Professional Integration and Career Building for Refugees in Switzerland

career building

What can the careers of refugees look like, what challenges and opportunities await them in Switzerland, and what should they focus on in their path to integration and realization? These topics and more are covered in my new column.

The theme of professional integration for Ukrainians who have found themselves in Switzerland due to the war is crucial, as realizing one's potential is a fundamental human need, not to mention the ability to provide a decent standard of living for oneself and one's children in a country that has provided refuge. One of the episodes of my podcast "Was it possible like this?" was dedicated to this topic, and we conducted it together with Oksana Dolgova, a business trainer, coach, and international-level psychologist. Her personal experience of professional self-realization in Switzerland is extremely valuable, as Oksana actively started learning and working on a volunteer basis from the beginning of her stay here. In addition, she has many professional observations and insights that I am sure will be helpful to you.

What helps to maintain qualifications when far from one's home country and integrate quickly? 

Let's highlight the key components that all Ukrainians who have found themselves in Switzerland due to the war should know.

Maintain professional contacts with Ukraine if there is even the slightest opportunity. This is a feasible task thanks to the availability of online formats for many professions. For example, Oksana collaborates with Ukrainian media, appears on the radio, and provides consultations and training.

Get involved in volunteer projects to provide professional help voluntarily. I've written a separate column about the importance of such activities. Oksana's experience only confirms the truth: by helping others, you help yourself. Moreover, it allows you to establish contacts, maintain skills, and grow professionally. From the beginning of her stay in Switzerland, she started looking for ways to apply her skills and professionalism to help people.

Therefore, we recommend that everyone review their skills and think about how they can be helpful.

Seek activities that have a unifying character. In particular, join Ukrainian and international communities local communities and attend events held in your locality. This will facilitate integration and contribute to the search for professional self-realization.

My interviewee organized the creation of a "Dream Map" in collaboration with the Ukraine Reborn Association, which was created by Ukrainians and Swiss people together. "It was very important for me to realize this," Oksana noted. "Ukrainians were very disoriented and needed support. And overall, I really want to unite everyone: individual people and entire nations. Especially since all people want to look at their future in general and in terms of their dreams."

Networking. In fact, this is an extension of the previous point - the more you meet, collaborate, and communicate, the more chances you have to eventually realize yourself. Join professional communities and seek contacts and connections that will help you find work in your field. I wrote more about this here. Oksana shares her experience: "I went out into the community and offered my services - what I can do to help others as a professional. And I continue to do so."

Seek out psychologists. In Switzerland, as in other countries, many initiatives bring together psychologists who provide volunteer assistance. In particular, my interviewee volunteers in the "Zurich - Psychologists" project, providing counseling and psychotherapeutic support to refugees from Ukraine.

View the crisis as an opportunity and as an experience. A crisis can be a source of growth if we see it that way and not simply as something entirely negative. Awareness helps with this - if we have already decided to leave Ukraine, then we need to do everything we can to find our place where we are now. "From the very beginning, my postulate was that if something happens, I have to handle it, I have no other options," Oksana explained. "In reality, we decide whether a situation is difficult or not. A lot depends on our decision."

Learn. All refugees start learning something new from the very beginning: a new country, its rules, documents, locations, language... and this can be perceived as a difficult trial, or you can approach it with enthusiasm and see it as an opportunity to gain new knowledge. But it's also worth consciously seeking to learn something new: courses, workshops, seminars. All of this can be done online - many free initiatives and platforms exist. The point is that focusing on acquiring new knowledge helps you get through difficult times more easily. Of course, you need to listen to yourself and rely on your inner resources. Still, once you start learning something interesting, enthusiasm usually begins to appear.

Reflect. Not just think, but actually reflect, analyzing your experience, feelings, inner changes, and their significance for you. This allows you to live through a crisis productively, which ultimately expands your awareness, help you reach a new level, and stay afloat.

Plan and wish. When we plan, we accumulate energy. It's worth thinking about what can make you happy and bring joy. This should be very personal planning because, of course, for most Ukrainians, the biggest desire is for the war to end. But we are currently talking about personal achievements and goals within our control. Plan, set dates, and gradually start taking action. "We can sit in misery, in bad news, and say everything around is bad, making things worse. Or we can create a better version of ourselves by creating a beautiful environment, helping other people, and realizing our minimal desires," Oksana emphasized.

To implement this "improvement plan," you must outline it in detail, just as you would your career progression. So, step by step, you will advance on the path of personal and professional self-realization. Therefore, I wish you good decisions, plans, integration, and professional success in Switzerland.


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