Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Balancing act for migrant accountants

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg: No job opportunities without local work experience

In the era of rapid globalisation of businesses, the need for universal accounting professionals is very significant. In today’s world, qualifications alone do not matter as there is a constant need to upgrade competency, build new expertise, and have excellent interpersonal skills.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is the world’s second largest professional accounting body, with more than 240,000 members. The student membership is roughly four times that of full time ICAI members, which illustrates the importance of chartered accountants in building a robust economy. Clearing ICAI exams is a tough task, with historical pass percentages of a miniscule 3-6 per cent. However, there is a lot of potential by getting this qualification as employability is high, you can work from remote locations and has no capitation fee.

Many Indian chartered accountants are spread all over the globe with Australia being one of the top migration destinations. However, life is not all that rosy! Many of them leave their lavish lifestyle behind and struggle after stepping on Australian shores. They go through a very tough phase in life just to get that one break, which can help them earn their livelihood in an expensive country.
Those who have an Australian permanent residency seldom start off with a job in the first month of being in Australia, even though they have top accounting qualifications and loads of work experience. Some of them are lucky to get an international transfer while working with a Big Four or MNC, while others have to wait for at least 3-6 months on an average to get a decent break. How you utilise this period is what matters most, as it is a true test of character, like how gold is tested by fire.
Unlike other professions such as medicine, Indian chartered accountants are recognised through a Mutual Recognition Agreement with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) and CPA Australia. To obtain membership with these institutes, there are certain modules that need to be completed along with specific good standing and skill requirements.
Additionally, ICAI has chapters in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, and has recently inaugurated a New Zealand chapter. These chapters ensure that its members obtain benefits in the form of networking opportunities, continuing professional development, facilitation of membership issues and renewal of the mutual recognition agreements.
Recent migrant Tushar learned valuable life lessons during his transition period moving to Australia and finding work.
“I had very high expectations coming into Australia as I got my permanent residency within a month’s time and also had fourteen years of accounting experience working across multiple geographies,” he said. “But the initial months were very difficult as the recruitment agencies cited either lack of local experience or being overqualified for the job. I did not lose hope and go back to India, I continued on.”
migrant accountants.Indian Link
Tushar spoke to various people and got ideas about how to devise an employment strategy, keeping in mind his skills, experience and industry knowledge he had acquired over the years.
“The strategy was simple – make the best use of available time, focus on strengths, target specific sectors based on past experience and grab all related opportunities with both hands,” he said. “I focused on the IT sector, based on my past experience, and I knew that management accounting had high demand and low supply, perfectly complementing my skillset.”
After completing his CPA certification, Tushar pursued odd jobs and got an opportunity to work with a CPA firm for a short term role to develop a forecasting and budgeting application. This helped him establish contacts and develop local experience.
“Aligning my resume was important to ensure the right projection of my expertise,” Tushar said. “This secured me calls from recruitment agents specific to my career needs. Additionally, interpersonal skills such as positive attitude, communication and confidence played a key role in obtaining my first decent career break, roughly fifteen months after setting foot in Australia.”

Some highly qualified migrants go through a phase of desperation, and as they are unemployed, they are taken advantage of, leading to under employment and in some cases being severely under paid. It is a classic chicken or the egg story where migrants are asked for local experience and not given a job, but without the first job how can they ever gain the required local experience?
However, there is hope! ICAI chapters and local accounting organisations are definitely significant enablers, but the key to success in Australia lies within. During the initial struggle of a new migrant, staying positive, networking with trusted people, keeping busy with short term jobs or courses and developing a focused strategy while applying for jobs is definitely the way to go.
A growing migrant population and a local aging population presents both challenges and opportunities for a robust Australian economy. Those who have a strong desire and a passion to succeed will definitely find opportunities galore in Australia.

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