Feature article

Feature story: moving town for a new job

It's a huge lifestyle change. So how do you know it's the right time?

You’ve gone down the track of interviewing for a job in a new city. As well as the job, this is likely about a desire for a change of lifestyle, an easier commute, more affordable housing and having more time to see family.

You’re 95% there, but what’s going to get you over the line – what’s going to reassure you that this is the right move for you and your household? Will you stay strong against a big pay rise from your current employer?

The good news is employers in regions around the country are actively hiring and while not all of them will be able to match your big city salary, a good number of them will.

And you won’t be alone in considering this life change. In a recent Trade Me Jobs survey, over half of the job hunter respondents said they would be happy to move town for a job or they would certainly consider it.

It’s likely your decision won’t be based on remuneration. Our research also showed that salary is only 7th on the list of most important things to job hunters when making a change. Much higher up the list, is work/life balance (62%), job security (55%), the actual work you’ll be doing (52%) and the company fit (51%)

How a big city Aucklander is finding the Hawke’s Bay

Kelly Doyle, Rockit Apple General Manager of People and Culture, grew up in the Hawke’s Bay, then lived overseas in London and New York, and more recently Auckland. She came back to the Bay in November 2021 with her young daughter to take up her current job.

Kelly thought that she would have to take a salary drop if she moved back to her hometown but that wasn’t the case at all.

“In my head, I thought salaries were so much lower in the regions but not at all, it’s very competitive,” she says.

Kelly Doyle, Rockit Apple General Manager of People and Culture. Image source: LinkedIn

And the scope of the job at Rockit Apple (which exports snack–sized apples around the world) is as good if not better than anything she could have hoped for in Auckland.

“Rockit Apple is a high–growth company doing really different things. It felt like this was a big city job in a really dynamic company and it was cool that it was in the Hawke’s Bay,” says Kelly.

With the move from Auckland to the Hawke’s Bay, the HR expert says she didn’t want to go backwards.

“I’m getting to go forward in my career and work for a great company,” she says.

And Kelly found she was not the only one who had recently moved to the Hawke’s Bay at her new employer which has a staff of 150 that swells to 600 during harvest time. Five out of nine of Rockit Apple’s senior leadership, who have come from big companies like Fletcher Building, Fonterra, Les Mills and House of Travel, have relocated from Auckland in the last two years.

Rockit Apples. Image source: LinkedIn

If they’re hiring someone from out of town, Rockit Apple offers relocation packages and if a new hire’s partner were looking for a job too, Kelly says she’d do her utmost to help connect them with useful contacts.

The returned local has had plenty of days when she’s celebrated the move. Her mother and brother are in the Bay so she enjoys being close to them and her daughter loves being near her cousins.

And the commute to the company’s brand new Irongate premises is not half bad. The GM used to commute from Remuera to industrial Onehunga in Auckland for work which was a pretty good trip for Auckland, but her 20 minute drive into Hastings from Taradale takes her past vineyards and orchards.

Kelly is enjoying the culture of Rockit Apple, how passionate the orchardists are about their tasty apples and how committed the leadership team is to providing an excellent workplace for the team.

Kelly was very impressed by a small thing Rockit Apple did when she had made the decision to take the job which meant taking her daughter away from her Auckland life and friends. The company sent her a backpack filled with Rockit™apples, the gift addressed personally to her, a gesture to help get the little girl on board and excited about the move.

Smart thinking by Rockit Apple because you’ve got to have the whole household on board for a move to another town to truly work.

Bringing the whole household on board for your out of town move

When you’re first considering a move to a new town for a job, have a very honest conversation with your partner to ensure that the goals are shared and to work through the positives and negatives of a relocation, suggests careers specialist, Caroline Sandford.

"This decision is more than just about a job, it’s also about the life that you want to live" - Caroline Sandford

Ask, will your partner be making a sacrifice, will there be opportunities for them, and, if you have kids, what support network is there for them in this new place?

Use the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) format to identify issues for the family and each individual in the family, suggests Caroline. Consider all the factors that will be affected – work, friends, accommodation, schooling, and support network.

Identify gaps of knowledge and work out what needs to be found out, so that the decision can be made with really knowing what you’re going into, she says.

A trip for the household to the area to answer some questions will help, adds the career adviser. Also, talking to others who have made the move can help you understand what it will be like in reality.

“There will always be unknowns, the unforeseen and the positive outcomes that were unexpected. So making sure everyone has a voice, that the research and the reality checking is carried out, and questions answered, will help immensely in ensuring that the family knows what they are moving to and will hopefully feel committed to this next part of the journey,” says Caroline.

A move to another town doesn’t have to be instant, it can be gradual

It can seem a daunting undertaking to transplant yourself and your household to a town you don’t know well, on the basis of a few good conversations with a prospective new employer.

Hawke’s Bay firm, AskYourTeam helps company teams collect feedback from staff in surveys that inform on workplace wellness, project delivery, policymaking and organisational performance direction.

AskYourTeam’s head of product, Craig Whitcombe says his company is open to taking another gentler approach if need be when hiring an out of town candidate.

“We can look at hiring someone with the intent that they’ll move in the next 12 months. They get to see how the job is going, they can travel down, work in the office periodically and get to know the company and the region better. And when the time is right, then they can make the move,” he explains.

The talent pool for staff in Hawke’s Bay is small so you’ve got to look at tactics, says Craig. AskYourTeam also has an office in Wellington so people can work from there if they prefer.

Craig says moves tend to go better when the person has some connections in the area – they tend to stay and be more proactive, he says.

But to those who move with few connections, the company will help people become part of the community as soon as possible.

“We make sure new people are looked after, we meet them over the weekend for lunches and dinners. If someone in the company plays football on Saturday, and they're interested, they’ll invite them along. You need to be quite open to support them, not just in company hours,” says the product lead.

The company has recently hired two people who were working remotely from their companies and they both came to AskYourTeam because they wanted to be part of a community, a team.

Another thing the company stresses is showing new people a career pathway and ways they can develop their skills so they don’t have to go somewhere else, says Craig.

AskYourTeam has a good story to tell, after nearly eight years, with 50 staff, its success built on cutting edge tech. It plans to expand to Australia and the UK next.

To attract the right talent, Craig knows the firm has to talk to staff and incoming hires about its international ambitions.

“We want to be a $100 million turnover business – the message is, you’re not going to be working in a garage with a bunch of ex-farmers.”

Christchurch currently an employment hotspot

One of the big beneficiaries of Kiwi job hunters being open to living in another New Zealand town is Christchurch, with its affordable and high standard of housing, great quality of life and strong business environment.

Nick Carter, partner at Christchurch-based executive recruitment firm, Brannigans, says his company has always been proactive in approaching Auckland and Wellington-based executives about jobs in the Garden City.

Before Covid, he says around 2/10 of these candidates were willing to move to Christchurch, and now there’s been a significant increase to more like, 5/10. People in Auckland are particularly willing to move south, says Nick.

Cathedral Square tram, Christchurch City

Something that can help get out-of-town candidates over the line is offering them an extra week’s holiday in their package.

“There’s no point in bringing them to a lifestyle location if they haven’t got the time to enjoy it,” reasons Nick.

The recruiter challenges those who say the all the big companies are based in Auckland, telling them, for example, that the banks are largely owned by Australian companies who see Auckland as a regional base. Christchurch, on the other hand has a number of home grown businesses, including PGG Wrightson, Tait Communications, Syft Technologies as well as three of the country’s largest housing companies, including Williams Corporation. And the owners of these companies live in the city and the money, when they buy and sell, stays in the city, says the Brannigans partner.

The job market in Christchurch and Canterbury has been surging with record growth in jobs and these are new jobs that have been created, he adds. The Christchurch economy has had over 50% growth in value, it’s an export led economy, says Nick.

In the build up to a move to Christchurch, the recruiter will always encourage candidates to bring their spouses and kids with them to visit the city. They’ll meet the employer on Friday and then spend the weekend in the city staying at a hotel in the CBD.

“We let the city do its own sales talk. Christchurch has really got its mojo back, its sense of pride,” says Nick.

He’ll also arrange meetings with principals of high schools and real estate agents, Canterbury University is an increasingly popular university for Kiwis so if your kids are going to go there, why not be around to support them, he says.

For new arrivals whose partners are looking for job opportunities too, Christchurch has plenty to offer, says Nick. And salaries in Christchurch are on a par with the big cities, he says. For the same sized company, the same job, they’ll be paid the same as in Auckland, he says.

One Christchurch company embracing the four day working week

One Christchurch biotech firm, Keraplast Manufacturing, is actively hiring at the moment for members of its production team and there will be more to come in its sales and marketing team.

The employer is offering its staff something still quite rare in New Zealand and that’s a four day working week. Chief Operating Officer, Kimberley Bray, says a four day working week is pretty unusual for a manufacturing facility.

All staff are on salaries and there’s an efficiency mindset, she says. The idea is you’ve done what you need to do this week, then you can leave.

“We talk about a maximum of 36 hours whereas a lot of contracts say a minimum of 40 hours,” says Kimberley.

The biotech firm is very focused on a company culture where work life balance has a more holistic view, adds the COO. Teams can put together rosters for times they need to be at home for children that suit each of them. It creates a really nice team culture, says Kimberley.

Keraplast’s recruitment process is a bit different. Once the first interview is over, the next one will have them coming to the facility, going through the plant and meeting all the team.

Two candidates came down from Auckland and spent the day with the team, had lunch and then had dinner with the CEO. This kind of thing is possible with a company of 25 people which is growing rapidly.

Salaries are taken seriously at Keraplast, which is US-owned. It wants to be an employer of choice and will be approaching the market and getting the best people, says Kimberley. Salaries will be on a par with everywhere else in the country.

“The reality is the cost of living is going up everywhere, the idea that Auckland is more expensive than everywhere else isn’t true anymore, “ says the COO.

At the same time, the employer is asking existing and new staff about their aspirations and developing them, she says. “We want people to be living their best lives,” she adds.

Keraplast will provide staff with mentoring, leadership coaching, put them on external coaching, and their development needs may not be related to the job they’re in.

“It’s counter productive to think of employees as anything other other than adults who want to do well,” says Kimberley.

Aucklanders moving to other parts of the Golden Triangle

For Aucklanders, moving to work in another city in the Golden Triangle (Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton) is a popular decision, particularly to those who want to be close to family and friends in Auckland.

Hamilton is at the heart of a collection of regions where more than half of New Zealanders live, says Mike Bennett, economic development programme manager at Hamilton City Council.

And with 32 being the median age of residents, Hamilton is the youngest of any city in New Zealand, as well as home to more than 160 ethnicities, speaking more than 80 languages, says Mike.

Owning a home is still far more cost effective than other major markets, like Wellington, the Bay of Plenty and Auckland, he says. And another interesting stat, according to Numbeo, average wage earners in Hamilton are able to afford 31% more than their counterparts in Tauranga and 38% more than in Auckland.

The area truly is an economic powerhouse. Tech and innovation, agritech, manufacturing and logistics are all driving job creation and retention in Hamilton, according to the economic unit head.

Major Hamilton employer, Gallagher, a developer of high tech solutions across the security and animal management industries, is headquartered in Hamilton, as well as having sites in Pukekohe and Dunedin plus hubs in Melbourne, Kansas and the UK.

Gallagher HQ in Hamilton

It has 750 employees in Hamilton, its head office near Hamilton Lake, the site, the size of over 30 football fields with subsidised cafe and free parking.

Gallagher is advertising for 40 roles at the moment from software development roles, electronics engineer to social media specialist, marketing technology specialist and people data analyst.

Careers at Gallagher are “globally focused” with opportunity for international travel and experience in some roles, says the company.

Helen Camilleri, People & Brand Executive at Gallagher says over 300 people have joined the firm globally in the past year and that trajectory continues.

“Our customer centric innovation engine means we’re always on the lookout for more talented minds to join the team – developers, testers, engineers, as well as “centre of excellence” specialists spanning the likes of analytics, marketing, people, cyber security and manufacturing performance.”

In terms of its ability to attract talent from big cities, Helen stresses the company’s people first and family focus culture. Flexible working arrangements are available in many roles, she adds. And salaries are at the same level as you’d find in the big cities.

And Waikato is carving itself a new identity. “We like to think of the Waikato as New Zealand’s Silicon Valley in the making, we have a number of tech companies in the region. We also offer a great lifestyle with close connections to both coasts and a relatively short drive to Auckland as well as being a great jump off point to explore our incredible backyard,” says Helen.

Tauranga’s appeal to Aucklanders moving out of the city for jobs

Tauranga, meanwhile, is attracting big numbers of Auckland workers following a job and a more relaxed lifestyle. Priority One, the Western Bay of Plenty region’s economic development organisation, acts as a big support to employers looking to attract new talent to the region and to the employees when they’re researching the move.

Priority One has a talent attraction portal, which showcases the region and lifestyle and includes case studies on key sectors in the area which are actively seeking skilled talent, sectors like tech and agri-tech for instance.

The organisation will regularly meet with people who have recently moved to the area for jobs and will give them information on the local economy, employers, schools and it will help partners of those who have moved to jobs in the area, find their own opportunities. Its skills and employment hub (Ara Rau) also works closely with people wanting to upskill, reskill or reenter the workforce.

Trustpower, a major employer in Tauranga, with 800 staff in the city, is in the process of merging with Mercury Energy, and actively hiring at the moment. Annastacia Barclay, talent sourcer at the company, says Trustpower has huge amounts of roles available, from sales agents, customer service rep, data analyst, service desk support people and more. It’s also hiring analysts in commercial data analytics and IT roles.

Part-time roles are super-popular, says Annastacia, who says the company will say to good candidates, “you tell us what hours you want to work and we’ll make it happen.” This has been a great boost for attracting talent. If people want to stay in Auckland and fly in once or twice a month, that’s also an option, says the talent sourcer.

As well as offering competitive market rates on a par with national rates anywhere, people like the benefits Trustpower offers such as free life and trauma insurance, and an additional week’s leave.

Culture and values are often what help to get people over the line, moving from another city, says Annastacia. “It’s all about the community work we do, we sponsor activities, we’re very active in the community and we work with customers during natural disasters. Whatever affects people, we help,” she says.

Make sure you really like the location not just the job

Careers adviser, Lucy Sanderson-Gammon from Luminous Consulting, notes when you’re relocating your family for a new job, you will not only want to make sure the job is worth the upheaval, but also that the new location and lifestyle will suit the family if the job doesn’t work out.

“There is never a 100% guarantee that any job will be the right fit, or that you won’t outgrow the role or the company. Therefore, you’ll want the freedom to change jobs if you need to, without worrying about having to move again,” she says.