Results published from the Australian Census this year has been a historic one. This is the first time that Asians have eclipsed Europeans as the main migrants to Australia, with China, India and the rest of the South East Asia countries contributing to the statistics.

As it turns out, my wife and I are part of a growing majority – from Malaysia.

Congratulations, your visa has been approved!”

Those where the words that echoed from the case officer that handled our PR application for Australia back in 2014. Back then, I felt joy, excited and relieved at the same time. I recalled going back telling the family and the next thing I knew were out having dinner, drinks followed by supper as if I hadn’t eaten since the week before! Truth is, they wanted to ensure I had enough time and the chance to savour the local favourites, late night supper, traditional cuisines and exotic fruits (think durian, cempedak, langsat) before leaving for Australia; something which my wife and I eventually did….. just a short 3 years later in 2017.

Like all big changes (or good jokes), timing is everything. Many of those who have made a similar move will know that relocating to a new country is a much larger undertaking than planning for a month long holiday. Apart from securing a place to live and understanding the cultural differences for your adopted home; one of the main challenges of migrating is landing your first role before or after you arrive.

So if you are in the midst or have plans to move across from Asia to Australia, here are some pointers that can put you in a better position towards securing your first role:

Embrace the process

Lets face it, searching for a job takes time ranging from a few weeks to more likely a good few months for many. Taking into consideration that many like-minded people have chosen to move, there is always going to be competition between Australian citizens and the group you may fall into; be it PR, working holiday, temporary sponsored work visas or non-residents altogether.

Being “foreign” to the country, the common rejection reason is that “we are looking for someone with local experience”. As much as Australia is a fair marketplace, this justifiably carries weight. Let us politely roll back the clock: If you have been a hiring manager yourself in your home country, have you personally hired a non-resident to take on a permanent professional role when there were locals well equipped for the same task? Most countries also have legislative requirements to ensure they protect and promote local talents, which understandably impacts hiring decisions.

Ideally, unless you have mastered a very niche skill set that can warrant a work sponsor (think actuarial science, artificial intelligence), it may not be as easy to secure a role against local competition. Still, there is a long way to go before throwing in the towel!

In the marketplace, there are companies that value diversity or are suffering from skills shortages (that may not be on the official legislated list) more than others and would be open to leveraging the experience that you have under your belt. Be it a small or medium enterprise, a short-term assignment or contract can possibly be a way to kick off your Australian career.

Tailor your CV accordingly

This is where you need to market your skills to your targeted audience. If you are a seasoned CFO with 20 years of solid work experience, it is best to avoid writing a 15-page CV depicting your detailed achievements and responsibilities.

Simple, concise and direct would be the words to best describe an ideal CV, so it is easy to spot your key experiences, skills, the value you bring and contact details. Don’t include the 3D graphics, coloured or funky font selection as that might be better suited for a different field altogether. Stating your current working rights (ie Australian PR / work holiday visa) is also extremely important to clarify upfront.

A cover letter helps in customising your intent and purpose for the specific role that you have applied for, which can be the difference between you and the other applicants. Highlight areas that you are proficient at which would be relevant to the role or company that you are aiming for. Assignments, projects or qualifications that can demonstrate teamwork or leadership skills should be included your CV as these are items that you can vouch for and are transferrable.

Pull something closer to your weight

The hiring manager/recruiter filtering for an Accounts Executive role found an ex-CFO of a listed multinational corporation in the respective home country as part of the applicant pool. In defence of the candidate noting that they will need time to adapt to the local laws, reporting and jurisdictions to a new country, it does not come across often that a candidate of such calibre will be called up for an interview for a role way below their experience or seniority.

While desperation brings us to try all opportunities to get a foot in the door, being a ‘serial applicant’ is not going to work. Instead, focus on applying for roles that you have confidence in performing, taking into account the experience that you can leverage from your recent roles.

Assimilate to the local culture and language

People in Australia are generally friendly, so you should generally find it easy to commence with small talk before going straight to your purpose. You also need to be aware of custom and regulatory differences eg. Certified Practicing Accountant requirements.

Here is my advice to integrate:

  • Coffee culture is real – Yes, Australians take their coffee seriously! This is a coffee nation that thrives without global mainstream brands dominating, so the local boutique cafes are the ones that create the passion of their dedicated customers. So do not be thrown off if your next career discussion, catch up, interview conversation or offer process takes place outside a meeting room.
  • Work / life balance is respected – Outside of certain industries and sectors, most organisations do offer a level of flexibility. You get work done during those core hours, your lunch is generally quick and fast, and we compensate those “saved hours” to have an early start for your Friday activities.
  • Australians generally do not do short cuts with rules, but they do so with their language! –  You know it is a whole new level when you can actually get dictionary specifically for the Australian slang. I lost my brolly in the arvo and it’s raining now, so I’m devo! While it may be foreign to many, a bit of exposure and learning will make it easier as you go along.

Engage your extended references

Seeing that you are relatively new to the Australian workforce (and even for the locals, actually), reference checks are usually part of the hiring process. Do make the effort to keep in touch with your former employers, more so if you had work with regional counterparts who happen to be on this side of the world. Having someone locally here to vouch for you can give you a credible edge over others.

Extend your local community reach

As more and more Asian communities and suburbs are coming up, interacting with your local community can get you settled a lot quicker. Be it matters concerning healthcare, bank accounts, tax files to finding local food/ingredients, people from your country who did the move before you can help heaps in settling in. Their shared experiences and network can be handy, and as you explore further, who knows if they can perhaps play a part in connecting the dots for you towards a new role.

There is only so much you can prepare for and ultimately, you will need to adjust and acclimatise yourself to the new rules, weather, culture and socioeconomics of the country. So long as you can adapt or embrace that bit change in lifestyle with an open mindset, you should enjoy the experience!

Since 2011, over one million people have migrated to Australia and statistics continue to rise. While we are not migration experts, we hope this could give you some insights should you wish to make the move into Straya!

Seeing that I have recently passed the local driving test for a licence conversion, I guess I can reward my cravings with for some frozen cempedak for now.