Written by Colonel Mridul Nair (Retired Indian Army Officer)
My sister used to live in Auckland and I had the good fortune of visiting this amazing country twice in the past in 2010 and 2013. That’s when my wife and I decided that we would try and migrate to NZ after I completed the mandatory service period in the Indian military. I retired in Aug 2021 while NZ borders were still closed. In march 2022 we saw a ray of hope when the NZ government announced the reopening of borders in phases. Luckily for us, 1 year later, the borders were fully opened for immigrants and we relocated to Auckland at end of Oct 2022. My wife got a student visa and I was granted a work visa – spouse of student, both valid for a limited period.
With nearly 2 decades of experience as an engineering manager in the Indian Military and having reached the senior management level, I was confident of securing a good job in the 1st week of arrival in NZ. I was however in for a rude shock. Despite over 50 applications on seek.nz and various other careers sites, I was not shortlisted for even a single interview. The only jobs that I found available were blue-collar. As a retired Colonel from the Indian Army, my skills were mostly in management roles and hence I was not keen on taking up a blue-collar job merely for the sake of paying bills. The cost of living was a huge shocker to me. The minimum daily wage in India for unskilled labour is about $10/- (NZ dollars) per day whereas the minimum hourly wage in NZ is $21.2/-. With so many rejections, I started contemplating taking up part-time jobs in supermarkets.
Despite having invested a considerable amount of energy, time and money in crafting good quality resumes, I realised that employers were rejecting my application without even going through my resume. According to me the primary reasons for the rejection of my applications were:-
1. Lack of ‘NZ experience’.
2. Visa validity.
3. Absence of criminal history check.
4. ‘Over qualified’ – as stated by some NZ experts and consultants.
The ‘NZ experience’ is, what it is, whether one agrees to the concept or not. I consider the so-called – ‘NZ experience’ to be merely a conservative approach towards immigrants, evolved due to a small economy and relatively small job market. I believe that if a person has skills in management or any job in India or any country, the skills could be put to good use in NZ as well, as long as he or she has good communication skills. I scored an overall band score of 8.5 in IELTS. And still wasn’t able to reach the interview stage for any of the jobs that I applied for online.
That’s when people told me that in NZ, things are different and that I had to network with people, to let them know of my capabilities and skills. Merely mentioning these on a resume won't help. And so, through my good friends in Auckland, I learned about Garry Gupta and the Migrant Careers support trust and how the initiative was helping immigrants to network and integrate with New Zealand, its people and its culture.
The 1st event that I attended was in December – Careers in Governance. There were many new arrivals like me, desperately looking for jobs. It was a great forum for all of us to understand the job market and what employers were looking for. The event was also attended by some very accomplished professionals who had mentored several newcomers and helped them with their transition into a new life in New Zealand. After having had a fruitful interaction with many such wonderful people that evening, I started networking with various people to understand how things worked here. Through these interactions, I was able to appear for a few interviews. I finally joined a role as a process engineer in a manufacturing unit in Penrose. The Migrant career trust also has a one-on-one counseling session for arriving at a customized job strategy depending on the applicants' skills and aspirations, employment coaching, preparing NZ-style CVs, and attending job interviews, etc. To start with, I applied for a free professional career counseling session with Migrants Support trust. It was scheduled in January after the New Year break. Since I had already secured a job, I requested for cancellation of the session.
From my little experience as a newcomer to NZ, I could summarise my takeaways as under:-
Don’t have high expectations of employment. NZ is a small job market as compared to India or China.
Networking is the key.
Volunteer for various events and activities. This could help connect you with potential employers.
Having good communication is very important. If your communication skills aren’t great, don’t sweat, try and learn.
Be prepared to unlearn and re-learn, personally and professionally.
It is necessary to integrate with the culture and people of NZ. The Sooner you do it, the better for you.
Kiwis are kind and helpful, even if they don’t know you personally. Connect with them, they will help you connect with employers.
Be yourself, don’t fake it. Kiwis are very high on ethics, so never lie. Integrity, honesty and sincerity will always be appreciated.
No matter what, be kind to everyone. People will be kind to you.
I thank Garry Gupta and his team at Migrants Career trust for this wonderful initiative. The empathy and concern shown by Garry and all the mentors who are part of this organisation have helped several thousand immigrants such as myself in settling down in this beautiful country.