Posts Tagged ‘the UK’

Image of the UK only - England

Image of the UK only – England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The issues described in ‘How to get in the loop? -part 2‘ can refer to external constraints, that are not directly dependent to your actions, but form a background story to your life. However, there may also be internal constraints that will depend on your upholding values, fears, human and personal capital obtained, level of confidence, preferences and so on. Making a list of the likely constraints could help you focus on planning of your career route, which is never straightforward. Therefore, I would encourage getting to know yourself better prior to migration (personal capital, who you are and what you want, what are your values and so on). This activity could save you time and other resources (financial) when actively and intensively working on your labour market adjustment upon arrival in the UK.

Following my doctoral research (Stepping Stone Migration – the concept explained here), I have differentiated two major career development constraints for graduate migrants in the UK:

  •     Differences in level of education and skills obtained across the Higher  Education Institutions in the UK and in Poland (Szewczyk, 2012)
  •     Lack of know-how to search for jobs and sell yourself in the marketplace, or how to ‘Market Yourself’ 

Referring to differences in education, majority of Polish graduates interviewed in the UK for my doctoral research stated that it was not until they have migrated to the UK, when they realised that the focus within the graduate labour market is more on skills and experience than on qualifications exclusively. This is visible through the culture and British society’s perception of HE, where holding Masters Degree is still not as common as in Poland. However, as the Skills and Employment Survey suggests (BBC, 24/04/2013):

“the number of jobs in the UK requiring a degree has overtaken the total of posts not needing any qualifications […] The fall in jobs without qualifications has accelerated since 2006 and this latest survey places it at a “historic low” of 23% of the labour market, compared with 26% for graduate jobs”.

Even though, the job market in the UK makes a favorable shift towards those with higher education, the levels in HE are differently valued (and pursued) by Polish and British society. As one Polish graduate concluded:

“Masters here are not the same as Masters in Poland. I didn’t realise that Bachelor is the main degree here, it’s like all my teachers here they’ve got bachelors here, they do not have Masters, whereas in Poland everybody needs to have Masters to be qualified” (Grad. 25).

So, why so many young Polish graduates in the UK, with Masters obtained at Polish HEIs, start in basic skilled jobs after migration, and prolong in those, often for a significant time?

My doctoral research suggests that one of the main reasons why Polish educated migrants prolong their stay in basic skilled jobs in England is a lack of preparation, skills, and adjustment to the system of searching for professional jobs before they migrated to England, and lack of confidence. Please read below a very informative quote, provided by one of the graduates interviewed:

“You have to prepare yourself, you have to see how they are writing CVs, motivation letters for the UK employers, you have to think of qualifications that are going to be interesting for your future employer, and it’s not like ‘hop siup’ (easy-peasy). You won’t do it in 1 day or 2 days, you have to prepare yourself, you have to be patient, you have to know for which jobs you can apply, where you have a chance, with your degree” (Grad. 18).

Nonetheless, this is not only about the preparation, but as Green and McIntosh (2007) recognise, there is a growing number of seemingly over-qualified people, who often do not convey appropriate levels of skills required to perform in higher skilled jobs. Furthermore, Hartog (2000) notices that over-education is generally higher in the time of transition from school to work.

Since you, as a graduate of your home country, will be moving to another, this transition will not only be from university to a labour market, but a struggle to acquire the knowledge of the new labour culture and market, and then a transition into it – all in one. To be successful in such a transition, a realistic outlook on your standing (language knowledge, understanding the value of your knowledge and skills gained so far, including your personal capital), the destination country labour market situation and current social attitudes towards new comers are a must. These will allow you to build a self – confidence, recognised in my research as one of the major barriers for full involvement in the labour market upon migration. 

The level of graduates’ confidence stems from unfamiliarity with the system, level of competition for jobs, and for some the language barrier, which confirms other research on language proficiency as one of the most important factors for increasing chances of migrants’ involvement in the labour market (i.e. Rooth and Ekberg, 2006). This is also graduates’ “personality package that needs to be sold in a tough-entry competition for jobs” (Brown et al., 2000:25),  which is related to both meeting the requirements for the job, and positioning towards other job seekers in a hierarchy.

For some Polish graduates interviewed, gaining a desired level of confidence to be able to position oneself among competitors was unthought-of. A few respondents indicated that it originated from a lack of confidence in communication in English, influencing migrants’ self-value as not deserving a better paid position, therefore erasing themselves from the pool of seekers for better employment:

 “Here I think it still might be this language barrier, and I believe that even though they work, they (*Polish graduates in the UK) could find this willingness and time to study further here. But I think it’s the confidence and language barrier” (Grad. 38).

“They (*Polish graduates in the UK) think that their English is not good enough…and that they are not worth more money” (Grad.11).

“People are just too afraid, they think, ‘my English is not good enough, I won’t stand a chance they won’t accept my qualifications’…” (Grad. 18).

In some instances the situation of self-confidence was reversed. There were graduates who arrived in England overconfident, as they had obtained high qualifications in Poland and expected to find relevant/professional jobs easily after arrival, which was not successful.

“So language problems, lack of confidence, or overconfidence, because sometimes they come to the UK thinking that I’ve got a degree and I’m going to smash the world. The job offers are going to come to me, in hundreds that I do not have to do anything…” (Grad. 18).

This shows that a self- confidence should derive from the thorough preparation, understanding of the reality of the destination country, knowledge of the labour market and one’s position towards other candidates for the desired jobs. Therefore, I would suggest to All prospective graduate migrants to build up a self- confidence for migration and transition into the labour market prior to changing places, and look at all the aspects that I have highlighted in ‘How to get in the loop, part 1,2 and 3’. 

To summarise, the main points are: 

  • look deeper into who you are, what do you want to do, and BE HONEST TO YOURSELF
  • how does that relate to your previous education and experience gained, and your blurred, or perhaps a well defined vision of what you would like to do in the future 
  • when considering migration, do the thorough research of the place you want to migrate to (culture, siocial attitudes, class system, migrants position within the society, labour market in general, for graduates and within specific sector of your interest)
  • inspect all the potential constraints, those that are external, deriving from the reality around you, and  internal – referring to who you are, your values held, human and personal capital obtained


Brown, P., Hesketh, A. and Williams, S. (2000), Employability in a knowledge economy, Journal of Education and Work, 16 (2): 107–126

Green, F.  and McIntosh, S.  (2007), Is there a Genuine Underutilisation of Skills Amongst the Over-qualified?, Applied Economics, 39 (4): 427-439

Hartog, J. (2000), Overeducation and earnings: where are we, where should we go?, Economics of Education Review, 19 (2): 131-147

Rooth, D., Ekberg, J. (2006), Occupational Mobility for Immigrants in Sweden, International Migration, 44(2): 57-77

Szewczyk, A. (2012), New and Old Middle Class Polish Graduates’ ‘Brain Training’ in England, Studia Migracyjne – Przegląd Polonijny, PAN, z.3 (145), 151-166.



The question of the reality of the labour market and options for career development in the migration country can be clustered into five main issues. I have listed these and briefly described below. Some of them are also illustrations of external constraints of a graduate career development prior to/after migration. Being aware of these will most certainly rise more questions than provide the answers.

However, such questions will fuel the cycle of getting to know yourself better, and blend in with questions on your values, who you are, and what do you want in your current life phase. They will help you with planning for the near future. More importantly, knowing what the situation is out there, may make your expectations clearer, and enable positioning to take relevant career steps.

While doing the research on ‘who I am‘, and ‘how I am to live‘, I would not do this in a vacuum, but rather try to relate to  the following topics:

  • Up-to-date migration legislation (need of visa, work permit)

Whilst the majority of the EU Member States citizens are allowed to live and work in any other part of Europe unconstrained, there are a few exceptions from that for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals, including in the UK. If you are a Romanian or Bulgarian – please follow this link to understand the temporary migration and employment restrictions. In January 2014 these will be lifted in nine EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Spain (only Romanians), the UK and Switzerland. All other EU countries lifted restrictions at an earlier stage.

For nationals from outside of the EU, I would suggest to take a better look at the UK visa requirements and decide which type of visa they would like to apply for (working, studying, visiting…). If you decide to migrate to undertake education in the UK (and you are from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland) you can apply for Tier 4 visa, which is part of points-based system for immigration for which you have to score 40 points. Fees vary from £298 (if applying outside the UK),  to £781 (those applying IN PERSON inside the UK). You will find all the relevant information on the UKBA website.

  • The current political situation and debates on the future of the country’s standing, and the repercussions this may have on your right to live and work (UK in/out of the EU?)

This point is worth investigating and paying attention at any new developments, as it may affect your migrants’ status in the UK, in particular if you are an European studying, living, or working in the UK. In January 2013 the British Prime Minister David Cameron promised in/out of Europe referendum if the Conservatives win the general election in 2015. The debate is ongoing. Also, the Queen in her speech in May 2013 proposed legislation for the coming term, and said that ‘the Bill will ensure, that this country attracts people who will contribute, and deters those who will not’. 

This point is widely debated in media, academic research and on the streets of the UK, by citizens and migrants alike. There is plenty on the Internet to read about, e.g. MPs want immigrant ban to save British jobs, British-born workers took majority of jobs created in 2012…but also the estimated number of different nationality migrants, and what impact does it have on the society, for example Polish becomes England’s second language . Please have a look at the public discussion on Polish, Bulgarian and Romanian migrants in the UK, at Channel 4 (24/04/2013), titled Southampton’s immigration decade.

This point requires not only general background reading of employment/unemployment rates, but a thorough research on the issue of employment in specific sectors that might be of interest to you.

  • Employers/Institutions knowledge and recognition (or its lack) of foreign credentials and qualifications

You can have your credentials translated through NARIC, which is he National Agency responsible for providing information, advice and expert opinion on qualifications worldwide. Please have a look also at enic.naric, which is an European Network of Information Centres on academic recognition and mobility, established by the Council of Europe and UNESCO.

Another excellent tool helping you to communicate your skills  and qualifications effectively, and which also helps employers to understand the skills and qualifications of the workforce, and education and training authorities to define and communicate the content of curricula is EUROPASS. Depending on your needs, and your status (student, job seeker and so on) you can find there many useful tools to understand the constraints and opportunities for mobility and career development across the European space, not only the UK.

Equally useful is PLOTEUS  (Portal on Learning Opportunities throughout the European Space), on which website you will find  information on learning opportunities and training possibilities available throughout the European Union. The Portal is designed to help students, job seekers, workers, parents, guidance counsellors and teachers to find out information about studying in Europe.

Overall, becoming aware of the reality of the labour market, social attitudes, as well as specific areas of your interest that you would like to focus your career development on, would serve as an excellent basis for your transition into the labour market of your chosen destination. In other words, looking into those aspects would aid a stepping stone smart migration in pursuit of happiness (a balance between various life components of career, family and personal life).

Recommended articles:

Southampton’s Immigration decade (24/05/2013) at Channel 4 – discussion on Polish, Bulgarian and Romanian migrants in the UK

BBC Radio 4 broadcast 05/05/2013 on millions of young people want to work but do not know where to find it – examples of three graduates of various subjects:

Economy tracker: Unemployment 

Personal Career Management 

Keeping your professional career development continuous 

Managers fear impact of in-out EU referendum 

Who are these extremists pulling David Cameron toward an In/Out referendum? Eighty-two per cent of the electorate

Credential and Competency recognition around the world

10 things every graduate should know before they start job hunting

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