Relocating for Work, My Account of What to Expect, the Good the Bad and the Ugly… (Mostly the Good!)
By Keeley Hanlon
Keeley Hanlon, Vario Account Executive based in our Melbourne office explains why she took the leap to migrate down under.
The world of work is becoming more and more transient with an increasing number of employees opting to travel for work, or relocate to enhance their career prospects. Whilst being open to relocating will increase the number opportunities available, the idea of packing up and making the move can be daunting, particularly if you’re moving to the other side of the world like I did, with no social network or professional ties. Having relocated from the UK to both the US and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne) for work I wanted to share my experiences with you – the challenges, the benefits and my advice to you to help you if you’re considering taking the leap.
Stateside: A Taste for Travel
My first relocation to the US was relatively easy given that I had secured a job before I arrived which came with accommodation and a whole heap of colleagues in a similar boat to myself; straight out of university, eager to put our degrees into practice and get some work experience under our belts, whilst enjoying all that Miami and Southern Florida had to offer. This was my first experience of living overseas and my first ‘proper job’ all rolled into one. Whilst I had plenty of time to prepare myself during an extensive visa approval process nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock I was to encounter. The limitations to the visa I was on at time weren’t as equitable as they are now, which meant I was often working 45-50 hour weeks mainly comprising of late shifts that went on until the early hours often with a subsequent double shift the following morning, which mean I was often running on very little fuel, for very little money. The US law at the time stated that as I had an end date on my visa I was considered a casual worker which meant I had no holiday entitlements at all. Thankfully my managers allowed a couple of days unpaid annual leave. Whilst I enjoyed the experience, the friends I made and the travelling and holidays I was able to do on the side I decided not to extend my visa and return home 12 months later. I was burnt-out!
Heading Down Under
I decided to reconsider my choice of degree and take the path down the yellow brick road of legal recruitment. I joined a firm back in my home city of Manchester and set out to forge a career, however the travel bug soon returned and undeterred from my previous experience I found myself itching to explore somewhere new. Being in my mid 20’s and wanting to seize the opportunity to travel before being tied down with responsibilities and also wanting to get ahead in my career, I started to do my research on the recruitment industry internationally, and found that Australia’s recruitment industry was booming. It was the perfect destination to curb my enthusiasm to travel without having to take a gap year or fall behind in my career goals. Before I knew it, I had my working visa and I was on a plane to Sydney. This time was a little different, I had resigned from my previous job with no job to go to, no social or professional network, no real knowledge of the recruitment market in Australia just the drive and determination to succeed. I spent the first few months holidaying and building a social network, made easy by the abundance of fellow Brits down under. Moving away from an established social network to not knowing a soul can be a scary prospect but the best way to tackle this is to put yourself out there, get out of your comfort zone, say yes to every social event that comes up and link up with other expats, chances are they are in the same position.
A Different Culture
A few months in it was time to get serious and start job hunting. I applied for a few recruitment roles and with little knowledge of the local market I had to do my research to make the sure I was making the right career choice. I found that using a specialist recruiter was the best way to approach the market well-informed. One of the most pleasant surprises I found was that the salaries versus cost of living comparison to the UK was much higher in Australia. I also found that the standard of living was much better on the whole in that the Australian workforce tended to work smarter not harder, staying late which is often expected in most UK firms was not encouraged or expected, and working from home or on flexi-hours tended to be the norm here. As an expat wanting to make the most of the Australian sun this set up suited me down to the ground.
After some time in Sydney I found that my expat heavy friendship group started to thin out with most of my friends having to return to the UK when their visas expired. Having initially set out to travel around Australia before becoming far too comfortable in Sydney, I decided it was probably time I made the move to Melbourne. Once again I was in a new place and having to set up my life from scratch yet again – new apartment, new friends – new job, it can be overwhelming. I eventually joined a boutique insurance recruitment agency who offered to sponsor me to allow me to stay beyond my two year visa so long as I proved myself in the first six months. I worked hard to ensure I got there and sure enough I obtained the sponsorship, fast track three years and two promotions later and I became a Permanent Resident. Don’t get me wrong it was a tough road to get here especially in a sales environment, when the going gets tough picking yourself up and dusting yourself off can be that little bit harder knowing that when you’re on a work sponsored visa and your life (in Australia) literally depends on it. I’m now taking on a new challenge as an Account Executive with Vario from Pinsent Masons a law firm backed freelance law provider offering flexible legal solutions to our clients and providing flexible opportunities to legal professionals . Having relocated myself for work and understanding the importance of flexibility, I couldn’t believe in the brand more. I would encourage anyone looking to relocate for work to do so.
One of the biggest challenges I have found has been the distance from home. Being from the UK you can’t just nip home for the weekend. There have definitely been times where I have asked myself ‘Is it worth it?’ and deep down the answer is always ‘yes’. Home will always be home and whenever the time comes to return it will always be just a plane ride away. For me, the sacrifices I’ve made to relocate from what I know and who I know has made me all the more determined to succeed; in the last 4 years I’ve progressed in my career, become a permanent resident of Australia and even met my partner and to think I only planned to take a gap year!
In my opinion the pros far outweigh the cons. If you’re considering relocating but aren’t sure where to start or what to expect a short term contact could be ideal for you to suss out if it’s right for you in the long term.
Are you a legal professional thinking of migrating to another country and seeking a flexible career? Get in touch, Vario might be the ideal solution.