An International Perspective

My experiences of Job hunting, networking, work experience and meeting employers.

I left my country (Nigeria) with a strong determination and the belief that the world is my oyster. Why not? I had a good CV (or so I thought) built around my academic qualifications, previous work experience and what I often termed “international exposure” (or “widely travelled”).

On arrival at the Birmingham International Airport, I stepped out not only to meet the collection service by the enthusiastic student volunteers from the University, but also to meet the embrace of a “new” September weather. The latter carried a warm wind which “pushed and pulled” simultaneously, and soon had my determination wavering. This did not go away without a few drops of tears and some deep thoughts in the welcome Marquee at the University ground. Even then, it did not completely disappear, and would come to hunt me again during my job hunting experience.

I had settled in well into my studies and it was easy to embrace my belief that the world is my oyster, especially now that I can add my UK academic pursuit to my CV. I simply needed to add “current course of study” just above my previous academic qualifications on the CV. Well, I did this, but the practical pursuit of jobs wasn’t that simple. By this, I do not mean just to imply the rigour of searching for job vacancies online and in print media, but also the hard knocks from the “silent” responses to my “one and only” CV which I sent out indiscriminately. Suffice to say that after several applications and same “silent” response I became like a disillusioned bird with wings clinging tightly to the body with no hope of flying again.

However, I quickly remembered I had once been told that “for every barrier, there is a gate”. It was up to one to either moan about the barrier or to look for the gate. Applying this to my situation, I knew that it was a matter of choice whether to remain like a disillusioned bird or whether to become a resilient bird that would look for a way to flap and free its wings to soar. If the world was to be my oyster, then I had to be the latter. Herein began my quest for solution, (or for the gate!) and it did not take long before I discovered the Careers and Employability Centre, and its special support for international students. Indeed, just to know that there was some help out there got my wings immediately flapping again. While I was at first attracted by the CV advice for international students, I was soon to discover the many other workshops tailored to the needs of international students. It was from these workshops and the many free print resources from the Centre that I found the gate to the barriers, as well as the key to the gate! It is a new environment and adaptability is the key to success.  I realised my CV needed to be reconstructed and learnt that what I previously phrased as “international exposure” or “widely travelled” is best phrased as “multicultural awareness”! For adaptability on a personal level, I discovered the importance of learning the local culture and of trying to integrate by getting involved in the Community. I also found volunteering as the easiest (and perhaps the best) means to achieve these, and went ahead to pursue this route. Eventually, my experience was not only enriched but I also learnt the crucial lesson that not all jobs were publicly advertised and some positions could be advertised and filled through words of mouth. Better then to start with building a network and references by taking whatever that is available, even if it is on a voluntary basis! This, I did, and my wings rose from mere flapping to complete freedom, and the world has once more become my oyster!

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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