Advancing my Career While Exploring the Globe

By: Ayesha Amin

I’ve had the fortune of having what many globally would consider to be ‘good’ citizenship – I’m Canadian.

For a variety of reasons, both chosen and situational, I spent much of my twenties living and working abroad.

I lived in the USA as a teenager, then after my undergrad, I did an internship in Mauritius, worked in Nepal and in Swaziland, before returning to Canada. Many countries have International Development Departments of their federal government, that give work or volunteer experience to their citizens, by sending them to ‘developing countries’. There are some ethical issues that I have come to understand afterwards, but I will say that the 2+ years I spent working abroad were some of the most enriching times of my life. They often refer to it as ‘volunteering’ abroad but pay you a stipend that is very generous by local living standards. The UK has options such as VSO, DFID and others.

Because of some personal issues, I didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad during my undergraduate studies. So, when doing my Masters of Education at the University of Toronto, I made sure to find a way to study abroad. I applied to do an exchange – something that is rarely done during a Masters program, but absolutely possible (and recommendable!) if one looks and applies early enough – and wound up at the University of Glasgow.

After completing my MEd at the age of 30, I found myself in an increasingly expensive city (Toronto) with nowhere to live and needing to get a good job, to start paying off my student loans. I also felt like I needed one last ‘hurrah’ before I could settle down. As a commonwealth country, Canada has an agreement with other commonwealth countries allowing what’s often referred to as a ‘Working Holiday Visa’ where young people, under a certain age (some countries make it 30 others, 35) can apply for a work visa without sponsorship, for between one and two years. So I moved back to Glasgow, this time with a 2 year work visa.

Having had no ‘British’ experience, I worried that I would struggle to find meaningful work. I lucked out and ended up with a part-time job at Amina within the first month. It was really great, and welcoming. But at 10 hours a week on a 3 month contract, I knew I still had a lot of applying to do. I struggled for months to get any interviews at all. I met with the Employability team at Amina to figure out why. My CV was impressive, I had all sorts of international experience, but maybe employers were being racist about my name? This was a legitimate concern but I was soon informed that recruitment takes away your name and bio from their pages when hiring. Then we thought employers might be concerned that I was just going to ‘move away’ and I should include a tag line at the top explaining my intention to stay put. I realized that it must be really hard for newcomers to Scotland/Britain, because I am well educated and have, frankly, privilege, being a Canadian citizen, and yet I still struggled to find full-time work for several months.

I found a second part-time role at Amina, doing something that aligned very well with my previous work experience – digital communications. But I still needed another job to get full time hours.

I looked at Goodmoves, MyjobScot, Facebook job posts and groups, regularly. I applied, applied and applied some more. Patience and persistence got me through. 6 months into my 2 year visa, I got another part-time job at the Council. I had a good feeling when preparing for the interview that this job was made for me, but I prepared for that interview harder than I’d ever done before. I killed it! The next day I got a call offering me the position. Paired with what was now one part-time job at Amina, I wound up with full-time hours in two very different, but interesting positions, both suited to my experience and education.

I still worry about what I’ll do when I get back to Canada, and how difficult it will be to find a job there, when I’ve had – the same but opposite experience as in Glasgow – no Canadian experience for over nearly 4 years. I worry about this incessantly, actually. But being flexible with the kinds of work, and how to get full time hours (two, or even three part-time jobs?) can help. Patience, persistence. Preparing for interviews really hard, not letting rejection get you down (so hard, and I always do this), and networking. Letting everyone know that you’re ready and looking for work, and taking whatever support and advice you can get. Eventually, it will all add up.

I’ve had the fortune of having what many globally would consider to be ‘good’ citizenship – I’m Canadian.

For a variety of reasons, both chosen and situational, I spent much of my twenties living and working abroad.

I lived in the USA as a teenager, then after my undergrad, I did an internship in Mauritius, worked in Nepal and in Swaziland, before returning to Canada. Many countries have International Development Departments of their federal government, that give work or volunteer experience to their citizens, by sending them to ‘developing countries’. There are some ethical issues that I have come to understand afterwards, but I will say that the 2+ years I spent working abroad were some of the most enriching times of my life.

Because of some personal issues, I didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad during my undergraduate studies. So, when doing my Masters of Education at the University of Toronto, I made sure to find a way to study abroad. I applied to do an exchange – something that is rarely done during a Masters program, but absolutely possible if one looks and applies early enough – and wound up at the University of Glasgow. After completing my MEd at the age of 30, I found myself in an increasingly expensive city (Toronto) with nowhere to live and needing to get a good job, to start paying off my student loans. I also felt like I needed one last ‘hurrah’ before I could settle down. As a commonwealth country, Canada has an agreement with other commonwealth countries allowing what’s often referred to as a ‘Working Holiday Visa’ where young people under a certain age, (some countries make it 30 others, 35) can apply for a work visa without sponsorship, for between one and two years. So I moved back to Glasgow, this time with a 2 year work visa.

Having had no ‘British’ experience, I worried that I would struggle to find meaningful work. I lucked out and ended up with a part-time job at Amina within the first month. It was really great, and welcoming. But at 10 hours a week on a 3 month contract, I knew I still had a lot of applying to do. I struggled for months to get any interviews at all. I met with the Employability team at Amina to figure out why. My CV was impressive, I had all sorts of international experience, but maybe employers were being racist about my name? This was a legitimate concern but I was soon informed that recruitment takes away your name and bio from their pages when hiring. Then we thought employers might be concerned that I was just going to ‘move away’ and I should include a tag line at the top explaining my intention to stay put. I realized that it must be really hard for newcomers to Scotland/Britain, because I am well educated and have, frankly, privilege, being a Canadian citizen, and yet I still struggled to find full-time work for several months.

I found a second part-time role at Amina, doing something that aligned very well with my previous work experience – digital communications. But I still needed another job to get full time hours.

I looked at Goodmoves, MyjobScot, Facebook job posts and groups, regularly. I applied, applied and applied some more. Patience and persistence got me through. Six months into my 2 year visa, I got another part-time job at the Council. I had a good feeling when preparing for the interview that this job was made for me, but I prepared for that interview harder than I’d ever done before. I killed it! The next day I got a call offering me the position. Paired with what was now one part-time job at Amina, I wound up with full-time hours in two very different but interesting positions, both suited to my experience and education.

I still worry about what I’ll do when I get back to Canada, and how difficult it will be to find a job there, when I’ve had – the same but opposite experience as in Glasgow – no Canadian experience for over nearly 4 years. I worry about this incessantly, actually. But being flexible with the kinds of work, and how to get full time hours (two, or even three part-time jobs?) can help. Patience, persistence. Preparing for interviews really hard, not letting rejection get you down (so hard, and I always do this), and networking. Letting everyone know that you’re ready and looking for work, and taking whatever support and advice you can get. Eventually, it will all add up.

Follow Ayesha on Twitter or Instagram!

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