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Job hunting tips for results-oriented immigrants

1. Paulina, could you introduce yourself to our readers and say a few words about the Onpartu project?

I left Poland as a teenager to obtain education, first in Germany and then the UK. I started my career in investment banking and consultancy, but a decade later I took a step back to assess and understand my values and drivers. During that time, I worked with a charity in India and a social enterprise in Peru.

Back in Europe, I started to look into an issue that had troubled me years ago while pursuing a degree in economics at university. Back then, by day, I studied how to reduce underemployment and poverty, yet at night I worked in restaurants alongside an army of overqualified migrants who were overlooked by the governmental and non-governmental initiatives.

To address the problem, in 2015 I founded Onpartu. Onpartu is a social enterprise that enables foreign-born women to reach opportunities which match their experience and education, by providing learning opportunities, mentoring and creating a supportive community.

2. How high are the chances of finding a job according to the profile and expertise one has acquired in their homeland while settling in the UK?

Unfortunately, around 40% of migrants are underemployed. Yet I believe that when the English language is not a barrier, previous careers can be restarted or reoriented - the latter being particularly relevant to professionals who don’t want to requalify e.g. lawyers. However, before that can happen one needs to be able to articulate succinctly, and with a conviction, what it is that they are after.

We often live and work in accordance with the society’s vision of success, such as money and prestige, and we simply don’t allow ourselves to look at alternative career options. A job hunt can be a long and daunting process.

Therefore, knowing our strengths and interests is critical, and getting a 360-degree review from our friends, family members and previous employers can be a good starting point if we feel stuck.

3. Could you name the initial steps in a “proper” job search?

If chasing recruiters hasn’t worked out well for you - then you may need to review your approach. Here is what I would propose:

1. Know your industry: list your ideal 20 UK-based employers. If you struggle, read market reports and industry press to identify market leaders, or SME sites like to find fast scaling companies.

2. Understand your potential employers: check their credentials by researching them on Glassdoor, scrutinise their websites, especially annual reports.

3. Appreciate their service or product: become an advocate on social media: like, follow and engage – it can be very effective with smaller businesses.

4. Identify the decision makers or influencers: see if you can speak to them online via LinkedIn, or offline, for example by attending a breakfast seminar. Next, put your elevator pitch to use.

5. Have your customised CV and cover letter ready!

By following this approach, you will be able to make a much better-informed job decision, jump over the hurdle of dealing with recruiters who may not recognise your potential, and prepare yourself for your upcoming interview.

Onpartu peer-to-peer work

4. What’s the secret of the right CV? Does it make sense to pay for a professional CV-writing service?

For everyone we work with at Onpartu, we share three rules to winning employers over in the UK:

1. Customise your CV: Your maximum 2-page-long document must emphasise your transferable skills and accomplishments relevant to the role. Make sure you use the key words from the job ad, and do not include your personal details or a photo.

2. Sell your achievements: Replace overused words like “team player” or “hard worker” with action verbs e.g. “managed, led, delivered”. Position your responsibilities as achievements, ideally in numerical terms. For example, instead of saying “fundraising”, say “raised £50,000 by selling tickets for a 100-person charity gala”.

3. Make it visually appealing: Your formatting, grammar and spelling need to be perfect!

Once you are happy with your work, ask a native speaker and someone from the industry to look over your CV, and give you an honest feedback.

If you feel you need a proper CV template and a checklist to write or review your CV - click here.

5. What are the main mistakes immigrant jobseekers make in their job search and interviews?

Sending out too many low-quality applications is the most common. Then I would say that not many apply to “review, refine, refocus” mantra. For instance, if uploading CVs to databases is ineffective then perhaps start to network - up to 70% of jobs are gained through networks.

To succeed at an interview, we not only need to speak comfortably about the industry, the company and the product, but also be able to discuss our previous roles. Both an interview and an application, are not a place for modesty. It’s not about being arrogant but about sharing all the impressive things we’ve achieved — and the impressive things we can do for employers if given a chance!

Under-prepared interviewees either give generic responses or rush through their examples without listing any specific details. I always recommend applying the STAR (situation, task, action and result) technique when answering competency or behavioral questions.

Onpartu group training

6. How to overcome the stress of not getting any feedback or response?

Not hearing from a recruiter or a hiring manager can be as stressful as being turned down, and can dent our confidence. If you haven’t received any feedback, you need to send a follow-up email asking for feedback. It will show your interest in the role and professionalism, and be essential for your future growth.

Many candidates I have worked with over the years have struggled with being rejected, often not recognising that it’s not necessarily their fault. Some information may be confidential and we won’t ever get to know the truth.

I would say that during a period of increased stress levels, it’s really important to surround ourselves with positive people, and ideally have a supportive peer group.

7. Many immigrant women believe that they will never get a job in the field in which they were successful in their own countries because of language issues. What could you tell them?

The key consideration is whether your job pays you for your language fluency. I worked with foreign-born traders who handled multimillion pound transactions, yet their written English was intermediate at best - but it didn’t matter. Their jobs didn’t require them to write or translate, but to bring revenue to the bank.If your written English needs improvement, break away from your national community, meet more English native speakers by volunteering, attend MeetUps, read industry press, and download Grammarly.

Having an accent doesn’t mean you do not speak English well. Our accents show our heritage and indicate that we speak more languages, so let’s not doubt ourselves!

Onpartu’s goal is to support as many women as possible to reach opportunities that match their experience and fulfil their potential – whether that be in their current role or taking the leap into a new setting! Take the first step on your journey of change by learning more about the programme here.

Please note this interview originally appeared on Angliya.

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