A Journey South: Epilogue - Reflection
Originally posted to LinkedIn in 2017
It has been some time since I last wrote about our journey south. I had intentions to write more, but felt I needed some time to reflect on our experiences. Now that it has been six months since we loaded our cars and embarked on a journey, I think this is a good time to share my experiences.
There's been a bit of media attention on the Dunedin job market lately with the upcoming closure of the Cadbury plant and restructures at the University of Otago. But it has also been noted that there is job growth in Dunedin, and businesses are searching for good talent to come south.
Reason One: Family
We are definitely spending more time with family as a result of the move - maybe a bit too much at times! One positive from this has been that we landed in Dunedin with some kind of support network, which is often a big hurdle in any relocation.
Reason Two: Lifestyle
There is a massive lifestyle change in moving to Dunedin from Auckland. The forty hour week is not the exception anymore and many offices are empty by 5:30pm. Compared to my Auckland lifestyle, the art of avoiding traffic was adding hours to my working week and eating into my personal time.
An example of this is my commute. I have a similar commuting distance to what I had in Auckland (20km each way), but the time difference is significant. Currently it takes me 25 minutes for my commute, which includes a diversion to drop my partner at her office. In the evening, the commute is the same, and we're often home by 5:30pm, giving us more time to spend together and pursue our interests such as twilight cricket, evening runs and cooking new meals.
Reason Three: Culture
Dunedin's culture has been interesting, and an ongoing discovery. There is a blend of history mixed with the arts and nature in the city that has resulted in some exciting trips and discoveries, even for a former local.
Dunedin's working culture is also an interesting blend. There are pockets of opportunities, innovation and ambition, but it is also mixed with a conservative attitude that can restrain the city from growing and achieving more. I have already met some fantastic leaders and heard some ambitious ideas for southern organisations to flourish. However, I have also struggled at time to work with backwards attitudes towards change, investment and outsiders. For someone coming down south, be prepared to wade through a mix of feeling welcome and unwelcome before finding your fit here.
Reason Four: Housing Affordability
This is still very applicable, but the prices are going up down here. Without a doubt it's still a sellers market as people relocate and find better yielding investments. The conservative nature of some locals with their investments has also meant that some people are only just getting into the property investment business after seeing the results across the country.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Over the last four months, we have had several colleagues search for their first home. All of us have now secured our first houses after searching for only a few months. We all spent within our budgets, but admit that we spent a little more than we planned to get the houses we wanted. The feeling amongst us is of settlement, particularly those starting families.
We recently purchased our first house after about two months of searching. We were able to secure a comfortable property in a suburb that is traditionally a second home suburb. This is something we would not have been able to do in Auckland.
So has the move been worth it?
Absolutely! While it has been hard at times to find a good role and build a local network, those short-term frustrations will change are an investment in our long-term future. We see potential in our roles to grow within our organisations, balancing having a mortgage and a life, and finding settlement in our new city.
Tips for Anyone Considering a Relocation
- Think about your motivations as it will help you shortlist where you want to relocate to
- Research the cities to understand the employment environment. If possible, spend some time there visiting to get a feel for life there.
- Talk to people. In smaller New Zealand cities, it can often be about connection. Making your intentions known can help make some initial connections, particularly with recruiters, employers and people who become part of your new network.
- Be prepared to settle without a job. It is unlikely that you will find employment prior to arrival, so save some money to get by just in case.
- Be patient. Finding a role can take time, and so will building a network. Some people we talked to about their relocation told us it took around six months to both find work, and about three years before they felt they had a network of friends they could call upon unannounced locally.
- Think laterally for your new role and play to your strengths and experiences. If you search to specific in a smaller city, you will find yourself limited in roles, and may take a much longer time to secure.
- Be prepared to get paid less in the regions than in larger cities, but set your limit. The regions can be known for paying quite low, and argue a lower cost of living. Be prepared to negotiate or walk away from roles that you feel are too low-paying and wait for the right-paying role. (Employers - if you are finding people are turning down your roles, have a look at your remuneration and don't be afraid to invest more money in your new staff)
Good luck for anyone with their relocation, and please get in touch if you are coming down south!