Friday, January 31, 2014

Immigrant Job Hunting

Have you ever considered what it's like to find a job in another country?

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When I moved to Ukraine, I already had a job lined up - teaching at KCA (technically it was a volunteer position and I was supported by Americans).

Think about what having a job means in your daily life.

Obviously, there is the element of financial security.  Assuming it's a 40-hour work week, Monday through Friday, you have to get up at the same time every day (usually earlier than you would like!), take a lunch, and travel via public transport or car or something else.  Usually you tend to see different scenery during your commute, workday, and end of the day.  Soon you settle into a routine, especially when needing to balance chores at home and relaxation.

When I lived in Ukraine, I had a regular routine:
Wake up and get ready for school
Walk to the bus stop and ride on the crowded marshrutka
Quickly prepare for the day's lessons
Teach each class for 45 minutes and have lunch
Grade homework
Plan upcoming lessons and make photocopies
Take the bus home (or to Bible study)
Eat dinner and relax in the evening
What happens when you don't have a job lined up upon arrival to another country?

The advantages:
*Sleeping at weird times
*Being able to go shopping in the middle of the day
*Flexibility to make other plans with people
*More time for my online seminary coursework or Dutch homework
The disadvantages:
*Any time of major activity makes me feel unbalanced and tired for days afterwards
*Feeling like a bum for being home 80% of the time
*I am not around people very much, or on a regular basis
*When we have free time on the weekends, I want to visit faraway places and/or those not reachable by train - and see more than just the closest 3 square miles
Not to mention, people generally ask, "Do you have a job?  What do you want to do for work?" as part of conversation.  When you are in this situation, it starts to feel like "Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" (to singles) or "When are you going to have kids?" (to married people)

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A couple weeks ago, we got a new Dutch teacher who wanted us to introduce ourselves.  As part of this introduction, we also said what we did for work in our home countries and if we work now.  

One gal was a teacher back in South America.

A sixty-year-old man was some sort of civil engineer.

Another gal just got her degree in some sort of safety engineering.

Interestingly enough, a number of my classmates are not currently working - or able to work - in these related fields.  One is working as a cleaning person at a nearby company.  Most of this is based on language skills, since that was in one of the beginner levels of Dutch.

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Imagine all the vocabulary you use in your job that's specific to that field.

If you're a teacher, these words include curriculum, inclusion, standards, differentiation....

If you're an engineer, the words might be load, valve, joint, ... (I can't even think of any)

If you're a mechanic, the words are gasket, injector, axle, drive shaft,....

Now, all those specific words - imagine needing to learn them in another language, especially if there are few places for expats to work amongst themselves in those fields.  

Imagine the related phrases/idioms that you would need to un-learn or relearn - phrases that you know perfectly well how to express in English or that you understand even if you are not in that field (like medicine, for instance).

Imagine how long that will take before you could actually work alongside a native speaker with enough general language skills and job-specific lingo.

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In the past few months, I've wanted so much to find a job.  Even though I have plenty of books to read and papers to write, I want to be out of the house, seeing the same people regularly, finding "my kind" of activity, and otherwise having a routine of my own.  

By looking at various job sites for expats, I can see that the more "marketable" job functions have to do with accounting, marketing, customer service (multilingual), etc.  ALL of which I have no experience and no degree.  So that's been a bit frustrating.

Even though my opportunities to teach are rather limited - we live a half-hour's drive away from the nearest school (with no traffic) or an hour by public transport, plus I do not have any International Baccalaureate qualifications - I still have the ability to find a job in my own language.  This will hopefully be helpful in the future, once I finish my degree and have the time to work.

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Do you know any foreigners in your own land that are working in jobs that they would not have worked in their home countries?

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