Work In NZ: The 5 Key Drivers

February 9, 2018
Iain MacLeod

The start to 2018 has been among the busiest we’ve ever experienced here at IMMagine. Packed houses across Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur and turning people away in South Africa, literally in their hundreds, as that country continues to make building futures – particularly for its youngsters – an ever more perilous proposition.

Part of the plan to handle the demand is to encourage people to order Skype consultations with us so that we can give them the answers they want far more quickly and without having to wait for our regular seminars. Naturally of course, that also enables us to offer our services to far more people from far more countries. New Zealand continues to be attractive to people from, well, almost everywhere.

What strikes me when I consult with people on the Skilled Migrant pathway (the points system) and the process to achieve the current selection points of 160, is that while most understand the process and the steps to achieve the visitor, work and resident visas that virtually all Skilled Category cases demand, many still miss the point on the executing the strategy and order of events. In particular, how to go about securing a job and the timing of that part of the process.

Once I complete the consultation, given how much ground we cover during the 60 – 80 minutes it takes, I always invite questions in the days following. I think it’s fair to say that once the reality of what the process demands sinks in respect of the financial, emotional and logistical commitment, many are probably shell-shocked.

Most, understandably, cannot get their head around how a Government that professes to welcome skilled migrants and which itself spends close to NZ$9 million a year marketing the country, makes it so damned difficult for those skilled migrants it says it wants so badly.

I hear myself explaining the disconnection between the way the visa process works and the way the labour market works, i.e. what employers want is people with works rights and residency preferably, whereas the Government says ‘find a job first and we’ll think about giving you a visa’.

As I explain to everybody at seminars and consultations, the 5 key drivers which determine the speed with which migrants get jobs that open the doors to Work Visas and Residency, in descending order of importance, are:

  1. Being in New Zealand, available for interviews and sending a very strong signal of commitment to the process;
  2. Speaking very good English;
  3. Cultural compatibility, i.e. for most positions, the less like the dominant culture you are, the less likely you are to get employment;
  4. Resilient personality – you must be able to take the hard knocks of rejection for weeks and sometimes months;
  5. Demand for your skills — if you tick the four boxes above demand takes care of itself — most of our clients are not on any skills shortages list.

Most people imagine that it is demand for skills and shortages of skills that determines the speed with which people get work. This has never been the case in my experience; it is those first 4 criteria that are the key drivers and none more so than number 2. There are some exceptions to that, especially in highly technical roles such as IT where there isn’t a lot of human interaction going on.

What still amazes me is how many people email me a few days later and they say “Right Iain, so what I need to do first is to get a job so I will start applying online…”

To them I reply “No, the first thing is not to get a job, the first thing to do is to lay the foundation for coming to New Zealand to find a job and that usually involves English language examinations, qualification assessments, gathering all the documentation required so that when you get the job, we can move very quickly in order to keep the New Zealand employer happy in terms of a prospective start date.’

I completely understand why many people freak out at the prospect and simply roll over and go back to sleep, hoping tomorrow will bring better prospects for their family’s future than today.

That is the very reason why all the talk in the local media about Brits fleeing Brexit and Americans fleeing Trump is simply not true and there is no evidence to support the assertion that New Zealand is benefitting from those two acts of nationalistic madness. Unlike a country like South Africa which is clearly falling apart at the seams, people in the UK still have law and order, still have running water, don’t have a broken political system (well, not very broken) and as vile as Trump may be, most Americans still have electricity, running water, rising wages and jobs. There’s no great pressure on them to take the risks inherent in the NZ Skilled Migrant Category process, real or perceived.

For those people who live in countries where the future is far less certain, a small percentage will decide – having weighed up the risks, done their research and consulted with professionals – that it is their only option. They still need to commit and to be in, boots and all. There is not much to be gained from applying for online jobs – it works for a minority, but no more than 10% in our experience.

Not understanding the reality of the job search process is the main reason why the Brits will still be complaining about their weather, crowded motorways and too many immigrants in Birmingham long after Brexit has run its course.

Ultimately, skilled migration takes incredible planning, careful execution, usually a great deal more money than most people ever imagine and a single-minded focus on the reasons what needs to happen to climb the visa mountain.

The New Zealand Government never seems interested in making it easier and nor for that matter do most employers, despite their constant moaning about skill shortages as this economy continues to create around 10,000 jobs a month and we have a labour market with virtually no skilled unemployed anymore.

Understanding the pathway to employment is critical in any successful strategy for skilled migrants and our consultations cover that in some detail.

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