Wali Itaka (Christine) came to Perth as a university student, 9 years ago, from Kenya. She’d completed a Bachelor Degree in IT, in Kenya, and came to Perth to study a Masters in Project Management. Her career goal was to become an IT project manager. In the early years of living in Perth, Christine found not having a permanent residency visa created barriers to gaining long term employment, while she studied. Without the permanent residency visa, employers viewed Christine (and other migrants like her) to be an employment risk – meaning that she might leave to go home at any time. Getting work experience or an internship at big companies was difficult because, at the time, the companies usually offered these positions to Australian residents and citizens. As she was still studying, Christine wasn’t eligible for these positions.
To overcome these challenges, Christine started networking with friends, professors and tutors she’d met through her university studies. This led to her gaining a short contract job doing data entry at the university where she studied. After that, Christine was offered a series of short term contracts, either 3 or 6 months in length, working at a university, in government and for a mining and construction company.
It was hard. It was stressful because I never knew if the contract would be renewed. I’d also done some temp work. Being foreign is a challenge, but Australia has given me opportunities which I have not been able to get back home in Kenya.
Advice to newcomers
Christine received her permanent residency visa in 2015. She felt this made a big difference to how she was viewed by employers, and to feeling accepted. She was offered a full time job in IT, working at Edith Cowan University, and recently achieved her career goal in working in the Project Management space.
Her advice to newcomers is to:
- volunteer, if possible
- network widely
- attend industry/professional associations’ networking events
- join your university alumni, if you studied in Australia. This is a great place to meet people and network.
- become a member of your industry’s professional association. This will provide a measure of proof of your skills level.
- do any kind of work. Don’t think some types of work are beneath you.
Don’t limit yourself to doing work that you’re trained in. In the beginning, be willing to accept an entry level job in your field. You need to show you’re reliable, that you can hold down a job
It was a challenging journey, but according to Christine, the most important thing is to not lose sight of your goal.
Be patient, be prepared to work in any kind of job to start with so that you can support yourself and show that you have Australian work experience. It gives you a chance to show the skills that you have and to learn some new ones.
And network, network, network.