Posts Tagged ‘Education’

I keep asking myself this question:

What would I do differently if I was to migrate as a graduate again?

The answer below comes only after a few years of education and living in the UK. It is not a comprehensive list of how to migrate, as each person is not alike, has diverse needs, different set of values and life aims. Nonetheless, the ideas raised below could serve as a starting point for many graduates in transition into labour market, and considering moving abroad.

If you want to move places, begin with a thorough research of your expectations–>


This may be a trivial point, but even if someone is going away for a gap year, which involves taking time out either before going to university, during your course or afterwards, according to the UK career advisory websites for students and graduates, you should not think of it as a break from your career.

Prospects‘ advise you to “keep in mind how you will capitalise on the skills and experiences gained to boost your CV“. This simply means, ‘you should not retire, before  you get properly tired’. Even during travelling you have to act towards building your personal capital, if not the human one (education and numbers of years spent on it, language knowledge, and so on…).

I will briefly explain the term of personal capital, as it refers to a very important aspect of migration planning – SELF IDENTITY and REFLEXIVITY (Giddens, 1991).

Tomer (2003:456) describes personal capital as “an individual’s basic personal qualities”, including the “quality of an individual’s psychological, physical, and spiritual functioning”. Brown and Hesketh (2004:220) argue that personal capital is closely related to “self-identity” the understanding of which influences the future success of the potential knowledge worker.

The notion of “self identity” was introduced by Giddens (1991:5), who argues that the modern individual faces a diversity of possible selves, as the identity is no longer structured in advance, through social hierarchies (which extent varies across different cultures). He disputes that identity is not a collection of traits either, but an ongoing process of reflexivity about the individual’s personal biography. Thus, the available choices of for instance travel, education, job, meeting new acquaintances, provide the individuals with an opportunity of production of an ongoing story about their lives.

In part, individuals have to plan their future life,  and continuously build up their biographies with a reflexive outlook on “who I am” and “how I am to live” (Giddens, 1991:5). In other words, personal capital is “who we are and what we have done in our lives beyond education” (ibid.).

Thus, the question of what you want to do after migration deserves a more careful attention. This is mainly because you should break it into three other relevant ‘sub-questions’:


Let me take you on a personal journey through all those questions listed above.

Once you embark on the task of answering the first one – very well done, you have commenced the cycle. This means, that the journey is non-linear, or even to put it stronger, it is unpredictable. You may find yourself returning to all three questions respectively, trying to solve the issues arising or indeed, tick the boxes of concerns that you have resolved. It all depends on the process of doing internal and external research – asking questions inwards, and outwards. The answers may arrive on the impulse or gradually.

It is necessary to begin the journey with the question one, as it refers directly to YOU.

It asks about how well you know yourself, how advanced you are in reflecting on your life, preferences, needs, dreams and even fears. It also refers to your strengths and weaknesses, which could be applied in work places and personal life. You need that time to reflex and reflect on your self-identity, or as Plato (1992: 189E–190A) says:

“I mean the conversation which the soul holds with
herself in considering of anything. I speak of what I
scarcely understand; but the soul when thinking
appears to me to be just talking – asking questions of
herself and answering them, affirming and denying.
And when she has arrived at a decision, whether gradually or by sudden impulse, and has at last agreed, and
does not doubt, that is called her opinion”.

I will suggest a few steps to follow, which may help you to advance in finding answers about yourself:

  • DO THE PERSONALITY TEST and other psychometric assessments

Different firms of psychologists developed a range of different questionnaires which measure personality preferences. They all follow the pioneer personality assessment developed by a psychologist Carl Jung, with the most well known Jungian type instrument – the ‘Myers Briggs Type Indicator‘ (MBTI).

According to MBTI, personality type is measured through four sets of opposite preferences:

Extraversion – Introversion

Sensing- iNtuition



This way an individual could be described in terms of any one of sixteen possible four letter combination e.g. ISTJ..

The most thorough and free of charge testing is available for the UK students and graduates  at the universities they are enrolled in to. If you are not a student/Alumni of the UK HI, there are various organisations that could run those tests for you, such as: Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS), devised by American Psychologist David Keirsey. This is a very well researched personality type instrument, and similar to MBTI.

By clicking on this link you will be taken directly to the test. After the test you will be given a mini report for free. If you wish to get a full report you will have to pay an additional fee.

Another option is the Big Personality Test which was designed by BBC Lab UK and Child of Our Time in collaboration with Professor Michael Lamb and Dr Jason Rentfrow of Cambridge University.

The Big Five test, or ‘Five Factor’ personality test, is a widely recognised and well-used scientific measure of personality. It measures:

  • Openness – do you like novel ideas, creative experiences and different values.
  • Conscientiousness – are you organised, strategic and forward-planning.
  • Extroversion – how attracted you are to social, stimulating experiences.
  • Agreeableness – do you consider feelings of others and how easily you form bonds with people.
  • Neuroticism – how you react to perceived threats and stressful situations.

There are a few other personality questionnaires, well described with some suggestions where to take them, available on this website



This exercise will help you to meet your perception of the job, with the REALITY of what it really entails  and if the principles agree with you or not. A good source of job roles, and commonly referred by career advisers for students and graduates in the UK is PROSPECTS. This official graduate career website is an excellent database for general jobs browsing, how to plan your career and how to look at the skills and match with the career path you would like to pursue in the UK and elsewhere.

TARGETjobs is another useful website. Once you register, you can use their career planner. Their Careers Report uses questionnaires and psychometric tests to explore your interests, strengths, personality and abilities and matches you to jobs that would suit you. The report is free for registered users.

At this stage you may have realised that the job descriptions, requirements as described on those two useful websites may differ to what you have imagined so far, or perhaps experienced to some extent in your home country. This is a good point to observe, as it will allow for adjustment to a different mode of thinking of who you are, what do you want, what skills/traits you have and how these could be used or developed further in your home country, and after migration to the UK.

I would suggest to keep the process of learning about yourself OPEN and INTENSIVE. You also should bear that in mind that in the UK career advisory practices are available for school children from the age of  13 to 19 (and up to 25 in certain circumstances), then at universities throughout the country and through other organisational units for adults (National Careers Service; netmums). Therefore, upon migration you may discover that operating in labour market in the UK is very much based on the continuous life-long learning principle and reflecting process, widely practiced by employees and employers alike.

So far, responsible for these was Connexions (from 1999, following the Learning and Skills Act), which was the independent information, advice, guidance and support service for all young people. The organisation provided “impartial information, advice and guidance to young people, to help remove barriers to learning and progression and enable them to make the transition into adulthood and working life(A1).

Currently, in place of Connexions came National Careers Service, established in April 2012, which is publicly funded careers service for adults and young people (aged 13 or over) in England.

Therefore, there is plenty of career advice and support with careers’ development, and it is vital to know that your career paths can be taken care of. It is only up to you to show your agency/activity in finding out of who you are, your values and life aims. Once you start the process, the answers will start arriving as Plato (1992) says, gradually and by impulse. 

I will answer the two remaining questions on reality and constraints in my next post. Simply keep in tuned for updates  (–> and FOLLOW my blog :)



Brown, P., and Hesketh, A. (2004), The Mismanagement of Talent: Employability and Jobs in the Knowledge Economy, Oxford University Press

Giddens, A. (1991), Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in Late-Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press

Plato (1992), Theaetetus, ed. B Williams. Cambridge and Indianapolis: Hackett

Tomer, J. F. (2003), Personal Capital and Emotional Intelligence: An Increasingly Important Intangible Source of Economic Growth, Eastern Economic Journal, 29(3): 453-470

Life is not easy for those on the move. This also applies to graduates of home universities from Central and Eastern Europe, who for various reasons move to the “old European Member States“.

Based on my own experiences, as well as further education within the area of migration and higher and further education – a graduate migrant’s career life will greatly depend on set goals and ambitions and the level of SELF-CONFIDENCE. This is not to mention the obtained to date human and personal capital,the knowledge of the new place, and any networks that they may have (friends, family, or perhaps organisational links).


“Because everybody is saying that Polish education is so good, and you are just amazing, and then you start doing something and you learn the most. And then you realise that you are really not that amazing. I think I was just wearing my pink glasses when I was migrating, and then I just became more realistic” (Grad. 19).

“I know more about life in the UK now, but on the other hand it made me to realise that my chances are not as good as I thought earlier. So maybe it was a false confidence, or maybe it was just a dream, I would say I was more than sure that I will be successful with my career…” (Grad. 17).

My doctoral research carried out on Polish graduate migrants in England and my very own steps as a graduate migrant to that country show that ‘the-know-how’ to enter the labour market is often misinformed. This often derives from individuals’ imagination of what it is like to be a graduate job seeker in the UK, rather than being familiar with how the labour market in the UK really works.

Those who are new to the labour market due to their migrant and graduate statuses may find themselves in a trap: they need to find a job fast and any type of job. Thus the time for reflection on who I am and what realistic steps I could take to make my career and life dreams come true, is scrapped to a bare minimum.  This in turn may postpone, or in some cases even prevent them from using their strengths, skills and abilities gained at Higher Education Institutions, not mentioning the actual knowledge, or specialisation.

However, some can argue, that HEI is not equal to another, with many differences across countries, including Member States of the EU. This is clearly seen in the responses of the majority of graduate respondents interviewed for my research, who upon graduation from Polish universities felt HIGHLY EDUCATED, but NOT SKILLED. This referred to both, social sciences and engineering graduates, but most health and therapy graduates felt skilled and educated.

Belonging to any of those who perceived themselves as educated with theories, but lacking experience of their application in real life-case scenarios sets a false start into a labour market. This refers to both, the level of confidence stemming from graduates understanding of their strengths and weaknesses at work, and shows as lack of evidence on their Curriculum Vitae. This may be multiplied by employers’ problems with foreign degrees recognition which does not provide much room of manoeuvre for those who are freshly graduated and eager to commence a new life in a Western European country.

So, how to set your foot right?

As my doctoral research shows, there are different types of graduates adjusting to the labour market after migration. Some of them continued with education in the UK right after arrival, and then into a profession within the chosen career path before they even left their home countries. This is not to say that they will remain in their chosen field forever, but they seem to be very lucky ones. They already set objectives of what they want to do, doing the research prior to migration, and implementing it through further and higher education in a destination country. Often education was the driving force behind migration of graduates of their home countries to the UK, and once they enrolled in HE courses, they were safe to continue career development.

Universities in the UK offer a top-notch support for students, graduates and Alumni not only though provision of academic teaching that is often a mix of theory and practice, but they also run excellent Career and Employability Centres. At those hubs, graduates and students can expect an individual and very much tailored advice on their career progression, they can learn of what personality types they are, and what types of jobs would suit them most. The Centres organise various career events, such as employers’ presentations, workshops, and assessment centres. They provide relevant educational material on how to write a CV, fill in an application, and write a cover letter. They also run mock interviews for individuals to understand how to present and respond, and gain necessary self-confidence.

The celebration of skills within British universities does not come as a surprise, since employability skills have been supported by various governmental initiatives for the past 30 years. There were numerous the UK-governments funded and designed to support the development of employability skills programmes, including Higher Education for Capability (1988), Enterprise in Higher Education (1989), and the most important one – the Dearing Report (1997). The Report recommends the development of key employability skills as a central aim of HE. Overall, the Report mentions a list of the following skills that ought to be developed at the HE to ensure ‘the future success of graduates whatever they intend to do in later life’:

  • Communication
  • Numeracy
  • The use of information technology and learning how to learn
  • Cognitive skills, such as an understanding of methodologies or ability in critical analysis
  • Subject specific skills, such as laboratory skills
  • Self-management and planning
  • To be flexible and adaptable
  • To work in teams
  • To manage their own development and career

But it seems plain that an effective strategy will involve guiding and enabling students to be effective learners, to understand their own learning styles, and to manage their own learning. We see this as not only directly relevant to enhancing the quality of their learning while in higher education, but also to equipping them to be effective lifelong learners. Staff will increasingly be engaged in the management of students’ learning, using a range of appropriate strategies’”(The Dearing Report, 1997)

Thus, those graduate migrants who once again enter HE, this time in the country of destination, profit in terms of own career management skills, forward thinking and designing life and career trajectories, more down to earth approach than the pure theory of their home country HE obtained. As one graduate concluded:

“I would say I was really well qualified in terms of theoretical knowledge, because my education in Poland was more kind of broad, but in terms of practical skills, I was rubbish […]So things like writing abstracts, like you know, practical skills – applying for grants, sending abstracts, applying for funding, so all this wasn’t there at all! So theoretically, I was well prepared, but that is it, but the other stuff was like…you know. In the UK they can talk about themselves, they are self-confident, they know how to present themselves, how to sell themselves, and I was like not even close to where they were (Grad. 16).

What can we learn from those graduates?

Since the primary motive for migration was further HE education predominantly on post-graduate courses, they only had to do their homework – decide what their interests are in, how they can afford HE in the UK, where to look for funding and above all make the decision on migration. Since majority of graduates interviewed arrived in the UK and commenced their education because they already had some funding secured, indicates that finances are the major part in continuation of HE abroad.

However, not every graduate migrant wants to get back to university once again, at least not immediately after graduation. Therefore, migration for any other reasons than education and brain training may become problematic for making well-balanced steps towards full career development. Such graduates have to do equally difficult homework, but this time focused more on what is the labour market like, what skills have they got, and how could these be transferred across the borders.

Doing the research on Polish graduates and trying to set my first steps in the UK, there were not many information points for new arrivals on how they can fit into the broad labour market, and not only in basic skilled jobs. Once in the UK there are citizen advice bureau, and other organisations dealing with migrants’ rights in the UK, offering legal help, with some providing free service supported by volunteers. There are organisations dealing with housing rights information, support for migrants in distress, which is often focused in some regions of the UK, more than in others.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of accessible online resource serving information for East and Central European graduates, supporting them in their career development within the EU. This blog’s intention is to bring relevant information for prospective graduate migrants willing to advance their careers outside of their home countries, in another EU Member Country, on the example of the UK.

Referring to European Commission strategies such as Europe 2020, and policy initiatives to improve young people’s education and employability in Europe, for example “Youth on the Move“, or “New Skills for New Jobs“, this blog aims to provide relevant information for young in their stepping-stone journey, running away from the black hole of “Europe’s Lost Generation” .