Anonymous, Senior Telecommunications Engineer
- Current Employer: Female Senior Telecommunication Engineer for Virgin Media
- Origin: Middle East
What's your professional background?
I have 4 years’ experience in my country as a Graduate telecommunications engineer. I was forced by the war to flee for my life in 2008. I borrowed a lot of money and did a UK MSc in Telecommunications, which I finished in 2011 with a Distinction grade.
How is your career going now?
After such a huge struggle looking for a job for over a year, I finally got a senior telecommunications engineering job with Virgin Media just before the Olympics began, through a recruitment agency that Transitions put me in touch with and encouraged to put me forward.
What were the issues keeping you out of work?
A range of things:
- I had no UK work experience or UK work references, though 3 years’ Iraqi experience.
- No specific services for me from Jobcentre Plus. They appeared to blame me for not having a job.
- I was unfamiliar with competency based selection systems. We don't use that system in my country and, having no UK experience, it felt as if it was designed to keep people some people out!
- I was already in a state of distress and insecurity at having had to flee from my country for safety and leaving my family, home and job. Housing was always a problem. I felt very unsupported both emotionally and materially in the UK.
- Overseas Degree. I had a UK MSc and an overseas Degree. But NARIC and some employers and professional bodies viewed my degree as less than the value of a UK Degree.
- I wasn’t a Member of the IET professional body. I am now.
- Recruitment agencies wouldn't register me. They wanted UK experience and didn’t understand my refugee status document.
- Refugee status Many employers don't know that refugee status is a proper status, with permission to work. There is often no box for refugees to tick that applies to their status. Definitely this affected my competitiveness.
What things made a difference?
- Talking with decision makers
Brunel University: I persuaded Brunel University to over-ride the NARIC opinion and accept my academic and experiential knowledge to pursue a Mobile Telecommunications MSc.
Guest speaker: I also made a presentation myself as a guest speaker at a Transitions network meeting with colleagues from Jobcentre Plus, aimed at enhancing services by Jobcentre Plus to refugees. That gave me a voice and more confidence.
The IET: I contacted and joined the IET as a Member, as advised by Transitions.
I also participated in a Transitions advisory network meeting with NARIC and the IET professional body, a recruitment agency and National Grid where we discussed some of the miscommunications to happen between these organisations and refugee graduate candidates. it was good to have that opportunity to talk for myself to decision makers.
Effective presentation: I was initially approaching employers without referring specifically to the competences listed in the job they were advertising and not getting interviews.
I built up a portfolio of information about my experience, and about the telecoms sector and the UK graduate recruitment system then started to frame my written applications better, using the competency system. Through Transitions I was interviewed by a major national employer for a job on their graduate trainee programme and got interview practice.
Impartial Advocacy from Transitions. Initially the agency who were doing the Virgin Media recruiting didn't shortlist me. Transitions called them to request the reasons why. As a result, the consultant put me forward a couple of weeks later for another role. Transitions assisted me to prepare for the phone and face to face interview, building up my self confidence, my ability to articulate my strengths and reasons for applying to Virgin Media and my positive approach to the interview.
I got the interview with Virgin Media, who I now work for, by putting in a good written application, with assistance from Transitions, that highlighted and targetted my strengths for that job and motivations to work for them.
How are things going now?
I'm now on the road to rebuilding my career, which was interrupted by the events in my country and further interrupted by the lack of information advice and support in the UK as a jobsearching refugee professional, which was very stressful. I was deeply depressed at some points. Transitions enabled me to learn how to approach the graduate labour market system here, have a chance to challenge and inform the decision-makers, and finally to compete effectively for the great job that I now have.