Changing careers is not always an easy decision to make. But for many who have faced displacement, it can be the only option.
One of our learners, Özkan, has been living in Germany for three years after moving from Turkey due to the political unrest there. A former naval officer with two master’s degrees in Economics and International Relations under his belt, he decided to use his skills to start a career in data science.
“I was really vulnerable because of all these circumstances, but I needed a plan. So I have my plan in my mind, but I did not have this navigation.”
After joining Kiron in 2019, the Volunteer Vision mentorship program became his navigation. His mentor was more than his go-to for practical career advice and CV prep, but also boosted his motivation and confidence.
“Feeling someone is there caring about your journey had a really powerful effect on me. If you are experiencing this kind of stuff, you really need someone to be by your side. It’s that easy. She gave me this idea that [landing a job] is doable and you are on the right path. I have this fear that I cannot show my potential to job markets. This is my biggest challenge. I was aware of my capacity, but it’s hard to convey that to employers.”
For two years, Özkan was actively looking for job opportunities, applying to over 300 openings. While candidates with alternative credentials are cited as being more qualified and skilled than candidates without, the average workplace often values traditional degrees more. This can be a big barrier for many newcomers who reskill in order to match the job market of their host countries. He credits his mentor for helping him through. “In this horror or hustle time, I have this mentoring and Kiron always by my side.”
Özkan took many Kiron and Coursera courses that aided the technical elements of his career shift. He is also a strong advocate for life-long learning. He says learning “always gave me this opportunity to discover and also to get to know myself as well my limits.”
Over the years, he brought many friends and other Turkish veterans to the mentoring program to push for their success and build a strong community — which can be a challenge to find during online learning. Having a community of peers to exchange ideas with and learn from supports growth and focus. Now, Özkan is a data scientist at a fashion company and working on freelance projects on the side. He shares this valuable piece of advice to potential learners:
“Even though circumstances really got that bad, there is still hope there with an education and a good mindset and some visionaries, mentors, and reachable resources. It makes it possible. I know it’s hard, but I could tell that it is doable and perseverance always pays off. I can tell it 100%.”