It’s not uncommon for me to share real-life experiences that relate to careers or HR in my blogs. Sometimes they are about myself, occasionally they are (disguised but) about friends, family, acquaintances or clients. This time it’s about an Uber driver who I met last week. The drive started off with the usual pleasantries, “Nice weather we are having, much better than yesterday …” but for whatever reason, this man decided to ask me what I do for a living. When I told him, I was an HR Consultant and Career Coach he immediately replied with a chuckle, “I wish I’d have known you and consulted with you last year! Now I’m stuck driving this car 15 hours a day just to support my family.”
Suddenly, the intensity of our conversation picked up. He began to describe his biggest professional mistake which deeply affected his personal life. What was that huge occupational derailment that had him now driving me to my next appointment? He had hastily left his stable job as a city bus driver to pursue what he thought would be a great career opportunity in another country.
To paraphrase him:
“I was miserable driving that bus. Ten years of doing the same route, working split shifts which meant very long hours, not getting to see my kids as often as I’d like, and my poor my wife was never able to book a vacation for us during the holidays. I needed a change. I’m from Lebanon and had not been back to see my family in years. My parents have never met their grandchildren, so when I met a businessman who offered to start a bakery in Dubai that I would operate, I jumped at the opportunity. It would mean being closer to my relatives and closer to my culture. Plus, of course, I’d be doing something that I actually love. My true passion is owning a small business and making food.”
Unfortunately, this is not where my Uber driver’s story ended. So far, there has not been a happily ever after for this hard-working person. No, like so many other newcomers to Canada, he continues to work at a job that makes very poor use of his training, abilities, and potential. He wistfully sighed and said:
“How could I know the business would never take off, and in fact, that the only thing that would take off was the ‘businessman’ with all my money! I lost everything … my house, my savings. I can’t get my old job back and the bills keep coming. I spent so much on the move and the plane tickets. Now I’m driving even more than I ever did on that city bus and for less income!”
This was a cautionary tale if I had ever heard one, and I was deeply moved by his candour. Regrettably, I did not meet this man before he made the rushed decision to quit his job and leave everything behind to tackle the unknown.
After wishing my driver the best and handing him my card (he wanted to connect via LinkedIn), I got to thinking what if I could go back in time? What professional advice would I have given him in response to this particular career/financial gamble? Cleary he was not fulfilled as a bus driver… so I wouldn’t have championed for him to stay in that vocation forever, but what could he have done differently that would have still given him more time with his family and for travel, and to maybe start up his lifelong career passion?
Obviously, I can’t turn back time, but I can at least share some of my insights for others who may be facing similar career challenges.
1. Don’t believe everything that you’ve heard. When you’re a foreign-trained professional, you don’t need to settle for driving a taxi, an Uber, or working in fast food/retail.
Try to identify others who got their training outside of Canada and have been successful here. When possible, learn from them. If you can’t find anyone to model yourself after, I invite you to connect with me via social media or arrange a free, confidential, 15 to 20-minute initial phone consultation.
2. Sometimes free is too expensive.
I have known people who have worked for publicly funded career services organizations that provide free services to job seekers who are new to Canada. I have also known newcomers to Canada who have received assistance from some of these organizations.
For some newcomers, these services are a perfect fit. For others, however, they set their sights far too low … and after spending weeks/months attending workshops and training, they ‘graduate’ to a job for which they are grossly overqualified and underpaid. The time that certain foreign-trained professionals invest in some of these programs would be better spent pursuing other options and aiming higher. In these situations, the free advice isn’t a good match for their training, skills, and potential. Sadly, sometimes the well-intentioned free advice leads to missed opportunities, expensive mistakes, and unsuitable choices.
3. What to do when the credentials and/or job experience that you acquired before arriving in Canada are not recognized.
Think about your core skills and abilities and how you can use them in a different role. This may be especially important for more mature workers.
Is there a training program, certification, or degree that you can earn that will also give you access to relevant work experience? Is part of your former training or education eligible for partial credit toward the new training/program?
Is self-employment or starting a small business an option for you? Read more here.
4. Consider emerging areas/fields where there are no formally recognized training programs or credentials.
By many accounts, many workplaces are at a turning point due to emerging technology and changes in the economy. It’s predicted that this will create new opportunities. Learn more about these options by reading some of my previous blog posts:
- Automation … Is it Your New Competition?
- The Impact of Exponential Technologies on Careers and HR
- How to Stay Relevant in The Era of Artificial Intelligence
- Blockchain and CryptoCurrency Careers
- Think Your Job’s Immune from Being Replaced by Technology … Think Again
I invite you to contact me by email, phone (I offer a free 15 to 20-minute initial consultation), or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn if you’d like to discuss any of these topics in more detail.
More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.
I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.
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