If you are an Internationally Trained Professional (ITP) the concept of “finding yourself in a new country” might sound very familiar. If you are not, I am sure you could nonetheless relate to some aspects of the experience as you read this article.
When you arrive in a new country as an Internationally Trained Professional (ITP) depending on your background you might face different challenges in order to integrate successfully. Many of those challenges are going to come from “obvious reasons” such as language skills barriers and lack of recognition of your credentials, especially in the case of regulated professions. Other barriers are less obvious but still well known such as: lack of “Canadian experience”, cultural integration, economic difficulties and lack of networks.
However, there are further related challenges that are not so well identified yet crucial, such as trying to figure out who you are or what role you are going to play in the reality of a new country. The answer to these questions is what often determines how successful you will be in dealing with all the other challenges.
For many ITPs and indeed all of us, what we do and the skills we have are an essential part of who we are. Take them away and we might not be able to understand ourselves anymore.
There are certain skills and background for which you were recognized back in your own country that over time have become a part of your identity. To illustrate this I will mention my own experience: as a social communicator I like to think that my ability to connect with people and convey a compelling message is part of who I am. Arriving in Canada without being fluent in its official languages or familiar with the local culture and systems was something that made me wonder who I was going to be here. Having been really comfortable with a set of skills that I had developed, I now realized I could not use them in the same way. It is difficult to say you are a social communicator when you have difficulties… communicating.
What I am learning from my own journey and from my work with ITPs after more than 100 interviews and placements with professionals from all over the world is that you decide who you are in a new country according to your motivation and expectations. These are going to vary according to what you left behind and your current circumstances. To move forward requires working hard on focusing on what lies ahead and it is crucial to have a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in the context in which you are located.
As a newcomer I had to make a decision to focus on the skills I could use at that time for my job search, knowing that most likely I was not going be hired then and there for all the skills I was most proud of. Pride is a tricky thing… it can motivate you, but also drag you down if not kept in perspective.
My sense of pride reminded me of my achievements, capacities and goals but I knew I had to be careful not to let that pride prevent me from learning, exploring new possibilities or taking opportunities to start at the very bottom.
Here is where paths meet and become blurred, because to move forward you cannot cling on to the past. Likewise you cannot forget who you are, even though you will change.
You have to be very pragmatic without giving up your dreams. You have to identify what is an opportunity at the very bottom, what is a diversion from your career path and what is an exciting new path for your skills in the new country.
The journey is different for everyone, but what I have seen is that the people who are able to identify these things and stick to their true goals and dreams are usually the most successful. In summary you have to be open and remember than you are more than a title. If you have come this far, wherever you are coming from, you can do it all again and maybe even better.