• Ishvinder Singh

Immigrating? Avoiding Professional Dissatisfaction Pitfalls

In my professional practice I come across people who cross borders and start a new life in a new country, there are people in their early 20’s who would like to come to New Zealand for study. Professionals in their late 20’s to early 30’s who are looking for a better work life balance, families and parents looking to join their kids after retirement.

Professional dissatisfaction is a malice most affecting the professionals who may have studied overseas and may have worked for 5-10 years before migrating to New Zealand.

The whole migrant experience is very complex, there is a range of emotions that people go through. There is the initial euphoria at getting that residency / work visa or the ticket to the Promised Land.

That is quickly replaced with a sense of anxiety about one’s income stream, housing and other immediate concerns. I have seen that it takes about 6-12 months for a person to get a foothold in terms of some sort of housing, putting kids in school, getting some sort of a job and getting a bit settled in a new country.

What I refer to as “professional dissatisfaction” is something that I have seen setting in between 2 years to 4 years. That’s one when one realizes that one’s professional options are limited in the new country, or one has to undergo a dramatic metamorphosis to be in position whereby one may be at the same level of job satisfaction as one was in the country or origin. To explain it a bit more, I would like to define it as a dawn of a realization that one’s options to move either upwards or sideways are restricted.

One may come from an economy like India, Brazil or China which may have its own issues, but is growing at a frantic pace, there are some sectors (IT&T and Infrastructure for example) which have grown at a fantastical double digit growth rates for the past 15 years. That offers qualified professionals a fantastic growth opportunity, which sets expectations of a salary growth per annum, a promotion every alternate year. Vice president by 32, yeah baby!!

That may not be the case for a migrant in a country like New Zealand or Australia where the labor dynamics and the economy is vastly different. The culture is vastly different and perhaps the measure of success is a bit different than what the paradigms were in the country of origin.

How can someone come out of the rut of thinking “I am an aerospace engineer and all that I am doing is telesales for the past 5 years?” Or “I am not given a chance because I belong to a different race or color” Or “I am in a no win situation as I can’t unsettle my kids, I am doing it for them and they will have a better life than me”

Let’s not pretend that issues don’t exist, that prejudice has ended and we have entered the kingdom of heaven. There are barriers in any work place and there are prejudices that people face every day. Some New Zealand born white women are insecure at their workplace because of their sex, or their body image. Other New Zealand born white men are insecure of their age or their height, weight, being gay and the list goes on. The point is everyone carries the burden of some sort of insecurity and everyone is a minority in some context or the other.

The real issue is not prejudice or barriers in one’s workplace, after all the high growth jobs the people did in their countries of origin were not without their share of issues. The real issue is that one is dissatisfied professionally. I have come across some individuals who have overcome professional dissatisfaction, perhaps there is a mantra they can share. Perhaps they gave up their jobs and joined the real estate profession just at the right time and made a killing in property, others started a franchise OR they started a neat side business selling wine via a website, damn if only I knew how to make a website. He is selling weight loss products to everyone he meets including his office colleagues and customers, there are so many multi-level marketing schemes, but everyone else has got into them earlier than me.

What I have learnt is that the satisfaction with one’s profession has two components. There is an external component i.e. you most certainly cannot start a pizza empire with no money in your pocket, and perhaps sometimes the needs and requirements of a family have to be catered for first i.e. there is certainly an external or a resource based element in it. Once you have taken care of the basics, having settled here and taken care of the immediate requirements of the family, slowly but surely the resources will start accumulating. You will have the money to buy that pizza store one day! Perhaps with some help from the bank.

However, there is a deeper more powerful and internal component as well i.e. the element of peace within. I can go on about the mantra of "looking at the positives" or "taking a holistic live view rather than only a professional view."

The fact of the matter is professional satisfaction is very important, if one is not happy in his work place, beautiful vistas, greenery, fantastic beaches and a great life style all fade into emptiness.

The question then is how can one find and awaken that peace within one’s soul It is about a process of one’s own discovery and journey and I don’t think there is an instruction manual for that.

Peace upon the world, Om Shanti Shanti!


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