How Do I Get A Job (When I Can’t Get A Work Visa)?

February 7, 2014
Iain MacLeod

Back home after three weeks on the road introducing my company, my city, my country and the realities of moving to New Zealand to around 1000 people.

I got out of Jakarta in one piece. Public holiday the day I left and the expected two hour crawl to the airport took 40 minutes. Gave me more time to check out those cool batik shirts in Duty Free. Love ‘em!!

More than 100 families took the opportunity to book individual consultations to meet with me in order to talk to me about their residence eligibility, their employability and what their life might be like if they make the decision to take on the immigration mountain. What was really encouraging was how many looked likely to qualify but usually subject to securing skilled employment in New Zealand first.

The most common question I get asked (after what we charge!) at these consultations is how to get a job when all the online advertisements demand work (or resident) visas or NZ citizenship first, yet you cannot get a work visa without first having the job. A classic catch-22 if ever there was one.

First and foremost it is important to recognise that migrants, in any labour market, will almost always be behind the locals in the job application queue. This tends to be because local employers will always prefer locals for reasons including perceived or real linguistic compatibility (ability to speak the dominant language well – in our case English), cultural compatibility (the more like the dominant culture you are the better you are likely to fit into that work team and environment), if you are a local (with PR or citizenship) no immigration official stands between that employer and the candidate starting work and on a more subtle level, personality.

This tends to result in a bias against migrants and they are almost always second in the queue when it comes to getting jobs unless they are highly specialised, skills shortages are really acute or they are perhaps very senior. Doesn’t mean that jobs cannot be had, it just means most of the time no one is tossing about jobs like confetti.

Every year we help between 100-150 families to move to New Zealand under the skilled Migrant Category. Around 90% require offers of skilled employment. Every year perhaps 3 or 4 don’t secure the jobs they need to get residency. Or put another way about 98% do.

It is clear we are doing something right in who we agree to represent as clients. We seem overwhelmingly able to pick migrant ‘winners’.

There is no easy way to get a job. Some sectors are showing real skills shortages and in particular Construction, IT and Engineering and naturally this makes it easier. These sectors account for about 50% of our client base but the rest are from many different sectors – and virtually everyone gets a job.

Migrants increase their chances of success in a number of ways:

1. Prove they are serious about the move which means being prepared to be in New Zealand to show you mean business. Experience shows us that those that are here, usually having resigned their job and who are willing to stay as long as it takes, overwhelmingly secure employment;

2. Hang around – the fly in, stay two weeks and try and get an interview or two brigade, usually fail;

3. Speak fluent or at least very good English;

4. Research their employability before they come over (it should go without saying but certain occupations are in greater demand than others);

5. Appreciate there can be (note, not is) a subtle cultural bias against you which can be balanced somewhat by a face to face discussion with an employer/recruiter.

6. Get coaching on local interview protocols/processes. How you approach the interview can make a real difference – it is a subtle process yet one many people blow because they don’t understand the process (and yes, New Zealanders do have their own way of conducting interviews)

7. Ensure your CV is in a ‘form’ familiar to local employers –for example all you people who love to put photos of yourselves on your CV, unless you might grace the pages of Swimsuit Illustrated, best leave them off. And if you insist on including a photo of yourself, no ‘selfies’……Further, no one cares here what your race is, what your religion is, how many children you have or that you enjoy ‘travel, meeting people, JK Rowling novels or knitting tea cosies…’

8. Don’t rely on recruiters. Recruiters are paid commission and have monthly sales targets to meet. Migrants represent a risk to that next pay and they don’t work for migrants – they are paid by employers. A local is far more likely to be referred for a job as a result….self interest rules with Recruiters and you can hardly blame them.

We are observing the time it is taking clients to secure skilled employment has been falling over the last 18-24 months as the economy expands, companies expand, advertised vacancies grow, the local labour pool gets shallower and business confidence, investment and hiring intentions grow. We are seeing many clients in the most in demand sectors finding work within 4-5 weeks of arrival and most of the rest getting work within 6-10 weeks. Virtually all, if they were honest with us about their backgrounds, then go on to secure work and resident visas.

No subject brings out the malcontents more in our ‘Comments’ section below than this one. Let’s be clear, every year there are probably several thousand wannabe skilled migrants who apply for jobs (usually online and not in New Zealand), who may have come to NZ, not overly prepared, not overly researched and not ready for the realities of the job search process or who have simply been misled by well intentioned friends or family living in New Zealand or yes, unlicensed or should not be licensed immigration advisers and fail. Even the most highly skilled migrant cannot be guaranteed success but what is clear in the case of our clients is that those that pay for good local advice and support seem to succeed.

I always offer the analogy that migration is like climbing Mount Everest, logistically, emotionally and financially. Those that engage professional and experienced advisers (mountain guides) are, it probably should go without saying, successful notwithstanding the challenges that face most migrant job seekers

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