A. Mustafa is a civil engineer from Iraq who obtained a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Mosul. Prior to coming to Canada, he acted as liaison among construction engineers, architects and construction contractors. Mr. Mustafa worked for four years in Iraq and four years in Libya.
He is in the process of getting his PEO license and is a member of the professional association as an engineer in training (EIT).
Current employment situation
Mr. Mustafa has been working for two and a half years as a construction engineer for a building science firm in Ontario. When asked how he found his current job, Mr. Mustafa replied, “I got it through networking and I have kept it because I am hardworking and honest. I am flexible in terms of time and technical skill and knowledge.”
This position was obtained after Mr. Mustafa worked for two months on a contract basis with a cost consulting firm. This contract position was his second job in Canada. “The first few months, while I was looking for a job in my field, I had a survival job, a job that paid the bills. That made my job search easier, because it relieved a lot of the financial stress.”
Finding work in Canada
In this section Mr. Mustafa outlines, in his own words, the obstacles he faced during the eight months it took him to find employment in his field in Canada. The steps taken to overcome these barriers follow in brackets.
- The major obstacle was Canadian experience. Employers here only recognise Canadian experience and it is very difficult to prove outside experience. (I worked on a contract basis with a company, which gave me experience in Canada. I submitted my previous experience in a way that Canadians could understand the scope of my work. I accepted training in order to gain confidence from my Canadian employer.)
- English was the second obstacle, because English was my third language. It was difficult to overcome this obstacle. I needed some native speakers to help me with my resume and other documents. (I took some English courses and watched a lot of TV to gain vocabulary. I read when I had time. And ask. Ask, ask. Even if people don’t know they will help you find out.)
- Lack of network/connections.
- Cultural difference was another obstacle in the first few months. It was difficult to make the change from thinking about job search in my original culture to the way a job search is conducted in Canadian culture. (I asked my colleagues, and with the help of my colleagues and my friends a lot of things were explained to me. I tried to live the way Canadians live and think the way Canadians think. I have friends with Canadian experience and this helped me adapt.)
As a result of overcoming these obstacles, Mr. Mustafa says, “I recognised my own strength and power which I used more effectively to find employment.”
Working in Canada
There are differences in the way Mr. Mustafa’s profession is practised in Canada. “In North America the budget is considered as important as knowledge, whereas in the developing countries knowledge is more important than the budget. There is a lot of competition in the market here and engineers are responsible for smaller parts of the project. This means that they are working on more than one project a time. This situation will make the budget tighter and deadlines are very important for the overall project. In developing countries, the system of management is different. Most of the time engineers are responsible for a larger part of the project, if not the entire project. This is due to the fact that there is less skilled manpower and less competition. The engineer is required to focus on the technical aspects of the project maybe more than the financial part (the Budget).”
In the first year there were a number of challenges. These included: adapting to the place, getting used to the competition; learning the job and learning how people relate to each other in the office and on the job site. “These challenges required a lot of patience, flexibility, hard work and the learning of new skills.”
Advice to job seekers
Mr. Mustafa suggests focusing on networking more than applying to advertised positions because it is more effective. In order to maintain a positive outlook Mr. Mustafa says to “think positive”.
There are big challenges as the job market here may not be as “easy” as the one back home. Come with the right documents and a lot of patience. “In the end, all this will be rewarded after you find a job.”
When asked to offer the single most important piece of wisdom he would like to share with our readers, Mr. Mustafa replied, “Smiles open doors. Always keep a positive attitude. Always smile, this will make your efforts at networking easier.”