Opinion – Why doesn’t Australia value international experience?


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.

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Jennifer Howe
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Jennifer Howe

Thanks for your article, Kal. I had a very similar experience when I returned to Australia. I don’t think my experience fitted into the box recruiters expected. Luckily I eventually found an employer who valued my international experience. That’s was a number of years ago – I’d hoped thinks had changed with increasing globalisation but maybe not from what you are saying!

Brad Dodemond
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Brad Dodemond

Kai, I love your article! Thank you for shining a light on this issue! I spent 5 years working in Human Resources in Canada (a Commonwealth country with employment laws almost identical to Australia) and when I moved back to Australia in 2015, the feedback from both recruitment agencies and in-house recruitment teams was that I lacked Australian experience compared to the preferred candidate. I believe the experiences I had overseas were invaluable to value proposition as a potential employee. Lucky for me I found a great boss who loved my global experience, but sadly the other 90% of companies… Read more »

Andrew Benzie
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Andrew Benzie

I totally agree with the article above and also lament the lack of recognition of overseas qualifications as well. Australia, being more remote from other global economies, should have absolutely the opposite bias, in order to ensure it is able to take a more progressive approach in its operational and people management practices, which as far as I can see, are lagging not leading the world. I hope this debate leads to a broadening of horizons and an opening of minds.

Kerrie McDonald
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Kerrie McDonald

I am currently in the process of moving back to Australia after 10 years away. I’ve encountered the same push back in the last two months. My CV isn’t even looked at after they see a foreign country listed. I’m just hopeful that I’ll find an employer who really does value the skills and experience I can bring to the table.
Great article and still true if the mindset today from what I’ve experienced so far.

Geoff De Lacy
Guest
Geoff De Lacy

Thank you kal. My lengthy experience has taught me that the issues you raise can often be sheeted back to recruiters many of whom often lack any real understanding of the international experiences and their value to an employer. Moreover their ability to assess such experiences is often limited because of their lack of personal o/seas experience of working in such environments. Primary values such as cultural awareness, management of complexity, ability to adapt quickly to different thinking processes and laws, communication effectiveness et al are clearly required in o/seas roles and as a result the individual who experiences them… Read more »

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Opinion – Why doesn’t Australia value international experience?


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.

21
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Jennifer Howe
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Jennifer Howe

Thanks for your article, Kal. I had a very similar experience when I returned to Australia. I don’t think my experience fitted into the box recruiters expected. Luckily I eventually found an employer who valued my international experience. That’s was a number of years ago – I’d hoped thinks had changed with increasing globalisation but maybe not from what you are saying!

Brad Dodemond
Guest
Brad Dodemond

Kai, I love your article! Thank you for shining a light on this issue! I spent 5 years working in Human Resources in Canada (a Commonwealth country with employment laws almost identical to Australia) and when I moved back to Australia in 2015, the feedback from both recruitment agencies and in-house recruitment teams was that I lacked Australian experience compared to the preferred candidate. I believe the experiences I had overseas were invaluable to value proposition as a potential employee. Lucky for me I found a great boss who loved my global experience, but sadly the other 90% of companies… Read more »

Andrew Benzie
Guest
Andrew Benzie

I totally agree with the article above and also lament the lack of recognition of overseas qualifications as well. Australia, being more remote from other global economies, should have absolutely the opposite bias, in order to ensure it is able to take a more progressive approach in its operational and people management practices, which as far as I can see, are lagging not leading the world. I hope this debate leads to a broadening of horizons and an opening of minds.

Kerrie McDonald
Guest
Kerrie McDonald

I am currently in the process of moving back to Australia after 10 years away. I’ve encountered the same push back in the last two months. My CV isn’t even looked at after they see a foreign country listed. I’m just hopeful that I’ll find an employer who really does value the skills and experience I can bring to the table.
Great article and still true if the mindset today from what I’ve experienced so far.

Geoff De Lacy
Guest
Geoff De Lacy

Thank you kal. My lengthy experience has taught me that the issues you raise can often be sheeted back to recruiters many of whom often lack any real understanding of the international experiences and their value to an employer. Moreover their ability to assess such experiences is often limited because of their lack of personal o/seas experience of working in such environments. Primary values such as cultural awareness, management of complexity, ability to adapt quickly to different thinking processes and laws, communication effectiveness et al are clearly required in o/seas roles and as a result the individual who experiences them… Read more »

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