iwona węgrzyn on relocating from poland to australia & her best networking practices to set you up for success in a new city

Majer Girl: Iwona

what were you doing before you moved to australia?

My background is in HR. I worked at Volvo in Poland as a Recruitment Specialist before I decided to take a year off (without pay) to make my dream of moving to Australia with my partner come true. 


what would you say are the main differences between hr in poland and hr in australia? 

My HR roles in Poland are quite different to the one I’m in now. In Poland, I was more involved with face-to-face interviews and focused on competency assessments. Here, my role is much more complex with admin jobs and acting as an advisor to the hiring managers. I assess the company’s needs and advise my best approach to hiring. 

I think language and culture play a big role in how we conduct business in general. In Poland, people maintain more formal relationships in business. There isn’t much small talk-- we get straight to the point. I’ve observed that Australians are quite informal in business, if in Poland, it could be perceived as misconduct. 

For example, when I set up my bank account here. The banker was very friendly and asked a lot of personal questions in our small talk. It’s not a conversation I’m used to in that sort of environment, but I believe it’s a good thing. Businesses should be like building a good relationship. This approach makes you feel valued and trusted

tell me about poland and the process involved in getting a visa

It is a nightmare to get an Australian Working Holiday Visa in Poland. The application process is very competitive since there are only 200 visas granted per year (they’ve since added 300 more in October 2017). 

After meeting the basic requirements of the visa, the biggest challenge is finding the time to apply. It’s a first-come, first-serve process. It starts on July 1st every year, and you need a letter of government support from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. So a few days before July 1st, you’ll find a crowd of young people queued up for a letter outside of the Ministry of Labour building for sometimes days just to attain this letter. 

Once you have the letter, it needs to be delivered to the Australian Embassy in Berlin either via post or in person. It’s not uncommon for applicants to drive to Berlin that same day after spending nights queued outside the Ministry building


It takes approximately 5 hours to drive from Warsaw to Berlin, so if you are lucky enough to get your letter no later than 1 hour after Ministry has opened and drive to Berlin before the Embassy office closes, you are most likely to be one of the 200 winners or the prized Australian Working Holiday Visa. 


what made you decide to move?

For as long as I can remember, visiting Australia has always been a dream of mine. I love the weather, unspoilt scenery, and friendly people. Australia is especially appealing to travel to considering the overall safety and lack of terrorism. 

I love my life in Poland, but I love visiting new places, and Australia is a must visit for every traveller. 


has australia lived up to your expectations?

Winter in Sydney was colder than I expected! I’m from Poland, so I’m used to the cold and snow, but our homes are heated and it’s easier to warm up there than it is here.
 
Australia is one of the most expensive countries I’ve ever visited. The Polish currency is weak in comparison to the Australian dollar. To give you an idea, most of the money I’ve spent so far renting in Australia for the last several months could buy an apartment or a small house in a beautiful location in Poland! This makes it very difficult for young Poles to travel to Australia. That being said, I love the beauty and weather in here! 


what was the highlight of the moving journey so far?

The day I got the visa. I remember opening the email, and it almost made me cry. 


what did you find most challenging in your job hunt?

I found work without too much difficulty in Sydney and Brisbane. I reached out to a recruiter in Sydney via Linkedin while I was in Poland and had an interview already lined up before we got on our flight. 

My fiance was struggling to find work in IT in Sydney which is the reason we moved to in Brisbane 2 months later.
 

if you only had a few seconds to give your best piece of advice on relocation, what would you say?

Do your research about the city you’re relocating to and grow your networks from where you are.


what is something that is always on your desk at work?

I always have a bottle of water (now chilled, in Poland usually warm)

what is the best way you’ve found to build a network?


Linkedin! You can connect with people from all over the world. I interact on Linkedin on a daily basis at work. When I was planning my move to Australia, I sent invitations to connect with recruiters with a short message letting them know I will be looking for work. It’s a great way to start creating a network in a new city. 


how would you break the ice when you connect on linkedIn?

It’s very important to research who you are sending your messages to. Make sure you’re connecting with people who are looking for someone with your experience and briefly introduce yourself and attach your resume. 


what are some of the benefits you've found of using a recruitment agency for your job hunting?

There’s only so much you can research online when it comes to moving to a new city or country. Recruitment agencies have the knowledge of the local job market and it's so valuable when looking to get your foot in the door for opportunities.  


what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Treat others as you would like to be treated.