7 Tips For Careers in a New Country

Here are some key tips I’ve learned in my month of job hunting in a new country:

1. Learn the keys of patience, persistence, and perseverance.

No matter how frustrated, stressed, scared, anxiety-ridden, or unhappy you are about the job hunt in another country, you need to just pick yourself up and keep going no matter what. I admit to shedding many tears of frustration and uncertainty in my last few weeks here in Wellington, just because I’m a natural-born perfectionist with such ambition and drive that causes me to get burnt out when faced with rejection or limited opportunities in desired fields. Day after day, interview after interview, I became more and more fatigued and less driven. It was tough to move all the way out here, leave everything behind, and hope everything would work out (when it really didn’t). The advice I kept getting was to be more patient– that the right opportunity would come along soon. Everyone ended up being right, yes. But in the moment, it was always hard for me to grasp and I lost so much hope every day that my savings depleted and I was still not working, just exploring the city on my own. Nobody is perfect, so in my words, I suggest to anyone also aspiring to find a decent, fun job in another country to just be persistent and never give up hope completely. Things work out when you least expect them to, like when you pull an all-nighter for social reasons, research the company very briefly, interview the next morning and go about your merry way, and then end up landing the job. Take it from me.

2. Go through a top recruiting agency.

Your application has been unsuccessful.

We are sorry to inform you that you do not meet the application requirements.

We have decided to move onto a pool of applicants who have more qualifications for this position. 

I’ve been applying to jobs in NZ a good six months before I even moved here, and I’ve been met with the same difficulty over and over again. The rejection e-mails were tailored with the sentences above. The biggest barrier to moving to a new country is the fact that they mainly prefer locals over you, even if you possess adequate experience. I figured that my working holiday visa status probably threw a lot of companies off, but I didn’t know how to move on rather than continuing to just apply or take my CV in person.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take the “recruiting agency” thing to heart when I first arrived here, which was a mistake. I thought I could do it all on my own, and I didn’t quite understand the purpose of agencies out here. However, they ultimately help you get hired in an instant in a position you’re truly suited for. I wasted close to seven months of attempting to apply for positions on my own. Granted, it was difficult to apply and Skype interview for positions when I was still living in the U.S., but it saves SO much time just to sign up for an agency or two and leave it up to them to match you up with temp positions, especially if you’re on a working holiday visa (6-12 months).

Do your research. Google the top recruiting/temp agencies in the country (as soon as you get there) and sign up with them. You may need to undergo hours of testing (spelling, typing, alphanumeric, Microsoft Office tutorial tests), but in the big picture, it’s all worth it. If I had signed up for an agency the minute I got into Wellington, I probably could have been employed in a few days. Instead, it took me a month, but at least I learned a lot from the process.

And if you’re moving to NZ, I highly recommend the permanent/temp work agency, GBL Personnel. Absolutely amazing team that truly cares about your career and happiness in the country.

3. Research top companies in the field you’re most passionate about.

It really helps to know about companies in the field you’re interested in. I made the mistake of only researching travel/tourism companies beforehand, rather than expanding my market opportunities and researching PR, advertising, marketing and communications agencies as well. Even if it doesn’t lead to anything, just organize the companies into a spreadsheet, e-mail or call the companies, and see if there are any positions open. If you have the passion for something, it’ll reflect in your personality. I walked to a few advertising agencies in person this week since I love the atmosphere and culture of an agency). Although it probably won’t lead to anything, it just feels nice to be able to get my name out there and let them know they can call if anything turns up.

Depending on the country (in America, this is a little frowned down upon), call the company to speak to someone. In job postings here, a number is always posted at the bottom. When I chose to call (rather than just submitting a CV), I would find out if I was qualified for the job or not and also secured interviews easily in seconds, versus waiting the long electronic process and getting lost in the pile. You obviously stand out when you take the time to call, and being that NZ is an extremely personable country, they’re all about hearing you speak or meeting you in person.

4. Use LinkedIn to your full advantage.

I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. I’m an avid LinkedIn user, and I’ve gained plenty of wonderful professional connections through this site. LinkedIn is basically deemed as being an online resume/CV, but it’s also the best way to network when you don’t have the chance to attend professional events/conferences and meet in person. Some of my greatest connections in NZ thus far have been through LinkedIn, and I’m so grateful for the site and the people I’ve met through it because of all the opportunities and continued introductions I’ve received.

There’s also an advanced search function that allows you to filter out anyone who attended your high school, college, etc. and in close proximity to your current location. For example, I researched and found at least 30 contacts who are also UCSB alums and who used to, or currently, live in NZ. It’s an amazing option, since I received a plethora of wonderful advice from all of these individuals. It also shoots up my Gaucho pride meter through the roof, since I see how quick UCSB alums are to help out a fellow alum, much more than the average college alum or random connection on LinkedIn.

It’s never too late to use social media to your advantage and market yourself. I understand that LinkedIn might not be for everyone, since it may not be as useful for people in certain career fields (or in certain areas of the world). However, with a communications background, you constantly need to market yourself and expand your network, especially if you’re in a new country. LinkedIn has been the sole resource that has given me a great support network to start out with in both Auckland and Wellington, and I’m so thankful to each and every one who has supported me along my planning for this move. It also helps that NZ is quite possibly the most friendly country in the world, so nearly everyone I’ve messaged to ask about their career has been so obliging to reply and tell me about how they gained experience in the travel/communications industry.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask– put yourself out there, market yourself through all social media mediums (properly and professionally, of course), and pay it forward when others ask for career advice as well. Besides, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take… so why not succeed with at least 90% of the shots that you do take.

5. Research events, conferences, volunteer opportunities, organizations, etc. to network professionally.

Meetup.com groups, couchsurfing.com groups, Googling volunteer opportunities in your area, professional networks/organizations… there is always a multitude of ways to meet professionals like you, even if there’s a bit of culture shock when you first move. It can be nerve-wracking to put yourself out there and go to things solo (i.e. I was terrified when I showed up to a 300+ person conference this past weekend alone), but it ultimately benefits you. Meetup is an excellent resource, since I’ve found plenty of young professional groups (even a TEDx Wellington Women’s Group, whaaat), and groups that also meet for my passions.

When I first moved, I went through a phase of being extremely sad because I missed all my various groups of friends. I learned to tone down the social media to ease these feelings, and it helps that I have a limited data plan so I rarely go on Facebook and Instagram now unless I’m going to sleep. I went through a similar situation in college, and I knew that the more I continued to meet people or friends of friends, I’d eventually find a good niche and enjoy my time here.

Some of the best advice I’ve also received was to get settled with a temp office/admin job for sufficient savings and then network and volunteer on the side to stay involved in the things I’m most passionate about. You can’t beat yourself up forever if you’re not landing your dream job in a foreign country right away, since things need to happen organically… and sometimes the best way to realize that is to get involved in other things so that your focus isn’t ALL on finding that “one perfect job.” Things fall into place when you least expect them to, and it’s a beautiful thing– life is funny like that.

6. Use your network properly.

Reach out (professionally) to your entire network… friends, family, past professors, TAs, employers, friends of friends who may have visited the country you’re moving to. Again, you never know if you don’t ask. I got back in touch with a lot of great people just through sending a quick e-mail that I was moving to NZ and was interested in any advice or possible contacts they might know in the country.

Just keep in mind that there’s a fine line between networking and also becoming annoying. I cringe when I hear about people who e-blast their network asking for a job or if they know of any job postings in a certain area. That’s not the correct way to network (at least in my opinion… it may work for the select people who step on everyone’s toes to get hired). If you make an e-mail all about the recipient and ask questions about their career and any advice, chances are that you’ll have a greater response rate than if you flat out asked for help getting into that company. Professionals don’t like beggars, they admire people who have the courage to reach out and exude confidence (just not overconfidence).

7. Understand that failure is normal and part of the circle of life that makes you stronger. 

This one was extremely hard for me to accept since I’ve been hard on myself since childhood. Never smart enough, never pretty enough, never outspoken enough, never experienced enough… I always pushed myself further and further, constantly trying to better myself. I get discouraged very easily, so when my year of planning this move seemed to go out the window once I landed here, I tried my best to calm myself down (even without a phone or any friends). You sometimes just need to take a step back, evaluate the situation, and relax. In the words of my dad, “Everything will work out, you’ll be fine… just take things one day at a time.” In my hardest past weeks, I’d think about his experience of moving to California from Hawaii when he was around my age as well (and he had a lot more obstacles and less savings), and it grounded me. Even though most travelers only talk about how amazing it was to travel to XYZ places, you need to also understand that a lot of pain, tears, struggles, obstacles, challenges and scars may come with it. That’s the beauty in traveling.

I’m eternally thankful to a very close friend for consistently reminding me that I’m not a failure for moving out here on my own. My standards have always been quite high for myself, so failure is inevitable at any point in life (and I’ve experienced heaps of failures/challenges in all my past 23 years of living… physically, emotionally, mentally, academically, everything). We are ALL human; anyone who moves to a new country also takes time to adjust and settle in (just some moreso than others).

When you accept that everything will be okay no matter how many times you trip and fall both literally and figuratively, you’ll be at peace with the life you were mean to live, the dreams you were meant to achieve. Stay humble and true to yourself and it will all fall into place. Trust in yours truly with all this advice…

3 thoughts on “7 Tips For Careers in a New Country

    1. How exciting! Definitely keep in touch, would love to meet up. Had a look at your blog– it’s fantastic! Go you, making the most of your (double) gap year. Props for going on to med school soon… goodness, that’s motivation. I saw that you also visited South Island, where I’ll be headed in a few months for a quick trip; love your photos!

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