Last October, I arrived in New Zealand, not with any concrete relocation plans or anything – just a short trip to explore the possibilities of working abroad. For a number of reasons, I’d always thought that if I were to make the move, it would be here. There’s of course the ‘Down Under’ lifestyle, not to mention it being an English-speaking country. I also had friends down here, and knowing that you’re not completely alone always helps while you're trying to find your feet in a new environment. So, after heading back home to Switzerland a month later, it wasn’t long before I decided to quit my job and book a one-way ticket to Auckland. It wasn’t a difficult decision (it just felt right!), but there was one problem with this plan: Covid-19. While I had originally organised to arrive in April, the worsening global situation forced me to act fast, so I changed my plans at the last minute and arrived almost a month early...just in time for lockdown.
I had already scoped out possibilities with a few people during my first trip, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake. Yes, there were opportunities in the HR world (where the bulk of my experience lies), but without NZ Labour Law experience – my chances weren’t good. To make matters worse, after self-isolation and the subsequent lockdown period, my entire job hunt had to be done through virtual channels – not ideal in a country where it’s all about networking! My heart has always been with Agile (not just Scrum, but new ways of creating value and working with customers), so I did everything I could while I had the time. I connected with recruiters, rewrote my CV in a Kiwi way, and attended all the Agile meetups/webinars I could find. I even completed formal Agile training! It was through these meetups that I was able to extend my network further (even if it was just a virtual coffee), leading to a couple of volunteering projects and ultimately, helping me land my current role at Xero as an Agile Team Facilitator.
Looking back over the last six or seven months, there have been so many learnings – here are three that stand out:
Support is there...if you ask
Never in my life have I experienced so much support, as I have during my time in New Zealand. I can’t explain how much the generosity of people has helped with my transition, with people I hardly know opening up their networks for me. By helping Potentia’s Techweek2020 initiatives and co-facilitating an Agile Lab with the Future of Work Collective, I’ve been handed interesting projects and volunteering opportunities without a blink of the eye. I’ve even been given the freedom to explore and implement ideas – the list goes on!
My advice here...just ask. Often people don’t; it might be a fear of not being good enough, or perhaps an assumption that it’s not worth being connected to someone. But all these opportunities and networks I’ve been able to tap into over the last six months has come from this exact attitude. Put yourself out there and you’ll be surprised how willing people are to help out!
Culture shock 101
I’ll be honest, there have been times when I thought I was on a different planet, even though New Zealand is still an English-speaking country! Here’s the challenge..I am a German who has spent much of my life in Switzerland, so the communication styles are polar opposites.
Back home, there’s more hierarchy and a very structured way of doing things. It’s all a lot more formal and direct, even down to the way breaks and start/end times are managed. But in a culture like New Zealand, where there’s a ‘she’ll be right’ type mentality, it comes as a real shock how easygoing the work culture is here – Germans just aren’t wired like that! Or at least I’m not just yet.
This isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it’s great. As with any relocation, it just takes time to adjust, relearn and figure out how workplaces tick. By volunteering and being able to see it firsthand, it certainly made it easier for me to adapt to the Kiwi way of working. Without that exposure, my first interview certainly wouldn’t have been as successful…
Dare to do something different
For me, it would have been so much easier sticking to HR, and with no local experience, I’d have a ready-made excuse for why it didn’t work out. My advice to everyone: dare to do something different. Reinvent yourself. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Coming from Switzerland, where it’s rare to stray from your profession, it’s been amazing to see how open-minded people are here. Because employers are more open to transferable skills and what you bring to the table, there are far more opportunities to pivot, compared to my experiences in Europe.
Have you had a similar experience? What have you learned? Whether it’s moving to New Zealand or a relocation anywhere else around the world, I want to hear about it!