Because of language issues and differences in jobs across borders, some newcomers to Canada can’t work at the same skill level as in their home country. But when they apply for jobs at lower skill levels, they hear, “you’re over-qualified.”
This can be frustrating. The solution lies in understanding your skills and finding the ones that are transferable.
Step 1: Don’t panic. Plan and make deliberate choices instead.
Engineers often struggle with over-qualification because their industry requires them to belong to a professional association. Membership requires Canadian experience.
Let’s consider the case of a fictional mechanical engineer named “Paul.” When he immigrates to the Lower Mainland, he learns that he can earn his Professional Engineering qualification by doing some junior mechanical engineering. So he needs to find a more junior job. It’s possible he will, but to widen his scope, he can also consider other jobs.
Step 2: Continue not panicking. Do some online career research.
Paul knows the target job that he wants in Canada. So he should go to the National Occupational Classification on the federal government’s website to learn about similar jobs at a slightly lower skill level. He should look first at the category for natural and applied science. Mechanical engineers are in the section “213.” And the exact code is 2132.
If we look a little further down the page in the NOC, we can find “technical” occupations in mechanical engineering. There are mechanical engineering technologist and technicians listed here. Notice they are Major Group 22, whereas full engineering positions are listed in Major Group 21. Paul probably has the skills for both groups, although he may not have used Group 22 for a while. His first step should be to find out what are the requirements for those jobs. These are in the job description on the website, along with more in the Working in Canada website Essential Skills section.
Step 3: Overcome language difficulties while working. Again, don’t panic or give up.
In case Paul has a problem with his English, he will need to improve his communication skills. Perhaps he needs to consider positions that will allow him to develop language skills while still earning some money.
In this case, he may think about a job that will involve some communication and one that allows him to use the same tools he needs to do his job. Perhaps Paul will apply to work as a Retail Sales Representative for a store like Home Depot or Lowes. This type of job would be one that would benefit his resume and future job search for engineering work because he can show that he was working toward his future goal.
Many of the essential skills listed for retail sales associates will be similar to those Paul has done as an engineer. Discussing work with co-workers, speaking with various people about products, discussing job assignments, and so on. These all easily transfer from engineering work and they also will transfer back to engineering work in Paul’s future.
Step 4: Job search effectively.
Part of any effective job search involves some career planning research. Paul will have researched the actual job and the skills that go along with it. Next, he will need to research employers more to find out about their individual needs.
Showing that you can meet an employer’s needs is the main and most reliable way to overcome problems with over-qualification. Showing that a particular job fits your career plan is another part of demonstrating that an employer should not worry you are over-qualified. Everyone wants a win-win.
About the Author: Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.