Friday, August 13, 2010
Zero to Eighty (Hours/Week)
Getting work in New Zealand can be challenging. Fortunately, there are several fine web sites which offer solid recommendations and advice. I’ll tack a list of the ones I found most useful at the end of this article. I wish I could provide insightful tips over and above what you’ll find on those sites, but no. I made all the n00b mistakes you’d except and have only stumbled into work after trying in every possible way to sabotage my professional future.
First, let’s just start with the demographics. I’m an American female over the age of 40 with a Masters in Public Administration who hasn’t worked full time in nearly five years trying to get a job in the information technology sector during tough economic times. Just typing those words makes me snicker. IT is for young whipper snapper metro male engineers with a degree in some flavor of hard core geekery who listen to Massive Attack and pin up pictures of Felicia Day. Twenty years in the business notwithstanding, it’s hard to imagine crafting a resume more unlikely to impress the New Zealand hiring managers.
Moreover, New Zealand is the Land of Certification. This country has a fondness for check boxes, degrees, and qualification certificates that borders on the persnickety. Even DrC had trouble here. In fact, to this day the Royal College of New Zealand isn’t entirely convinced that he is an ophthalmologist. Despite owning his own practice for over a decade, DrC’s qualifications are considered provisional; He is under the supervision of a qualified ophthalmologist for two years. For months, I couldn’t even make it past whatever passes for H.R. sorting ‘bots until I figured this out. It’s all about the Search Engine Optimization, baby.
Then, of course, we dropped the family one hour south of Auckland. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. No one in the family felt up to living in the city; Quiet, beautiful, bucolic Pukekohe felt like a safe harbor in rough seas . Now it feels like we’ve plunked ourselves down in the Bay of L.A. -- beautiful, bucolic and a ridiculously long ways from gainful employment. The nearly three hour round trip commute initially made me reluctant to apply for jobs in the central business district. It only took me six months to come to the stunningly obvious conclusion that no tech company worth its weight in routers would open an office any farther south than the airport.
Another classic mistake in which I indulged was to apply for jobs for which I was fully qualified. It is said that Auckland has the best educated taxi drivers in the world. This is probably not an exaggeration. People from all over the world are attempting to resettle in this country, not all of whom are fortunate enough to come in as we did with one member of the family already gainfully employed. Lawyers, aeronautical engineers and physicists all end up working wherever and however they can to keep the family fed and housed. A recommendation I arrogantly ignored for six months was to apply for entry level jobs in my target industry rather than to positions that are commensurate with my experience in my home country. It is a good idea to spend time getting to know New Zealand… and let Kiwis get to know you. After a year or so, you can start rapidly working your way back up to your former level of pay and responsibility.
Finally, I really thought I should get paid what I’m worth. However, New Zealand is notorious for its high cost of living and relatively low pay scale for professionals. “It’s the lifestyle, mate!” For immigrants like ourselves, consider this a positive, not a negative. The economic conditions mean that qualified, educated Kiwis flee their home country in search of higher paying jobs in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. This leaves a lot of openings for off shore professionals that would otherwise be filled by the natives. You just have to be willing to work for a lot less than you’d expect elsewhere.
Now I just need to rediscover my sense of humor.