This CFO believes Australian businesses care too much about local experience.
After working overseas for the past 14 years, it was only when I was looking at moving back to Australia that I realised how many businesses here don’t value global experience.
In both the cities where I worked, London and Dubai, it was normal for my colleagues to be people from different countries, some barely off their flights from South Africa, Canada or Australia. This is because, unlike a lot of Australian organisations, international cities recognise that skills translate from country to country.
A puzzling trend
During my final years overseas, when I was considering a return to Australia, I would meet with recruitment agencies to get a feel for the job market here. They often gave me the advice that my lack of Australian experience was a problem (I had only worked in my field for three years in Australia before I headed overseas).
I was told their clients (potential Australian employers) always preferred people who had recent Australian experience.
I was shocked by this attitude. Isn’t considerable international expertise of great value to Australian companies? A candidate such as myself could potentially introduce the best international practices, and also open doors to the contacts I had made whilst working overseas. If it was simply an issue of a visa or sponsorship, I could understand their reluctance.
A couple of former colleagues who also moved to Australia after some time abroad have similar stories, even though both of them had developed excellent skills and deep knowledge in some of the world’s biggest and fastest growing markets.
It remains a total puzzle to me why cities like London and New York are open to hiring the best talent that is presented to them – no matter where it is from – yet Australia seems to be very insular.
Australia’s local bias
I appreciate that in certain fields having extensive Australian experience would make sense. However, this cannot be said for the broader job categories. Whilst there might be some specifics to be brushed up on, employers should realise that certain skills translate globally.
Technological advances over the past 10 to 15 years have demonstrated how businesses everywhere are now operating in a global environment. Whether you run a local café or an ASX listed company, the world is at your fingertips.
I truly believe Australian companies need to take heed of international viewpoints, and make sure they’re not overvaluing Australian-only experience.
Kal Desai is a Chartered Accountant and currently works as CFO of Australian manufacturer Beak Engineering.