Travel to new hori­zons

Mi­gra­tion is life-chang­ing, and many see it as open­ing up unimag­ined op­por­tu­nity, writes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

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.’’

Pic­ture: Amos Aik­man

Chal­lenges: Since leav­ing Ar­gentina Eze­quiel Trumper has prac­tised law in three coun­tries

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