The pandemic has definitely changed the way we work. Corporate professionals are now working from home, and many people had time to reflect on the things they really want to pursue in life. Because of these changes, many have reflected on moving to the regions to live and work there.
But are there good jobs for corporate professionals in regional Australia? I invited Zoe Allan, the founder of Millano Appointments based in regional Victoria, to talk about it. I had many questions for her, and I was particularly interested in knowing more about senior professionals' success rate moving and working into the regions. Is it worth applying for a job in a region you don't know? Who are regional companies interested in attracting?
Zoe's advice is that if you are considering moving to the regions, think about moving your whole life and not just for your career. There will be so many elements that will be different from city life, and one example is remuneration. Remuneration can be quite different in a regional job.
You should also consider all the factors involved in working in the regions and not just apply for a regional job because you lack options and job opportunities in your city.
If it is burning inside you to make that move and you want to change your lifestyle, live, and work in a regional town, do it. Zoe believes there's a better chance you will adapt better and find job opportunities if you take the plunge. You can commute from Ballarat or other Australian regions in the short term, especially as many workplaces don't require professionals to come to the office every day anymore. It's not always ideal, and it can be a little bit challenging. "But when you are living there, you're sending out those vibes, and you're already getting that feel for the place. Drive around and look at things and start to look at the options and the housing and those sorts of lifestyle things to make it more three three-dimensional for you", says Zoe.
So if it does mean you still have to commute for six or 12 months, but it really is the right move for you, then don't be afraid to do it.
According to Zoe, there is work in both the public and private sectors: "there are businesses there looking for CFOs, company secretaries, directors of commercial operations, art gallery directors and facilities manager, heads of procurement, heads of engineering and manufacturing, board positions, senior finance roles, big HR business partners, all these pivotal types of roles," states Zoe.
It’s a treasure trove of organizations that you don’t know exists there until you start looking. And there’s a lot of opportunities at the moment to make a real difference, and they are looking for the right people to lead and help implement transformational change.
The move should not just be for professional reasons but also personal reasons, because it is all-encompassing when you work in the region. Leaders have to be aware of extra accountability that comes from leading in a small town, where you know everyone, and everyone knows each other.
"There are limitations, challenges, and a lack of resources in the regions, but also there are great opportunities. You'll be utilizing your mind, creativity, engaging with others, and getting others involved in the thought process. So don’t be afraid to use all of those different things, and be prepared to be a lot more accountable and creative in the way that you go about," says Zoe about leaders who succeed in small regional towns.
It is also important to be ready to implement change. According to Zoe, being really prepared and experienced with transformational change, cultural change, organizational change is necessary. When regional employers are looking for senior executives to join their organization, it’s often about driving some type of change.
Zoe tells us it’s a mix of both candidates with links to the region and candidates with no link but have the necessary skills and experience. It depends on the organization and the job advertised: "there is that excitement to bring people from other places and bring in that fresh thinking, fresh ideas, but balancing those with local people. So it is knowing what the strategy is, the objective, and then finding people who can really tick the boxes and want to go on that journey."
What is certain is that the regions need more professionals, especially forward thinkers ready to enable successful growth and change.
Applying for a job in a regional town requires you to think outside the box and move away from the expected protocols of the city recruitment and selection process.
For example, it is a good idea to address the lifestyle change in the application process. It's ok for you to address why you are looking for a job in the regions if you are not living there. And it is also recommended that you research the region and not just the organization you are applying for: the more ingrained and connected you are in various levels, the more likely you are to succeed. In the regions, it's not just about the job. It's about other things that that role and that move will do for you and your life. The more you can demonstrate that in the application and recruitment process, the more it demonstrates to the potential employer you’re committed to succeeding and adopting the new lifestyle that comes with the move.
The difference would probably be shown mainly in the cover letter. The cover letter is a great resource to show you understand what the company needs and that you are open to moving, and this is not just a quick application. The employer would be able to understand the candidate's motivation and reason for applying for the role.
Zoe also emphasized the importance of LinkedIn for regional recruitment. She recommended building your profile and activity so that regional employers can learn as much as possible about you.
Zoe recommends that you should get out as much as you can. Obviously, this has been a challenge since the pandemic started. But walk around the area, go out for coffee, walk downtown, go to the art gallery, go for a drive, get out and get around, and you will notice how friendly people are. Even if you don't know anyone, try to familiarize yourself in a regional setting. And then slowly, you will start to enjoy a fascinating food culture, arts, sports, music, and festivities. "Get involved in those as much as you can, get chatting to people, and then before you know it, you’re connected, and there's a lot of opportunities. Just like with anything, it's as much as you get out there and challenge yourself; you'll find that you get connected," says Zoe.
The salary range is definitely different and lower than equivalent jobs in big cities, and this is why regional living and regional job application requires a lifestyle change. "If you intend to work in Ballarat, for example, but still have your life in Melbourne, I will encourage you to really think about it because it will be a 20% or $20,000 difference. The cost of living is very different," says Zoe.
However, if you are moving to the region, working and living there, the salary range will be lower, but so will your living costs. And the benefits will outweigh the losses.
This trend was initiated before the pandemic but is now well and truly a possibility for many professionals who work for large and small organizations in big cities: working remotely and living in regional areas. In a previous podcast interview with Alistair Freeman (Episode 55), he mentioned that many of his neighbors in regional NSW were already working remotely before the pandemic.
And Zoe Allan was on board and invested in this trend since 2015 when she set up a serviced office in Ballarat catering for freelancers, employees, and employers working remotely and needing a space to do meetings and work independently. "It's like an incubator, hot-desking, and a collaborative workspace. And it's also for people running small businesses to get out of the house and come to that space a couple of times a week and be at home."
Working and living regionally is a dream for many, but it is not for everyone. You have to give it a lot of thought, plan it well, and be committed to planting your roots in the region. The motivation should be not only for your career but your whole life. Otherwise, chances are you will not be successful in your regional job application. And if it is for you, there are plenty of jobs available.
And like Zoe mentioned, go to the region and get the feel of it. Visit the area to help you decide if it is something that will work for you and your family.
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Based in Ballarat, Zoe Allan is a born and bred Regional Victorian with a deep knowledge of the region she calls home and a strong personal connection to the local community. She has more than 18 years of experience in Recruitment, HR, and Business Strategy Consulting throughout Australia, working with firms including Deloitte, Michael Page International, Hays, BHP, and Rio Tinto.
Since 2010 Zoe has been partnering with regional organizations to develop workable methods for attracting, selecting, recruiting, and retaining the top senior talent. They require to realize their strategic objectives and achieve long-term success.
In February 2020, Zoe founded Milano Appointments, a boutique consultancy based in Ballarat and specializing in recruitment and executive search services for Senior Operational, Management, C-Suite, and Board positions, exclusively for Regional Victoria.
How to connect with Zoe:
Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also a virtual career coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals in the corporate, non-profit, and public sectors the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
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