As an internationally trained engineer, finding a job in engineering does not necessarily mean that one has to become a PEng or professionally licensed engineer. The most important step is to get into the door of the engineering industry. How? Through related jobs such as engineering technician, technologist, etc (see story in CFNet entitled "Alternative Pathways for Engineers").
Boni Solano together with his wife and daughter came from the Philippines to Canada in 2000. He has a civil engineering background with international experience in civil, mechanical and electrical design and drafting works. His expertise includes AutoCAD drafting, programming and computer hardware, with strong knowledge of computer applications like MSWord and Excel.
The position advertised in Western Coal, a Vancouver-based junior mining company, was for "CAD technician". While Boni had CAD background, he did not have experience in mining. Nevertheless he applied for the job, and in fact, submitted his application after the deadline. Boni was called for an interview and after the interview, was offered the job.
Jim Proc was the senior mine engineer who interviewed Boni. Asked why he considered Boni's resume even if it was late, he replied that they did not have many suitable applications for the position then. He explained that small companies typically get fewer applications than larger companies who have more generous compensation benefits and more detailed/specific job descriptions. Smaller companies have much broader scopes for each position and therefore fitting into the position may be easier for applicants.
Jim further stated that Boni's resume showed he had skills in AutoCad, and that he had civil engineering experience. Civil engineering experience helps in drafting mining-related infrastructure projects which the company also undertook.
Jim cited several reasons for hiring Boni: "He was very fluent in English. Boni was obviously overqualified for the job, but he had an open mind and was prepared to do whatever is required to get the job done. He had the ability to do CAD work. His knowledge in civil engineering was an asset even if he was not experienced in mining."
To the question of how important "Canadian experience" is to him when hiring, Jim replied, "It's not really the Canadian experience per se that is important. It's what it says about whether the applicant will likely fit into the working environment, whether he would be able to communicate with others. So if at the interview, we see that the applicant clearly has good communication skills, and will be comfortable with the team, the Canadian experience criteria will not matter as much."
Jim further explained, "In engineering, there are enough possible technical challenges to overcome for an immigrant new to the country. There are other team members to help with technical challenges; in language skills, nobody else can help the applicant except himself."
Boni is now working as a Senior Civil Designer in AMEC. Though he is happy with his job and earning an acceptable income, given time, he still considers applying for PEng.
Tips from immigrant engineer Boni Solano, and the engineer who hired him, Jim Proc
- When responding to job advertisements, even if the job description does not exactly match your expertise, but you think that you can perform the job, tailor your resume and highlight your transferrable skills. You should also express your willingness to learn.
- Be prepared to take a position that may not require the application of all the skills you have.
- Networking does not necessarily mean to associate only with people who have the same field as yours. Sometimes blessings come from unexpected people, no matter who and what they are.
- In interviews, just be confident and friendly. Interviewers will ask questions based on your resume. The interview is the chance to explain in detail what's been summarized in your resume. There are also questions not directly from the resume but related to outside interests, situation management, reasons for applying for the job, and the like.
- Newly arrived skilled immigrants may wish to apply to the smaller companies or more remote companies as there is likely less competition for these jobs.
- Polish your verbal communication skills. It is the key to getting a professional job.
- Do not let 'lack of Canadian experience' stop you from applying for the job you were trained for. Many employers will be open to hiring someone with no Canadian experience provided they demonstrate they can do the job and can communicate well.