Only miracle workers needed from abroad

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 07:33 21/01/2013

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OPINION: Dear Overseas Applicant.

Thank you for your interest in heading a government department/local body/media outlet/business in our country. New Zealand is a cleanish and greenish land, and a great place to bring up kids, provided they aren't part of the estimated 30 per cent living in poverty.

Your time spent in New Zealand will be highly profitable, provided you obey the following 9 rules.

1) Make sure your CV is full of every single thing you have done, even if it's trivial. New Zealanders suffer from a disease called cultural cringe, so we think someone from overseas must be better qualified for a job than competent people from our own country. People in London or New York may laugh when they hear you work in Mildura, Grimsby or Calgary, but in New Zealand our eyes light up. And if you make up the odd detail for your CV, don't worry, rigorous checks are rarely carried out (see Maori Television CEO).

2) Once you are appointed, make sure you demand a ridiculously high salary. New Zealanders see CEOs who don't seek exorbitant remuneration as wimps. Don't worry about the cost; you'll make the money back when you cut jobs in your organisation. If someone queries your salary, just say "if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, or even worse, Kiwis".

3) Many overseas CEOs are brought to New Zealand to restructure and cut jobs. This can be a traumatic and gut-wrenching process. It's also quite difficult for the people you make redundant. Offering voluntary redundancy is a humane and creative strategy as it allows the best people in your organisation to take the redundancy money and quickly find a job elsewhere, leaving you with the dross.

4) Most good managers start quite cautiously in a new job, and don't make sweeping changes until they fully understand their new environment. But New Zealanders hate this. You must immediately implement far- reaching changes, even if you don't know if they will work. So close that school down, outsource that service, or get rid of that popular current affairs presenter immediately.

5) Successful CEO imports must have good buzz words to inspire their staff. Don't worry if these words are cliches in your home country; we'll love them. Some popular words include "digital media", "e-learning", "e-government", "e-commerce", "e-coli", "outsourcing", "stakeholders", "vision", "interactive" and "learnings".

6) In your first few months of your job you will successfully introduce the three Rs: restructuring, redundancy and resentment. This is the honeymoon period. Once you have implemented these changes your organisation will be expected to do something productive like improving our schools, increasing television viewers or reducing council debt. This will bring you into conflict with your minister/ board/shareholders, who will realise you are no miracle worker and that you don't have nearly as much to offer as they initially thought. It is time to seriously think about moving on.

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7) Because you have negotiated such a ridiculously good salary package it will have generous redundancy provisions that the employees you fired could only dream of. But your employers will be so impatient to get rid of you that you can probably hold out for even more money. New Zealand may have Third World facilities but we have First World employment lawyers. Hire one and it is likely your employers will pay out your full contract just to get rid of you.

8) Leave with good grace. This is important as you may wish to return here and repeat steps 1-7. Don't say "I'm getting out because I'm not very good, hate the work culture and can't stand my minister/board/deputy". Instead, cite family reasons or the chance to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Say what a great country New Zealand is and how much you enjoyed your time here. We love that.

9) Recommend the job you are leaving to a mate overseas. The organisation you left will ignore the New Zealand talent right under their noses and undertake an expensive executive search overseas, so your mediocre mate in Carlisle or Saskatoon could be in with a chance. The organisation will probably hire a successor even worse than you, so everyone will look back on your reign with great affection.

Good luck.

- The Dominion Post

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