When you zip up that backpack and head off on your working holiday, you’re probably worrying about how you’ll find a job when you touch down at your destination.
What you’re probably not thinking about is whether you’ll be able to find work when you return home.
Living and working overseas can do great things for your career long-term. It broadens your experience. It can give you opportunities earlier in your career than you’d be able to get at home. And it can give you a confidence, worldliness and adaptability that’s very attractive to employers.
But it can go wrong. Some people find it surprisingly difficult to find work when they return home.
Don’t make the same mistakes as them. New Zealand is an incredible place to live and work, and you'd be mad not to plan for an eventual return home.
Whether you’re only just planning your OE, or you’re already overseas, take these 5 steps and employers will be falling over themselves to hire you when you get back:
1. Research what employers at home want
Ideally, you’ll do this before you board your plane. Say you’re an Assistant Accountant and in three years’ time you’d like to be a Management Accountant. Before you go, talk to whoever hires the Management Accountants in your company. Ask what they look for when they’re hiring: What skill sets are hardest for them to find? What experience would they recommend you try to get while you’re abroad?
Specialist recruiters are another great source of information. They have a broad view of what skills are most in demand in your area. Most will be happy to have a chat with you and steer you in the right direction (in addition, you’ll be building some good contacts for when you return).
2. Keep your experience broad
Because overseas markets are so much bigger than New Zealand's, you can easily find yourself over-specialising on your working holiday. I’ve seen many people return home having spent the last four years doing something hyper-specialised, like transfer pricing for the oil & gas industry, say. In their adopted city, their specialist skills are in demand and earn them a premium pay rate. But they can struggle to translate their experience to the local job market when they return home.
The size of companies in New Zealand means that most roles are fairly generalist, so keep it broad. That goes for industries, as well as roles and responsibilities.
3. Keep working on your networks back home
I can’t stress this enough. Keep in touch with past bosses, colleagues, mentors and recruiters back home. Attend expat networking events in your new city, such as those put on by Kea. That way you’ll keep abreast of what’s happening at home, and if you’re lucky, you might get some interviews lined up before you even pack your bags.
4. Time your run
While you’re at an intermediate to early-senior stage in your career (roughly 5-15 years experience), you’re in demand. There are a lot of roles at that level in New Zealand, and relatively few people to fill them. So timing your return home while you’re still in that sweet spot is ideal. As I recently wrote, it can get harder to find good work once you hit a senior level, particularly if you’ve been away for a long time.
5. Prep your referees
Without detailed references from your direct managers (NOT an HR manager or the recruiter from your temping agency), you’re going to find it really hard to get work in New Zealand. A pre-written letter of reference won’t cut it, either: recruiters at home will want to talk to your managers directly, or at least email them.
Unfortunately, in other countries (particularly the UK), providing a detailed reference isn’t common practice - and can even contravene company policy. That’s why it’s critical that you speak with your managers before finishing each job, and again before you start looking for work back home. Let them know that without their personal reference, your job search will be severely hampered. Most will be happy to oblige, in an ‘off the record’ capacity.
New Zealand employers are crying out for expat talent right now. Get these few things right while you're on your working holiday, and you'll have no shortage of great opportunities when you get home. Oh, and have fun!
Are you an accounting professional thinking of returning to New Zealand? Find out what you could get paid at home with What's My Worth, New Zealand's largest peer-to-peer salary comparison site for accounting professionals.