Travel to new horizons
Migration is life-changing, and many see it as opening up unimagined opportunity, writes
EZEQUIEL Trumper’s Argentine lilt is not one commonly associated with Sydney’s legal establishment, nor is his background. Born and educated in Buenos Aires, Trumper has not only made a successful career in law but his resume features some of the profession’s most established firms, and he has reached partner level.
Trumper was already 40 when he arrived in Australia, via work experience and a master’s degree in New York and several years practising law in New Zealand. He is one of 25 per cent of Australians born overseas. Some arrive in childhood but a large number arrive as adults.
Migrating mid-career has many challenges: the issues of language and culture, the mechanics of a new business environment and having overseas skills and qualifications validated and work experience credited are all matters adult migrants contend with — so much so that migration may not seem a smart step on anyone’s career ladder.
But there are, according to Trumper, aspects of the experience that provide career boosts and advantages . ‘‘ I believe you can see things that others can’t see if you know how two societies work. You can compare. You develop two sides of your brain to think with, to approach problems with. I think you work harder. You come from a country, as I did, that is not First World, where people face great obstacles to get ahead. You can get ahead somewhere like Australia with less effort. It is just easier to get things done.’’
Trumper acknowledges that he was better positioned than many new migrants. ‘‘ I am sixfoot three, male, and with a name like ‘ Trumper’ I am not as exotic, nor do I stand out as much as I might.’’ Eleven years living in Wellington also smoothed the transition.
But he does not deny that many migrants face ignorance and intolerance. ‘‘ It is at the lower levels that people tend to discriminate. I believe that the higher you go, the easier it gets — although I suspect there are corners of the establishment that I might not break into, but nowhere that is important to me.’’
Such determination and ambition are powerful career attributes, but how does a migrant fare in a job market where, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the most successful job search method is networking — finding out about jobs through friends, family and other contacts?
Depending on whose figures you believe, networking contributes to between 40 and 80 per cent of successful job searches.
Xavier Desdoigts, from France, now in Sydney and head of technology operations at film production studio Animal Logic, found the job that eventually led to his current role through personal contact 15 years ago. But that was six years after he first arrived .
‘‘ When you arrive as an adult you definitely have fewer opportunities in the job market and much less opportunities through your own network. When I arrived my English was not strong.’’ Desdoigts was also frustrated by an inability to get credit for his business degree and IT systems experience gained in France. ‘‘ It seemed that what I had done before was worth absolutely nothing in Australia, so for a few years I worked in restaurants, courier jobs and so on — eventually owning a share in a courier business.’’
Desdoigts found this time frustrating, but it allowed him to improve his English and to gain an understanding of how Australian business worked. Ultimately, it was a personal recommendation that landed him an interview with Animal Logic.
‘‘ I was lucky. My boss has a reputation for giving people a go.’’ It has paid off. In his role, Desdoigts works to support production on major international film releases — including Oscarwinner Happy Feet , and is gaining a global reputation in his field.
Desdoigts credits changing country as giving him a perspective and an openness to opportunity he may not otherwise have developed. ‘‘ Migrating forces you to question everything, and creates opportunities that may not have been otherwise. In Paris I would have stayed on a more predictable path. Here I was starting fresh. I could try any opportunity and had no expectations to live up to.’
Payman Solomon, who migrated from Iraq in 1992 with her husband, agrees. ‘‘ I wish people who come here were told — or could understand — that they can work in something they haven’t studied or done before, that they can try anything. But of course, when you arrive in a new country you naturally cling to what seems like the safest and most familiar path.’’
In Iraq, Payman was an award-winning student of English literature at Mosul University. Her career as a teacher and academic was more or less mapped out. Migrating changed everything. Initially she tried working as a translator.
‘‘ I thought there would be plenty of work, so I immediately got certification. But translation work is freelance and erratic. I then explored becoming a teacher. I was told I would have to study a further two years to qualify, despite my degree and experience in Iraq. At the time this seemed too long, so I took an office skills course.
‘‘ Meanwhile, my husband opened a tobacconist in Darlinghurst. As we started a family at this time, we shared the work in the shop and time with the children. It was a good arrangement which worked for the family and for the business for four years, until we sold up and bought a restaurant franchise, which my husband runs, while I have concentrated on the children.’’
With all three children now at school, Payman is relaunching her career. ‘‘ Because I had not established myself as a teacher or translator in Australia before I had the family, I don’t have a career to go back to. I now see this as a time to reconsider the path that I had taken as a given in Iraq — I am studying interior design and plan to start my own business.
‘‘ It is something that I have always loved, and I believe I have a talent for. If I hadn’t come to Australia I would not have given it a try.’’
Challenges: Since leaving Argentina Ezequiel Trumper has practised law in three countries