Careers advice

Should you take the role – what makes a job an opportunity?

There’s a big difference between a job vacancy and a job opportunity.

Last updated: 11 December 2023

You’ll hear the term ‘job opportunity’ thrown around a lot. People might say, ‘you should study XYZ, there are plenty of job opportunities’ or ‘I heard about this great job opportunity the other day’.

But, in many cases, you could simply swap out the word ‘opportunity’ for ‘vacancy’ and, we think, these are far from the same thing. The word ‘opportunity’ has an inherent overtone of possibility, and, yes, technically a job opportunity could simply mean the possibility of working somewhere, but we think we should all be aiming for more than this.

When searching for jobs in Aotearoa New Zealand, we should be looking for real opportunities. Roles that get us closer to what we really want out of work – whether that’s a pay rise, a better work-life balance, promotion prospects or anything else.

So, how do you spot real career opportunities? Here’s what to look out for.

What makes a great job opportunity?

1. A good salary

In some ways, this is one of the easier things to gauge when sussing out a job opportunity. Why? Because salary is a figure which can be measured and compared.

Often, you won’t get a concrete idea of the salary a role is offering until quite late in the process, usually when you’re offered the job. However, it’s generally possible to get an indication of pay, or at least a range, earlier in the journey. You can then take this figure and compare it with our free online NZ salary guide. This tool gives you the average salary for a given role, as well as a low and high salary band, so you can see if the amount you’re being offered is comparable to similar roles across the country. This info is invaluable when you enter into salary negotiations with the organisation to help you negotiate a better deal.

2. Career prospects

If you’ve ever felt stuck in a dead-end job, you’ll know how career prospects are. There are few things as demoralising as sitting at your desk day in, day out with no clear idea of how you can get ahead and climb the ladder.

So, when you’re assessing a potential job opportunity, think to yourself, ‘where could this role take me?’ One way to do this is by asking good questions in a job interview.

When you get a turn to ask questions in a job interview, we’d advise including at least one of the following:

  • What does the company do to help its employees to upskill?
  • What would be the natural progression pathway for someone in this role?
  • Why did this role become vacant?
  • What do you most like about working for this organisation?

Is the business supportive of its employees' aspirations?

3. Value alignment

Feeling like you really belong at the organisation, and that it shares your values is hugely important to your enjoyment of your time there.

A job that looks perfect on paper can quickly be ruined by a toxic work culture, or poor relationships with your colleagues. And, ultimately, the tone is set at the top, meaning you want to be sure that the company’s culture and values are something that are taken seriously by its leadership.

Assessing this can be a bit more tricky than working out what your salary and career prospects will be. Culture and values are a little more abstract, but there are still steps you can take.

You can look at the company website. Many organisations today will post their mission and values statement somewhere on their website, giving you the opportunity to explore what is important to the business. Similarly, check out, and see if there are reviews posted by current or former employees. Seeing lots of negative comments? This should start to ring alarm bells.

4. Lifestyle alignment

A great job opportunity is also a job that fits around the other things you have going on in your life. Whānau, hobbies and all the other good stuff.

The idea of flexible working has become a lot more prevalent in recent years, and particularly since the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we’re talking about flexible working, we mean both hours and location. For some, the ability to tweak their working hours to fit around things like dropping the tamariki off at school makes life that little bit more manageable. Similarly, being able to work remotely can provide opportunities to live nearer family, in locations where housing is more affordable, or simply somewhere you’ve always dreamed of living.

If you simply want the option of working from home, you can search specifically for roles that allow this on Trade Me Jobs, by clicking the ‘Browse work from home jobs’ button on our homepage.

If you have other desires, it’s generally a case of asking the right questions during the application process. There might be the opportunity to get some basic info on company policy towards these areas during your initial screening, while on other occasions you might have to wait until the interview stage.

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Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.