There is this 23 year old who has an MBA and she worked with me in her first ever proper job. When I heard that she never worked before, I couldn’t help but wonder how could she be a “Master” in Business Administration, when she has NEVER set foot in a business organisation before!
The islanders of Paradise are crazy about their higher education. Almost everyone I know in the Paradise has a professional qualification – a CIM, CIMA, BA, BSc, BCS, MBBS, MBA or an XYZ. We think it makes our life easier if we have those big capital letters at the end of our name, especially if they came from the US, UK or Australia.
Well, they certainly help: to secure a job in Sri Lanka.
Once we find a job here, we are very likely to get caught in the system, get married or get buried under a career. Marriage and kids could kill the aspirations and dreams; family, house, car, loans etc could easily tie one down for good, clipping the wings. Without realising, one would be reaching the 40’s, making it harder for one to chase the American Dream or its British or Aussie equivalent.
The current state of affairs and the global financial crisis has got everyone looking for greener pastures, resulting in a mini ‘exodus’ and considerable brain-drain.
This post is meant for those who are thinking of escaping – specifically to Australia – chasing their dream:
- The Aussie economy is not doing well, just like most other countries. Its a great time to transfer your funds – the dollar has depreciated around 30%; but not a good time for job-hunting in the kangaroo land.
- A professional qualification – even from Monash – does not guarantee a job. Australia, like most countries, have a labour force of average qualifications; you might be “over qualified” for the job, if you have too many capital letters at the end of the name.
- Experience counts. Even more so than the paper qualifications. No one cares about the Sri Lankan experience, unless you happen to have gathered it at a multinational organisation, or an international bank.
- Be a specialist. Portray a focus in your career. Jack of all trades is not a ‘qualification’ – master of something, is.
- If one doesn’t possess the ‘local’ experience, it would be hard to find a ‘suitable’ job. Its impossible to gain local experience if one doesn’t have a local job. Catch 22?
- Its easy to find a job at waiting tables. My advise: don’t, unless you are 18.
The early Sri Lankan migrants with their capital letters have done that and spoilt the market for the rest of the intellectuals – please don’t feed the trend.
- Aussies are scared if you have too many qualifications. They feel threatened, or they think you would leave for better prospects. Makes it much harder for the migrants with a wealth of experience to find a position on par with what they deserve.
- Even though the migration process is extremely well managed and well executed, CentreLink cannot do much for you. Its the headhunters (employment agencies) that find placements, and most headhunters have no idea what the actual job description entails. In summary, don’t expect much from headhunters or CentreLink.
- Have a focussed, but simple resumé that’s easy to digest. Something like, “Wijitha – the bus driver.”
“So what did you do, Mr Wijitha?”
“Well, I drove a bus, for 3 years.”
End of conversation. Everybody understands. “Wijitha – Head of Creative - Activation” is far too complicated for the average recruitment specialist’s mind.
- Most job applications are made online; if your profile fits the excel sheet at the headhunters, you will be called for an interview. If not, you wander in the limboland. Very few has the common courtesy to respond to your emails.
- Be ready to do what Indians do all over the world: to downgrade your CV and customise to fit. Leave out all what’s unnecessary, make the CV fit the vacancy you see and you are on the fast-track to employment. Starting a step below is sometimes better than not starting at all.
- Try to find a job before you pack your bags. Line up a few interviews or prospects through your friends, family or associates. Fellow islanders from Paradise look out for one another (most of the time), they would be more fruitful than the headhunters, for sure.
- Its easier to find, and most jobs are available, at the entry level. Best is to migrate as early in your life as possible – so that starting at the bottom of the ladder is not a step (or a few steps) down. Ideal age, 20+. You are willing to start at the bottom and prove yourself, plus you have no excess baggage. No wives or kids, only virtual women in your bed.
- Professional Migration sounds romantic, but that’s where it stops. Securing a job through international placement agencies before arriving in Australia is a good thing, but its almost impossible with a silly lankan passport, whilst in silly lanka.
- Don’t wait until you are a senior manager to migrate. Its almost impossible to break in at the senior level for a Sri Lankan who has no international experience.
- There are some areas where there is potential: shipping, finance and IT for example. But remember, it’s not only you aiming for the job – there are Indians, Philipinos, Chinese and people from all over the world eying the same seat.
That said, there are also a few great attractions that Australia offers. A fabulously laid-back lifestyle that fits our “islander” attitude (in comparison to the rest of the West), the kangaroo passport and great schools for the kids. Most of all, its worth paying 1/3 or more of your income as taxes – the social care system will keep you alive when you are old and lonely, and too weak to fetch a glass of water for yourself.