I’ve just started a new job, nearly 6 months after leaving my last one back in October 2017. I didn’t actually plan on having so much time off, it’s just how things worked out with moving to New Zealand and waiting for a visa and unsuccessfully applying for what felt like a million jobs.
Job hunting is demoralising. People would ask “how’s the job hunting going” and I’d get a sinking feeling in my stomach. How do you tell people that you’ve applied for a million jobs, some more likened to what you used to do years ago at the start of your career and not needing half the skills you’ve spent your working life acquiring, and you’ve still not got at least an interview? It was almost embarrassing.
I’ve never really had to do it like this before. I’ve generally had a job, seen others I like the look of, applied, maybe get an interview or two, and eventually get a new job. It was hard to keep motivated and have confidence in myself. Because it wasn’t just applying for vacancies, it was also the registering and meeting with recruitment agents, sending CV’s out to companies cold-selling style and trying to think of different ways to make contacts, all the while selling yourself, which is pretty hard to do if your confidence has dipped and you’re feeling unsure of your abilities.
People told me it is different trying to get a job in a different country, and specifically in Christchurch. A lot of recruitment is done via word of mouth, before jobs are advertised. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Which, when you don’t know anyone, poses a slight problem. Some companies want at least some New Zealand work experience, or don’t want to recruit someone from overseas. They see only UK experience on your CV and straight away you’re in the bin. So it’s hard not to feel like a scrunched up piece of scrap paper, no good for anything, and all the time still wondering whether you’d actually be able to do the job-you-didn’t-get-in the first place because you have no idea how things are done in a foreign country and it’s all unknown.
When I first got to Christchurch I had a really good meeting with a recruitment consultant who actually understood what I did in the UK, who arranged another really good meeting with a HR software company who seemed to like me (and I liked them), but who weren’t recruiting at the time. Fast forward to March and they asked me back and gave me a job. I actually said to the recruitment consultant back in November that if there was a chance of working for them in a few months that I’d be willing to hold off my job search, but they couldn’t say at the time whether that was the case. If only I’d known, I’d have saved myself having to go through that confidence-sucking, demoralising period of my life, but it probably wasn’t a bad thing. I ended up making some contacts through it and sometimes it’s good to have a bit of a hard time to have a look at yourself, work out what makes you tick and figure out how to work it all out.
I used to think that my job, or work, didn’t really define me, and that it was just something I did in between all the other stuff I loved doing and wasn’t that important, but I realise now that it’s massively important to me. When I had a year off to go travelling a few years ago it was different, because I was doing something, but these last few months I’ve not had that much to do, couldn’t go off exploring too much because there was a reason I was in Christchurch, and I found it really quite hard. I got bored and lonely, didn’t feel useful or beneficial to anyone, I wasn’t using my brain or earning any money and wasn’t getting any endorsement that I was a valuable member of society.
These are the things I’ve realised I get from having a job, and actually, for me it’s all about the balance. I don’t want to not work, but I don’t want to get caught in a grind of doing the same thing, day after day, week after week. That’s why I’ve always tried to include micro adventures, some extended time off for travel, races and throw some challenges in there too, as well as the possibility of taking another year (or more) off at some point to go do something interesting. Work a bit, live a bit, work a bit; work to live rather than live to work.
I’ve also realised I’m not great at self motivation around anything that’s not active/sports related when I have too much time on my hands. Go for a run when I don’t feel like it? No problem. Finish a module of that journalism course I’m doing? Hmmm. I, like many others, procrastinate a lot (and according to studies, procrastination has quadrupled over the last 30 years) when I have a lot of time; I’m much better when I have a deadline, or limited time (e.g. have a job).
Of course, I’ve been giving myself a hard time too, which we all do sometimes don’t we? I should have been doing this, maybe I should have been doing that. What did people think? I hated that anyone might figure I was lazy and didn’t want to work. It’s not like I was just sat around feeling sorry for myself doing nothing over the last few months. I joined clubs, I explored the hills and the city, I went and made friends, I wrote stuff, I had loads of ideas, I kept in touch with people from the UK, I went on bike trips, camped and walked up mountains. As well as the hours of applying for job after job after job and trawling the internet on fruitless job searches. No one saw that bit. I just still had so much time and just didn’t feel like I had a purpose and I didn’t like it.
But here I am now, with probably the best job in Christchurch for me (HR software stuff, the stuff I’ve done for most of my career, stuff I know and like and am good at) just at a time when everything else went a little bit to shit (not ideal to start a new job feeling all over the place but such is life, extra challenge and all that).
I’m two weeks in and LOVING it. I genuinely mean that, I’m surprising myself writing that. It’s such a nice change to work for a small company where I can actually make a difference, the team are great and the work is interesting yet oh-so-familiar. They seem to like me too, my confidence has sprung back up and I’m excited for what will come next. I’m enjoying having a routine and working on saving the money back that I’ve spent for new future adventures (yes, I already have a few plans bubbling away).
After a bit of thought, I know I want to stay in New Zealand for me now, regardless of the fact the original reason for going there isn’t there anymore, and so I’m choosing to sieze this opportunity with both hands; a new adventure in a new country for a while. A country that’s pretty well suited to me and is just awesome in so many ways and oh-so-beautiful.
I felt like I’d been in limbo for a long time, but now I feel like my New Zealand life can actually start properly, on my terms, and I can’t bloody wait.