Returning expats are finding it difficult to get a suitable job in Australia

A race fan waves an Australian flag during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
  • Expats say the average time to find work after returning to Australia was 10 weeks.
  • A third (33%) of returning expats surveyed said it was difficult to find a suitable role while one fifth (19%) said they accepted a lower level role.
  • Half (54%) of survey respondents said their main reason for working overseas was to experience another culture. This contrasts with only 21% who say they sought work overseas to specifically gain work experience.

A third of returning expats find it difficult to secure a suitable job in Australia, according to research commissioned by global jobs site Indeed.

The survey of 200 was conducted by MBA students from University of Technology Sydney supported by Advance the leading network of global Australians.

The average time to find work once deciding to return to Australia was 10.1 weeks. Of the respondents, 40% said it was easy finding a suitable role but 33% said it was difficult.

On returning, half (51%) said their first role back was at a higher level, but a third (35%) said they got a lower paid position.

Online job searches, recruiters and personal contacts were evenly split as the top three ways of finding jobs back in Australia.

Ricky Fritsch, Indeed’s managing director of Australia, says for those who simply want to fund an adventure there’s certainly room for a relaxed attitude when securing overseas work opportunities.

But for those with high expectations to advance their careers, it could pay off to spend time planning exactly what you want to get out of it and how you’ll go about achieving those objectives because international work experience isn’t just about being away from home.

Fritsch says how employers view work undertaken abroad could depend on a range of different factors.

His tips on becoming an expat:

Make sure it’s relevant

“While it can be tempting to lock in any job to cover the cost of living abroad, working in the conservation department at the Paris city council likely won’t improve your chances of landing a role in the finance sector at home,” says Fritsch.

“Think about the skills you want to acquire and ensure that they translate to your career aspirations and prospective employers — then your new global outlook will surely shine through as a real bonus.”

Stick it out for the long-haul

Avoid any risk that your international experience will look like an easy “tick box” exercise or a fad. It’s important to remain in your chosen role and country for long enough to prove your motivation, staying power, adaptability and that you’ve learned something from the organisation and culture.

Choose your location wisely

Having fun. It can be tempting to put social goals first. “But ensure you’ve picked a place that’ll make your experience stand out when you return home,” says Fritsch.

“For example, would time spent among the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s banking scene (and learning a little Cantonese) offer you more of a leg up than doing the nine-to-five in London’s Canary Wharf?”

Dare to be different

Balancing the suitability of a location with uniqueness.

“Everyone knows the US west coast is famous for its thriving tech industry, but why follow the crowd when Israel’s economy is racing off the back of tech?” says Fritsch.

“Travelling lesser trodden paths could set you apart from the competition at home by demonstrating you’re well-researched, adaptable and open-minded to new cultures.”

Fritsch says exposure to different work environments results in candidates who bring new thinking, energy and valuable international links into Australian workplaces.

“We see the high value placed by returning expats on their overseas working experience who bring different qualities and perspectives compared to those who only know the Australian workplace,” he says.

“These returning workers can be real assets, illustrated by the 60% who felt they had developed new skills overseas that they simply wouldn’t have obtained had they remained in Australia.

“The fact more than two-thirds, find positions in in middle management or more senior levels on returning underlines their value.

“Also underestimated are the invaluable international links developed by returning workers which can be a real asset for local businesses operating globally. Almost half have worked either here or abroad with large companies that would typically engage internationally.”

Other kind findings of the survey:

  • 74% rated their experience working overseas as very valuable while 86% said they either really enjoyed or enjoyed the experience of both living and working abroad only 2% didn’t enjoy their experience.
  • 54% said their main reason for working overseas was to experience another country or culture and 21% said to gain work experience.
  • Respondents spent the most time working in the UK (32%) and the USA (23%).
  • Only 26% said they had moved overseas to work after being transferred by the company they worked for in Australia.
  • 48% said they worked for a company with 800 or more employees overseas and 14% worked for a company with less than 50.
  • 60% said they developed or obtained skills overseas that they wouldn’t have obtained remaining in Australia.
  • 23% completed a post-graduate degree while overseas and 22% an undergraduate degree.
  • 53% believed their overseas employers were more innovative compared to Australia and 23% felt they were less innovative and 24% the same.
  • 33% felt there was more appetite for risk overseas, compared to 23% who said less and 44% the same.
  • 53% said they joined either formal or informal expat groups and networks while overseas ie Advance, Austcham, Aussies in London and Facebook groups.
  • 23% said the main reason they returned to Australia was they had had enough of living and working overseas and 23% returned for family reasons.
  • 52% worked in middle management on returning to Australia and 25% at senior management or executive level.
  • 40% said it was easy finding a suitable role in Australia on deciding to return while 33% said it was difficult.

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