Challenges and opportunities of coming home to New Zealand

Kea Connect helps Kiwi companies go global by connecting them to industry experts around the world. This week we spotlight the returning Kiwi and talk to Lucy Everett, the innovative co-founder of Dusty Road, a global talent representation company dedicated to creative, digital and design people, their development and their career ambitions.


Helping Kiwis find their dream job when they return to New Zealand is a big part of what I do. There’s such a buzz in applying the nurturing, coaching and networking skills that I have gained working with industry leaders, business owners, digital and advertising creatives and designers.

The return home. Time to think.

For Kiwis, heading overseas to live and work is an exciting time. And there is no better way to boost your CV’s mana than by gaining international experience in your field. Bound for cities like London, New York or Hong Kong, we decide that a new unleashed version of ourselves will take big risks on the job front and, once into our second inflight pinot, we’re pretty sure we’ll become a workplace legend. And it often transpires.

Kiwi’s are globally loved for their strong work ethic, intelligence and ‘can do’ attitude. We do well working overseas. But when you’re from New Zealand, sooner or later you’re drawn home. And returning is a scary prospect at first. What am I going to do? Who should I talk to? What will I be paid? Will they realise how good I am? The sense of adventure you felt flying out is now mild panic on return. I hear this all the time and I get it. I was the same.

But in reality, you have less to worry about than you might think. You now have years of international experience and you’re coming home to a growing economy with a skills shortage. Nice timing. Not only that but you know people, you have family support and you now have a second chance to re-invent yourself. A chance to research the challenges your new environment may throw at you, sort your positioning and do a little brand refresh of your professional self.

NZ Boat Rangitoto 945x532

As a returning Kiwi, there’s a few challenges for you to plan for and crush.
  • Let’s get this out of the way first. Your salary expectations might be a little out. 
  • New Zealand salaries have been static for many years and don’t compare well to similar roles in overseas cities. At least, not at first glance. I find that taking a bit of time to find the right job fit really goes a long way to mitigating this. And if possible, coming back with a financial buffer takes the pressure off making hurried decisions.
  • Returning Kiwis sometimes find that jobs just aren’t chunky enough. Used to working on big bits of business with high levels of complexity, the transition back into New Zealand working life can sometimes be tricky. Remember that feeling you had when you left New Zealand, that you were going to take on the world. Apply it here. Expand your work. Do more. But again, you’ve got to find the job that has scope for growth. That takes a little time and a plan.
  • The cost of living is high, maybe higher than when you left. If you lived in a large international city, chances are you got two bags (reusable ones) of groceries for your money to New Zealand’s one. I can’t help you with your grocery shopping but can highly recommend growing your own veges here.
  • From a digital perspective, there is exciting transformational work happening here with bigger change across industry coming. Digital expertise and creative thinkers with a global perspective, well rounded good people with a plan will find a happy place in this time of change and opportunity.
  • Those who have worked in Account Services may be used to travelling all over the world to do business with clients. Here in New Zealand that type of dynamic working life is more limited to a regional or national level, though still rewarding.
  • If you have worked very hard overseas but don’t want to work as hard here, you could be in for a jolt. Employer expectations are pretty high. But with that is a cultural shift in business that places you, the talent, in centre stage. You may be working long hours so thinking carefully about your work-life priorities will help narrow down the type of job you take on. You may even decide not to take a permanent job for starters. I think it’s simple stuff but it is so very important to plan what works for you.
  • In the creative industries, you’ll be making more work than you did overseas. A good thing for the portfolio, possibly tougher on the after work surf ambitions. But again, it depends on what you want, what your goals and priorities really are.

How should you approach your return to New Zealand?

Not panicking is a good start. Whatever your reasons for returning, try to get into a good frame of mind. I really feel that returning from overseas is the ideal time to develop your professional brand. A talent agent will represent your best interests and it is one way to help you manage your brand too. It’s a partnership.

If you act too quickly, taking the first offer made, you could end up on a less favourable path. A path that might not work so well in the long term. You should decide at what point in the future you are going to be in your perfect job and what the job looks like. Be clear.

It’s possible the job that’s perfect for you doesn’t even exist yet. If you approach your return to New Zealand with fear and ‘I just want to get work fast’ then you may not end up in a good spot. Depending on the space you’re in, seek a little help, breathe, and do all you can to surround yourself with people who take the time to know you and the market.

Start planning the return home months before you get on the plane. Once things take shape you’ll be ready to take that crucial, well-considered first role. It’s a beautiful thing to see unfolding and it’s why I do what I do.

In summary, take it slow, look after your professional brand and create what you want to be, based on what you love to do. Back yourself, this is your big opportunity to do what makes you happy in this great country of ours. If you take the time (maybe even consider doing contract work initially), you can get back into it. Visualise what your new life is going to look like, where you’re going to live and what your priorities really are. Hold strong to that vision. That’s the opportunity. It’s good to be back.

Lucy PicLucy Everett, Co-founder of Dusty Road

Lucy is the Talent Director and Co-Founder of Dusty Road, a global talent agency based in Auckland, New Zealand. The agency helps creative, digital, account service and design people realise their career ambitions with personal representation and care. Lucy, Co-Founder and husband Bruce Everett and their team, are quietly changing the way people approach finding the jobs they love in New Zealand and around the world. 




Looking for jobs back in New Zealand? Visit Kea's jobs board and LinkedIn group to see what job opportunities there are in your global network.