Soraya in the spotlight: Helping new and settled migrants
Published on 20 February 2019
The City of Ryde will stage a series of free workshops that are designed to assist new and settled migrants integrate into the Australian lifestyle and culture.
The suburbs that make up the City of Ryde have a high migrant population with more than 40 per cent of residents having migrated to the area from overseas.
The four free workshops commence in March and will be facilitated by Soraya Devi Raju who is a migrant herself and the founder of Migrate Success.
We asked Soraya to explain some of the challenges new and settled migrants face in Australia and how her workshops help people integrate better and create new opportunities for them.
What are the major challenges both new and settled migrants face in Australia?
Skilled migrants arrive with much optimism with the view that their qualifications will give them an immediate entry into the Australian workforce. That is often not the case.
It is important to understand the Australian workplace and environment. Many migrants come from countries with hierarchical cultures where technical skills were much more valued than soft skills. Therefore, they don’t understand the importance of soft skills.
In Australia, we focus on both technical and soft skills. Understanding the unique Australian egalitarian culture and humour is also a challenge.
As a migrant yourself, what challenges did you face when you first immigrated to Australia?
My Malaysian accent was perceived as a problem initially even though I spoke English fluently. As a result, I found it difficult to speak up at meetings and make positive contributions. Joining Toastmasters was a huge benefit which gave me confidence.
It took me a while to make close friends. Most of the time, I showed the initiative to follow up with like-minded people. I joined organisations and my love for AFL football was certainly a connection.
One of your workshops provides advice on how migrants can apply for jobs and prepare for job interviews. In your experience, how much does Australia’s job recruitment process differ to that from other countries?
The resume is critical and should be succinct– it should be targeted to the job you are applying. In Australia, we focus on a skills criteria system and evidence-based examples to show you can do the job.
I have reviewed resumes from countries such as Korea where your whole life story is on the resume – they tend to be many pages and include personal details which should not be included. I have even seen photos attached.
Every resume and covering letter should be specific to the job you are applying for.
Your workshops are described as a ‘customised four-step program’. Could you please explain what that involves?
The four-step program was customised from my research and case studies involving problems that migrants have encountered. My program aims to help them stepping up to their goal, starting with first impressions.
Each step leads to the next one, guiding them towards their goal of job-seeking and being part of the Australian society. It is important that migrants attend all four workshops to realise the full benefits.
Why do you emphasise the importance of first impressions?
First impressions count – research shows visual image counts for 60 percent of first impressions. The remaining 40 percent is vocal and behaviour.
Dressing appropriately for interviews and work is very much part of first impressions in a competitive job environment.
Many people come from countries where they are not used to Western-style clothing. I have seen migrants struggling with their image. They feel empowered and confident when dressed appropriately.
What do you hope migrants can gain from attending your workshops?
As a migrant myself and having achieved success in the corporate world, I can show empathy and relate to them. I find that at my workshops, attendees like to relate to successful migrants – it gives them hope that success is achievable in Australia. In other words, they are hearing from the horse’s mouth.
For example, a Somalian man at one of my workshops told me: “You and I are the same colour. If you can stand there talking to us feeling confident and successful, it gives me hope that I can do it too.”
That is a moving testimony.