Rise issue 09 cover

Tough times spur career rethink

Tough economic times have seen many unsuspecting New Zealanders out of work this year for the first time in their lives. However, for some it has come as a blessing in disguise and their communities have reaped the benefits.

Over the past year Work and Income staff across the country have observed more clients moving into meaningful, people-focused work in their communities.

Often these are established professionals for whom redundancy has come as quite a shock. They are deciding to use the time they are out of work in a philanthropic way, to lend a helping hand in their communities or even using their skills in other ways to help others.

Treina Chaplain, Industry Partnership Advisor in Whangarei, believes the recession has prompted people to re-think their priorities and identify some other skills they have or would like to develop.

"For many the career change is temporary but we've already seen a number of people for whom it is likely to be permanent," says Treina. "They are simply finding the new work they are doing much more rewarding and the lure of a larger salary in their established profession when the market picks up again might not be enough to convince them to return."

This certainly looks like it will be true for Whangarei builder, Maurice Poe.

From construction to caregiving

When construction work started drying up Maurice was eager to try his hand at something completely new. So when his Work Broker suggested care giving, even though it hadn't been something he'd ever contemplated before, he thought yeah, why not.

Maurice completed the Industry Partnership programme and gained a National Certificate in Community Support Services. Before long he had secured a permanent job as a caregiver in the Dementia Unit at Kamo Rest Home.

"I've discovered I have a passion for older people," says Maurice. "They have so much knowledge and give us so much."

Work Broker Maria Nedeljkov from Auckland's North Shore says it has been incredibly heart warming to see what is normally quite an anxious time for people turn into something really positive.

"I've seen a whole new personality emerge in a person when they latch onto something new and exciting and realise they can really make their job their passion too," she explains. "People are also being more open-minded and thinking about what really makes them happy and whether they are contributing to something which they feel is meaningful."

Maria tells Rise about a corporate recruitment manager who has started work for a community organisation helping solo parents get back into the work force.

Using skills for community good

"She absolutely loves her new job," says Maria. "She's still using her skills but in a whole new way, and learning about the obstacles some New Zealanders face before they even think about taking the first step into the job seeking world."

Despite the pay drop, Maria would be very surprised if this young woman returned to the corporate world any time soon, if at all. "She's become a completely different person. She really feels like she's making a difference now and you can't put a price on that."