Job, where art thou?

Last week I went to a 6 hours at a job search workshop. While I had heard most of the advice before, I did learn a few interesting tidbits. For one, when asking someone to repeat something, using phrases such as “Pardon?” or “Can you repeat the question?”, in the kiwi accent your voice should get higher in pitch at the end of the phrase. This change in pitch signifies a friendly tone. A lower pitch, or maintaining the same tone throughout the phrase, can be seen as offensive or rude. Good to know!

I’ve been focusing pretty heavily on the job search for about a month or so now, and things can get a little lonely when you don’t hear back from folks. I’ve met face to face with a few recruiters, which boosts my spirits a bit, but still no job or even job interviews. The catch-22 is that I’m not allowed to get a permanent job with my current visa, but rather, I can only do temporary work. I could not have gotten a permanent job while living overseas, but I could not have come here for any period of time to search for a job unless I had the working holiday visa. What a conundrum this is! I met with legal counsel at the Auckland Region Migrant Services and the lawyer basically explained that I have to find a company to sponsor me to work in New Zealand, completely separate from my working holiday visa. I still have 10 months to find a permanent job, so it’s not as if I’m “pushing on my time limit”, but it would be nice to have something to keep my brain engaged, for the time being, and, just as importantly, I’d really like to contribute to the community.

What anxiety I am experiencing is in large part due to the fact that New Zealanders actually get ample vacation days and the Christmas and New Years holidays fall in the summer, so hiring in late November, December and early January is minimal. While I intend to continue to attend and keep an ear out for engineering networking opportunities my plan is to get a sales job for a local shop hiring summer help and focus on enjoying my time in New Zealand and training for the February triathlon. Serious job hunting is a full time job and all of my resources are telling me now is not the time to do that. At the same time, getting any old job will allow me to establish a local reference and save a bit of cash for the holidays.

I am really enjoying my time in New Zealand, but I know that I will need a real income eventually, in order to survive here. Before I left the United States I had an unsolicited offer for a systems engineering job at a company that builds satellites – something I really, really, really want to do. I turned it down, since I had already made up my mind to move to New Zealand. I had no real issues with the job I had when I left Washington, D.C. either, and I often think about the reasons that I picked up and moved to New Zealand. I think that this short video, which my friend posted on Facebook, describes my reasoning pretty well.

If I focus on doing things that keep me happy, I am confident that when I do land my next job I will be a much better employee. One of the big draws to moving to New Zealand is the focus on work-life balance. At my last job, I had a couple of weeks off each year, but that’s not a lot of R & R. Two weeks of vacation (unless I get sick and use one of those days as a sick day) every year? And consider that that was a lot more than many of my friends could say! Two weeks is pretty much the norm (especially in early career) in the United States and there is even no requirement to give any paid leave! New Zealand mandates a minimum of 20 paid vacation days and there are ample federal holidays. Many of my previous co-workers, and I hate to admit it, but I, too, may have done it once or twice, still checked e-mail on holiday. Several of my superiors were hooked to their blackberries, even checking in when they got cell reception on a Caribbean cruise!  We weren’t heart surgeons — someone else could have done our work — but the mentality is that everyone must do their own work or find someone to cover for them, in their absence. That, if you don’t give 180%, someone else can  and will take your job. I really want to work, and I enjoy working, but I also like to travel, cook and hike, and, gosh darn it, I want the money and time to be able to build a model airplane.

Another thing I learned  is that Andrew’s company is the norm with the way co-workers cover for each other. New Zealand’s work environment is very communal. Almost all employees are expected to be generalists. If someone’s inferior or superior is out sick, they are expected to pick up their work. No one is addressed formally as Mr. or Ms. (in general) because the work environment is one that considers everyone equal. Companies are small, so everyone must pull their weight. As a highly motivated individual, focused on the big picture, I think this is an environment in which I will excel. And, if or when I go back to the United States, I hope that I can bring some of this culture back with me. After reading books about corporate culture while completing my graduate degree, I already know that a good work-life balance produces higher quality work. Google and many other innovative companies offer employees paid time out of each week to explore hobbies unrelated to their positions within the company, in hopes that they will bring back insight to their assigned tasks as a result. Engaging hobbies outside of work can help an employee to expand into other areas of the company in which he or she may be interested and can excel, too.

Well, I could keep ranting about jobs and corporate culture, but instead I’ll leave you all be. I am hoping to get a job at a local Kathmandu store (like a North Face or REI) for the holidays. The post just went up and they will be collecting CV’s for the next 10 days – fingers crossed all, I might have a summer job in as little as two weeks!