Tuesday, 27 August 2013

But would I do it for a visa?

‘Friends’ was what Tom wanted and true to his word, a friend is what I got.
Tom made sure that for the next week I was entertained morning, noon and night. Whether it was shopping for further items for the apartment, hanging out watching movies at his place, introducing me to his friends or boozing the night away on Oxford Street, Tom barely left my side all week except to sleep.
After ten days Tom called into work and took the following week off as well.
Further beer fuelled nights ensued becoming an endless round of VB and hangovers. By the end of the second week, my finances were looking tight. I’d not actually saved that much money to come out to Sydney, figuring I’d get a job after the first couple of months, but I hadn't accounted for a months rent and deposit on an apartment, let alone kitting one out. Coupled with seventeen nights drinking, it meant I needed to remedy the situation soon.
Sending Tom back off to work, it was time for me to hit some recruitment agencies in the pursuit of an income.

Sydney has more recruiters per capita than anywhere in the world. This can be both a blessing and a curse for all involved.
The simplest place to start was with the recruitment sites themselves, Seek and Monster; I found out who recruited in the HR space and then hit the phone. Within a morning I had eight different interviews lined up.

Michael Page’s offices were located in a domineering tower block encased in black glass and overlooking the Harbour. The large round facade cleft the sky in two, casting its shadow across George Street and into the face of the building opposite. The sun was streaming down through a cold, clear blue, autumn sky, bouncing of the cold white concrete pavements, challenged only by the dark column in front of me, blocking out the warmth of the light this oppressive, dark, corporate beast.

Admittedly the view from the windows of the 24th floor told quite a different story, 360 views of the harbour, bright sun filled rooms, glass panels and light wood everywhere denying the confines of the offices themselves; to be part of the inner workings of the machine had its privileges.

‘Michael’ met me at the front desk.
“Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me; I was really excited when I saw your resume,” Michael gripped my hand tightly and pumped my arm up and down.
“Oh, err thanks,” I stumbled, slightly taken aback by the enthusiasm and the vigour of his handshake.
“Let’s go through to my office, can I get you a coffee?”
“No thanks, I had one not too long ago.”
“No worries. Please,” he gestured to one of the small wooden chairs around the large round table, “take a seat.”
Taking off the jacket of his navy pinstripe suit, flashing the pillar-box red lining before throwing it onto one of the spare chairs, Michael straightened his red checked tie and sat opposite me.
“I’m sorry; I forgot to make a copy of your resume. Do you have a spare with you?”
“Of course,” I reached into my portfolio and drew out two sheets of paper, stapled at their corners: The summation of my entire career history.
“Right first off, this is a UK resume, the two pages thing. We want a lot more detail in Australia, achievements, reasons for leaving and such, I guess we have more time to read a resume than people in London,” He relaxed into his seat, and stifled a yawn, “but we can just find out those details here and you can update it and get a more detailed version to me later on.”
We talked about my history, the roles I’d had, achievements and successes and what I was ultimately looking for.”
“Ideally, I’m looking to be sponsored to stay here. I’m happy to stay in HR, but realistically I’ll consider anything you think I’m suitable for.”
“Of course,” Michael nodded knowledgeably, stroking his chin as if deep in thought, “Well I have several roles on at the moment I think you’d be more than suitable for. I’ll go back to my desk and go through the details and get back to you to discuss what we’ll put you forward for. In the mean time if you can get your resume updated and back to me as soon as poss, we can get the ball rolling.”
“Great, I can get that done this afternoon. So when can I expect to hear back from you?”
“Sometime in the next couple of days,” he shrugged, “you don’t need to worry.” He stood up offering his hand again, “Well, again thank you for your time and I’ll be in touch.”

My appointments grew from eight to fifteen and each one ended with the phrase ‘I’ll be in touch’. I soon learnt that the statement really wasn’t complete without the final words ‘when hell freezes over’. No matter how many messages I left for the numerous ‘Michaels’ I heard nothing back.

“Good morning, can I speak to Matt please?” a cheerful Scottish voice asked, way too chirpy at 9:00am for my liking.
“Speaking,” I grunted, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and pulling the cord of my newly purchased phone to extend it over the mountain that was my doona clad bed.
“Matt, my name’s Angus McNeil and I’m calling from Hudson. You sent your resume in for us to consider for an HR position.”
“Oh right,” though still sleepy, the lack of enthusiasm in my voice was more the deep mistrust of recruiters I’d built in the previous three weeks than the looming hangover from the previous night’s carousing with Tom.
“Is now a bad time?”
“No, no,” I slumped back down onto the pillows, waving an arm expansively, “Please go on; I’m totally free to talk.”
“I wandered if you had some free time to meet with me this afternoon, I might be able to help you.”

Hudson’s offices were a stone’s throw from Martin Place - the location for the Red Woman scene from the Matrix. The lobby of the building was cool and quiet, and rose up to a large café bordering the lift wells. A low hum of conversation hung in the high ceilinged room, people in hushed tones discussing business items, broken occasionally by a burst of laughter from the group of girls in the corner who along with their effervescence, stood out from the monochromatic uniform of the suits with their orange, yellow and purple t- shirts.

I made my way up to the lifts and took a ride up to the fourteenth floor.
“Good morning, how can I help you?” the receptionist’s grin matched her bright neck scarf, bold and confident.
“I’m here to see Angus McNeil.”
“Oh lovely, you’ll like Angus, I’ll just buzz him." She punched in a couple of numbers and announced my arrival in to her headset before turning back to me. "You just take a seat and he’ll be right down.”
I moved over to the wall of seating opposite a large pane of glass showing CNN, looking around to see where it was projecting from.
“Just above your shoulder,” the receptionist pointed, “it gets people every time.” She got up from the reception desk carrying a clipboard and walked towards me, “Angus asked me to get you to fill this out while you wait. He won’t be long.”
I filled out a form with my referee details as well as a form authorising Hudson to represent me and looked up just as a tall, slim, well groomed man walked over to me.
“Matt?”
“Angus, nice to meet you.”
“Likewise, come on through.” He took the clipboard from me, “I’ll get rid of these for you. Suzanne can you hold onto these for me, you know I’ll lose them again otherwise,” He grinned, handing the forms and clipboard back to the receptionist before ushering me into an interview room.
Angus gestured to a seat on the opposite side of the round table and made chit chat about the weather and my arrival in Sydney while pouring us both glasses of water.
“So look Matt, I wanted to get you in today, because… well your resume intrigued me because your background’s very similar to my own, retail, HR and such. I wondered what it is you’re looking for here in Sydney.”
I sighed; I could already sense this was going to be a waste of time.
“To be honest Angus, I’m not sure that what I’m looking for is actually out there. Everyone keeps telling me to use recruiters; that people rarely hire directly here, but I never hear anything back from them…”
“It’s a nightmare isn't it?” He nodded, “Let’s start at the beginning: what brought you here?”
“Well I guess I came out here thinking I’d find a job, get sponsored and stay. You've seen my resume; I figured HR would be in demand here like it is back home.”
“Six months ago yes, but right now, we’re in a bit of a candidate rich market. Whilst there are jobs out there, people aren't sponsoring for them. They can get Aussies to fill the roles instead.”
“So I guess I am wasting my time,” I shrugged, “I just wish the other fifteen bloody recruiters had told me this.” I sighed and slumped in my chair, “I’m sorry, it’s just been a very frustrating few weeks.”
“I totally understand,” Angus soothed. “When I came here, I was looking for the same thing. As I said before, it’s why I called you in. I’d worked in retail for ten years and then came out here looking for an HR role only to find there weren't any. That’s how I got into recruitment. So let me ask you this, is it just about staying in Sydney, or are you set on an HR role?”
“Well right now, it’s Sydney. I’d love to stay in HR, but if it’s not going to happen I can be flexible.”
“OK. In that case, have a serious think about recruitment. It would utilise a lot of your skills, the money’s pretty good and it will enable you to stay. Talk to your friends about it, you have got people here I take it?”
“A couple.”
“Good. Ask around. Take a look on-line, do some research into the companies you've met with. Those that you like reach back out to and see what they have to offer. We’re always able to sponsor for recruiters and frankly Matt, your background is perfect, HR, Sales, you've got it all there.”
“Really? It’s not something I’d considered…”
“It often isn't, but honestly it’s not that much of a leap.”
Angus closed his portfolio, “Here’s my card, if you need any more info or you want to discuss potential companies, feel free to call me. Of course if I see anything in HR I’ll call you, but I wanted to be honest and set some real expectations rather than just get your hopes up.” He pushed his chair back and stood up.

“Thank you.” I stood and shook his hand, “Really Angus, thank you. You don’t know how refreshing this has been.”