“It has become common knowledge to know that if you move to a western country, chances are that you are not going to get a job in the same area [as you are educated in].” – Jackie Ochieng
“When I came here, I couldn’t find a job in my field, which is why I ended up cleaning washrooms. […] It is not about qualifications, it’s about who you know.” – Paul Mulangu
“I was an assistant manager at a big jewelry store in the Dominican Republic, now I clean tables. “ – Anonymous
These few quotes are just a tiny glimpse into the lives of hundreds of immigrants around the world and the struggles they have to overcome, to fit into a system that is in actuality meant to improve their situation.
Stereotyping at work
Despite being highly qualified and having a ton of credentials on their resume, in many cases immigrants are disregarded for higher positions based on their migration background for reasons like:
1. Even in this modern day and age discrimination at work is an everyday problem for some
You might have been born in the same city as your employer, you might speak the same native language as your employer, your academic background might be equivalent to that of your employer’s, but your foreign family name might be the reason you’re not getting hired.
2. Education is not ubiquitous
Regardless of how many certificates, diplomas and degrees one has earned, they will most likely be useless once entering the great western world. If your esquire or doctorate does not correlate with the standard of the country you wish to reside in, then acquiring a professional position is hopeless, and that is the case with most educated immigrants.
Take Samuel Tabi Tanyi-Mbianyor for example. The born and bred Cameroonian believed to have the necessary credentials to become a lawyer in Canada. Having worked as a senior legal advocate for nine years he believed to have more than enough experience and was quite confident in landing a job. But once in Canada the young Cameroonian was faced with the reality of things. Although he had passed the bar exam once, his degree could not be accredited. It would take a lot more work and willpower for Samuel to overcome this humility if he wishes to be recognized in the field of judiciary again.
Survival jobs for the educated
There are countless more stories of educated people that have been ridiculed and judged because of their origin. There is a certain racial stigma that might take a while to disappear, due to prejudice and ignorance, and also lack of faith in other’s capabilities.
Nowadays finding a well-respected job as an immigrant is hard enough, but to top that by setting drawn-out requirements such as endless paperwork and document accreditation makes it even more difficult.
“Even if we work hard to be a teacher, or a lawyer, or a doctor, we are seen first as outsiders.” – Anonymous
At an effort of making things easier for job-seeking immigrants, local groups, such as the Vienna based Helping Hands – Verein für integrative und antirassistische Projekte, ZARA – Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit and Initiative Minderheiten are focused on helping immigrants regain back their rightful status. These organizations put the well-being of minorities first and their moral ethic is what motivates people to work hard on themselves. Non-governmental organizations and their workers are what immigrants need to get back up on their feet. Unlike job centers, NGOs are more focused on helping a specific individual rather than grouping said subjects in one work space.
Even a simple sign of hospitality could lead to a career jump-start. This has been made possible thanks to the founders of couchsurfing.org – A free internet based network that gives you the opportunity of hosting travelers, or likewise being hosted by a group of friendly people. Embarking life on a journey will lead you to all kinds of places, and having a new and unknown welcoming home to stay in just makes that type of experience even more memorable.
The world has come far from racial discrimination and maybe your next host-family will turn out to be your future job-provider. Social engagement and trust is what strengthens and brings diverse communities together.
Header image credits: Royalty free