that you WILL find work.  All I can say is that you can improve your chances if you:

  • Study a local degree (or conversion course), which then allows you to obtain your CPA qualifications.
  • Work on your communication skills (if they are holding you back). If English is your second language, then teach yourself to speak slowly and as clearly as possible to overcome these challenges. Speak English as much as possible (e.g. at home) to get the practice and to expand your vocabulary.
  • Rewrite your resume to demonstrate that you are 'hands on'. If an employer thinks you have been working at a senior level for too long, they will assume you have had other people to do the work for you.  So make sure you detail your ability to get in and do the work yourself.  Understand that you are unlikely to find work at a senior level in Australia with no recognised qualifications or experience.
  • Aim your applications at an appropriate level. If you are CPA studying, then you need to aim for work at an assistant accountant/accountant level.

A word on how to get a job with no local experience

Your best chance of getting work with no local experience is with temporary work.  Clients are more willing to consider overseas candidates if the consultant is confident they can do the work – often this requires you to do work at a lower level than you would have done in your home country.  Once you get temp work, work hard and try hard to exceed expectations.  This will lead to more work and will give you that local Australian experience that can lead to long term options. If you feel rusty using Excel, ask your consultant to send you online Excel training, which you can use to brush up your skills.

Be realistic

The world of accounting has changed.  Ten years ago, we couldn't find good accountants to save ourselves.  Now, university graduates are struggling to find work.  Companies have offshored clerical accounting roles, and others have developed large shared service functions, which are often located in one central location, removing opportunities in branches or interstate.  Good roles can be hard to come by, and clients are demanding a lot more for their money. We see more applications for accounting roles now, and there is definitely more competition for good jobs. 

Client expectations are getting harder to meet, but they are also less likely to compromise – electing to wait for the perfect person rather than lower their standards for someone with less than ideal experience.  This means that the recruitment process takes longer for everyone involved. Your key to success is flexibility and a willingness to roll your sleeves up and get on with the work.

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