Aussie expats are being forced to take pay cuts and demotions just in order to come home

Australian expats have a hard time landing a job when they return
  • Australians that return home after working overseas are being dismissed by recruiters and hiring managers, with just a quarter landing job interviews for roles they possess all the relevant skills, according to a new report by job site Indeed.
  • This leads to a third of expats reporting regret for returning back to Australia, with two-third eventually getting frustrated and returning back overseas.
  • Others find that the seniority level they obtained overseas simply doesn’t exist or their experience isn’t considered compatible by hiring managers, forcing them to take demotions and pay cuts to become employable.

Picture this: You land your dream job overseas, work hard and enjoy the experience for a few years. Then one day you decide it’s time to come home.

While there’s plenty of Australians working abroad, the truth is you might have a hard time nabbing a decent job on your return, according to the latest report from job site Indeed and diaspora association Advance.

“It takes those returning home 2.1 months longer than the average job seeker to secure a job,” the report found.

That’s not the only figure that hits home for Aussie repatriates or ‘repats’. Around a third find they can’t even land an interview despite having all the requisite skills, and the quarter that do get an interview often miss out on a final offer.

It’s no surprise then that the same number regret ever coming back, while two-third end up packing their bags and leaving overseas again because they feel they’re not appreciated. Those who stay may have to accept lower ranking jobs and pay cuts just to be employed, the report warned.

One of the biggest obstacles for expats to find work is a bias by recruiters

Some of the main reasons for Australians struggling to return to fulfilling roles in Australia is due to a bias by recruiters, a lack of positions at a senior level and a reduced professional network, according to the report.

“Expats themselves need to be prepared and mindful that things may have changed in their home country during their absence. Events might have taken place that have shaped Australia that may have eluded them, and they may have achieved a level of seniority that does not exist here,” Advance chairman Yasmin Allen said.

There also appears to be a general dismissiveness about overseas experience and a bias against people who have left the country. According to the report, 55% of recruiters say they believe an expat’s local industry knowledge isn’t up to date, 40% believe it is inconvenient to hire an expat and 47% want a candidate that understands Australian corporate culture or local professional codes of behaviour.

For anyone who has lived overseas, these stats would be infuriating and point to a strong bias against overseas experience.

There are plenty of stories about Australians struggling to find the right job when they get back

Consider the example of former Howard government adviser Penny Burtt. After leaving Australia, Burtt occupied diplomat positions all over Asia and was involved in international negotiations from the Bougainville peace process to the Kyoto Protocol.

Supplied.Penny Burtt and Don Home

However, when she decided to find an Australian job to be closer to her ageing parents, Burtt was quizzed first and foremost on her local experience rather than the diplomatic and corporate experience in Asia that she’d accumulated during the proceeding decade.

“I could have given that company a lot of assistance with its international relations and growth ambitions in new markets,” she said.

Instead, Burtt had to find a job elsewhere, as the CEO of AsiaLink at the University of Melbourne.

“My journey was not a straight-forward one, and I’ve ended up counselling many others returning to Australia about how to handle the re-entry process from my personal experience,” she said.

Her experience is just one of many such stories of expats who feel they’ve been disadvantaged by their time away.

Another, Don Home, returned to Brisbane after successfully managing various US medical companies with budgets well in excess of what Australian companies were accustomed.

Coming back however he found he couldn’t land any position at all.

“I thought my experience would count for a lot coming back into the market, but it didn’t,” Home said.

“Even companies struggling on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) wanting to enter the US market told me they didn’t feel that they could use my experience. It was hard to hear.”

You can stay overseas or consider some small tips that might help your transition home

While recruiters admit they might be dismissive of returned talent, seven in ten reported they’ve had positive experiences in getting them roles.

“While 83% of recruiters said they are cautious about recommending expats who recently returned home for Australian-based roles, we know diverse workforces are more successful than homogeneous ones, which is why employers and recruiters are missing out on an untapped pool of returning workers whose skills and experiences could positively impact their company,” Indeed marketing senior vice president Paul D’Arcy said in a note on the report.

It begs the question then: what then can expats do to ensure they get a callback from a potential employer?

Well, as one of the main issues is that hirers think a lack of time locally means expats have lost their professional network. If you’re headed overseas then, the onus can be on overseas workers to not drop off the map and be aware of what’s waiting for them when they come back.

A way to avoid being caught out with no relevant position on your return, is to plan your career path before you leave and work out how positions when you return to Australia fit into your plan.

That’s something to consider before you pack up your bags and head home.

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