If you had to choose what would be harder – moving to New York or moving back home to Australia, most people would say moving to New York. That is, until they arrive back home and along with a heavy bout of reverse culture shock, many face the challenge of trying to explain their years spent in New York to Australian hirers looking for local experience.
Five years ago, I founded the Insync Network Group to help Australian expats readjust to life back in Australia, mainly professionally. Returned New Yorkers make up a large contingent of our community and know all too well the challenges of trying to adjust a New York career and life back into smaller cities in Australia – without losing their global spirit.
Here are their tips!
1. Localize your global experience
Jane Hollman spent five years working for Mastercard and American Express in NYC. When she came home the initial reaction from some hirers was ‘you have been out of the market’. This wasn’t true as she had worked in her industry the entire time however to avoid these conversations ongoing, she started talking about her experience in ‘universal terms’ rather than necessarily where it was gained, and this had more traction.
Be careful of your US title if it is one not used in Australia – you want to show hirers you understand the Australian market so communicate a like-for-like title. Similarly, if you have worked for a US brand that doesn’t have a local Australian presence, find an Australian equivalent to compare your experience to when you talking to local hirers.
2. Understand the market
You will be coming home to a smaller market so the roles and opportunities are different. Do your research before you come home so you are prepared for discussions around local roles and salaries. Advance research says that a third of all recruiters think expats misjudge their earning potential when they get home so it is important that you are researched and are having the right conversations.
Look for organizations and individuals who understand and value the expatriate experience. For example, most start-ups value the entrepreneurial spirit of expats and their global networks. This scene in Australia is particularly vibrant at the moment and LinkedIn just released their list of top 25 hottest local start-ups to work for.
3. Line up your networks
Jan McGrath was the classic Aussie expat, went overseas initially for two years, came back 18 years later after spending more than 10 years in the US. Her advice is,
‘Keep your networks alive, even those back home, by keeping in touch and tracking where people go. Do not forget them!’ Your local networks back home are not only great for potential job opportunities but they can help you research and understand the market before you get home.
Look for opportunities to bring your networks together. Trena Blaire moved back to Sydney broken-hearted to be leaving New York so she created her own consultancy leveraging her skills and networks across both Australia and New York – giving her an excuse to go back for regular visits.
4. Recognize reverse culture shock
It might not hit as soon as you get home, but when the boxes are unpacked many returned expats experience the wave of ‘reverse culture shock’ which is usually accompanied by the pang of ‘what have I done?’. Know that this is completely normal and the best thing you can do is to focus not on what you are missing, but what you can get at home that you can’t get in New York.
Prue Clarke recently returned to Sydney after 18 years in New York. Her advice – get out to nature or go to the beach – have the truly Australian experience that you can’t access anywhere else in the world.
5. Don’t lose your NYC spirit
Amanda Leigh Doueihi was a lawyer in New York for eight years. Her advice – don’t lose your NYC spirit. That spirit of trying new experience and hobbies. While New York makes it easy to do something new every day of the week and Australian cities may be harder to navigate – it is not impossible! Amanda took up the tango and ocean swimming when she got home to Sydney – not only was it fun but she got to meet a whole bunch of new people outside her old hometown friends. Hold onto that spirit because after all, as Trena Blair says, New York has probably changed you and you will see the world differently.
And if that all sounds too hard, don’t forget some Australian cities have Starbucks and we all can now access a bunch of streaming services. When Jane Hollman is homesick for NYC, her cure is NFL and a mint chocolate Starbucks Frappuccino!