For anyone who has moved to a new country, they will appreciate that the process involves a number of challenges. It is not easy. This starts at simply finding accomodation, setting up bank accounts and getting your head around new rules and culture. If you aren't lucky enough to have found a career opportunity from your home country, this is possibly one of the biggest challenges you will face after settling in a new country.
One of our new members, Arno Wakfer arrived in Australia earlier this year with a motivation to build a great new life for his family. Arno was a CFO in his home country of South Africa and with young family (2 year old son and 4 year old daughter), keen to raise them in a country that can offer a fantastic lifestyle and opportunities. From his perspective, “The current economic and living conditions in South Africa” are not what Australia can offer.
To understand his experience landing a job, it is important to understand the back-story.
Arno applied for a PR visa and thought it would be silly not to use his skills to give his children better opportunities. At the same time, Arno always wanted to build a career in a first world country.
As Arno understood and realised, it is not as simple as getting a PR visa and bringing your CV to the shores of Australia.
In his new home town of Perth, Arno spent time applying for jobs on Seek and Indeed, often ending nowhere. He met with recruiters, when they would give him the opportunity, but found he was always positioned behind candidates who had local experience.
Not only had Arno left his support structures of family and friends in South Africa, he also had a small network and finding a job was not going to be easy.
“The problem with the accounting profession is that a lack of local experience does set you back, so you need to find a way around this”. This was especially important when Arno was told by a recruiter he was up against 150 – 200 applicants per role.
Equally, Arno found that hiring managers would realise you are desperate if you applied for positions that were way to junior. Being an ex-CFO, this was easy to see on certain applications.
So, how did Arno turn this around?
In his words, “I became my own recruiter”.
In South Africa, Arno had previously learned the value of building a network, and had the confidence and knowledge of engaging with people. It was time to get it started again, from scratch. Finding work happens through networks and referrals. This is what he did;
- Rebranded his LinkedIn profile
Arno realised that he needed to stand out, and present his profile in a way that would be interesting to the right people.
- Networking business card
“Strangely it still works”. People appreciated getting a card and would remember you after meeting.
- Connect online first, and then engage for a face to face
It is not as simple as simply connecting on LinkedIn. Arno asked for a coffee with many people to start building his network. He met with Accountants to learn more about their perspective in Australia, and also reached out to South Africans who had previously made the same move as him. He was able to pick up insights about what worked and what didn’t work in the local job market.
- Giving to help others
Arno is passionate about helping others, and to keep the new network engaged, he emailed them a copy of a networking “how to” guide. As it common with many accounting and finance professionals, many of them were not strong in the area of networking and appreciated this gesture.
- Use networks to be introduced to recruiters
Most recruiters were not interested initially, but once Arno was referred by local accountants who had contacts, he was introduced to some good recruiters who were helpful and offered good advice.
- Met his eventual employer at an event
As the networking gained momentum, Arno met a business owner that had acquired a new company at an event. The began talking about the challenges and intentions of the business.
Arno highlights; “it is who you know” that gets you to new opportunities, so meeting with people is imperative. When you meet people, they can see your character; “you can’t tell someone’s character on a CV”. He also notes that “people remember names, not job titles”.
In his opinion, Recruitment will see disruption if you can gauge someone’s character and personality through a CV, focusing on the right traits instead of basic functional skills that become the start of the CV culling phase.
At the same time, Arno encourages people who are new to the country to invest in redeveloping their CV regularly. Understand your audience and demonstrate how you can address their pain points. These pain points can be very different to what you might see in your home country.
Not only did Arno receive one job offer, but he received two on the same day. It did take time, but the result was highly rewarding. Arno is now running an Australian small business that has been in business since 1975 in Western Australia. This role leverages his business leadership and finance experience, in a phase where this business is seeking to improve and achieve performance gains.
In built into his psychology, Arno is still investing in building a network, not just for finding a job, but to help him achieve success in his new role. Equally, in the same way he was supported by many in this process, he believes in the importance of giving back to others who want to succeed. Arno actively mentors CAs who are looking to achieve and learn from the experiences of a CFO and business leader with his background.
It is stories like this that demonstrate the power of collaboration and networking for career achievement. The example highlights attracting a job, which is obviously the first phase of establishing a career in a new country, but naturally carries through to gaining support on new initiatives, skills, projects and partnerships that we naturally need to navigate as a finance professional. Like finding the first role, waiting for it to come to you is not an option.