"You have given me valuable training. My email and interview skills have improved significantly… and you have encouraged me a lot and improved my confidence.” - GO job seeker from Tanzania
"Thank you so much for your amazing course. Not only has it helped build my confidence but also highlighted my best skills and qualities. I now feel ready and prepared for job interviews." - GO job seeker from Romania
Teacher Karen To moved to the UK from Hong Kong at the end of July 2022. She has settled in Norwich with her husband and 11-year old son and already has her first job - just six weeks after touching down in her new home.
Karen taught English and art and design in primary schools in Hong Kong. Primary teaching is subject-based in Hong Kong, unlike in the UK where a class has a single teacher all day across all subjects.
She likes teaching younger students because of their fresh attitude to learning, and was keen to continue with that age group in the UK. However, despite her experience and seniority in Hong Kong, she decided to apply for Teaching Assistant (TA) positions. “In Hong Kong I was a senior teacher with more than 20 years’ experience”, she says. “But I did not expect to transfer across into the UK system at the same level. Being a teacher requires excellent language skills and a deep understanding of local culture issues. I knew that it would take several years of living in the UK to achieve that.”
Joining the Globally Onward mentoring programme
Shortly after arriving in Norwich, Karen met Globally Onward (GO) at an event organised by her church. She signed up straight away for the GO mentoring programme and was allocated a mentor - Mel, herself a former teacher - within a week. “Mel is great and the course is good because it's intensive”, she notes. “There is homework to do, like preparing a covering email for job applications.”
The course also includes CV preparation. “After 20 years in my last school, I hadn’t written a CV in a long time and needed some help”, she admits. After working on hers with Mel, Karen posted it on CV-Library, an online jobs board, and was quickly contacted by an employment agency. Karen practised for the agency interview with her mentor Mel, which was just as well as she says the questioning was tough. “I was well prepared and the interview went well. They asked me a lot about work culture and my personality - how I deal with challenges and frustration at work, things like team conflict and students who are not fully engaged.”
Karen’s DBS check came through quickly and the agency introduced her to a Norwich Specials Needs school with about 50 students that was seeking a TA. There was an initial online meeting with the head teacher, which went well, and then she went into the school for a second interview. She started work on 12 September, just six weeks after arriving in the UK!
“It’s going really well”, she says. “There are two other TAs who are really helpful and we get on well. Our students have particular needs and I’m getting training to help me understand that and know what to do. The atmosphere at the school is friendly and welcoming and the children seem really happy. This is a great new start for me.”
Karen’s advice for professionally qualified migrants or refugees
When it comes to advice for other professionally qualified migrants or refugees, Karen says it's really important to set your expectations correctly to avoid disappointment. “Newcomers need to find work and step into it as soon as possible. But don’t expect to switch to the same position immediately. It’s unrealistic.”
Looking to the future, Karen says she is happy to keep being a TA. She wants to spend more time with her family and has decided that quick promotion is not her priority. “Right now, I’m looking for a more relaxing life, without so much pressure.”