Our Work Talk course has helped many new migrants to get a ‘foot in the door’ – and even land their first NZ job! As Napier woman, Joanne Song says: “After that course, I had a new way of thinking.”
When it comes to learning English, Joanne has come full circle.
Before coming to New Zealand in 2017 with her husband and son, Joanne worked as an intermediate school English teacher in Yantai, China.
“I was born in the same province as Confucius. I’ve visited his hometown.”
Joanne found the transition from the textbook English she had taught to everyday Kiwi conversations difficult. “I was almost afraid to talk on the phone. I thought ‘My English is so poor, I cannot even communicate with people. How can I find a job?”
Today Joanne works in the laundry and kitchen at the Taradale Masonic Rest Home and Hospital.
“Joanne had a real warmth about her,” Quality and Operations manager Wendy Maynard says, remembering their first meeting. “We look for people who are a fit with our organisation, and for our culture, and she interviewed very well.”
Nowadays, Joanne is a valued member of the facility’s team, but finding work in New Zealand was not easy for her initially. The process she encountered was quite different from when she got her teaching job in China, where she needed to pass some examinations and give a lecture in front of experts.
“I started searching for jobs in Napier online a little, but not successfully.”
A friend told her about Work Talk, an English Language Partners’ course for newcomers wanting to join the workforce, and asked if she would like to go for it. “I said absolutely, yes!”
Writing CVs and cover letters were new experiences for Joanne. She says her classmates encouraged each other and she appreciated the patience of teacher Valerie Danes.
“After that course, I had a new way of thinking. It was about giving new hope … that was the most important thing.”
Joanne prepared for job interviews by role-playing ‘employer’ and ‘job applicant’ with classmates. “It was exciting,” Joanne says, adding she was “a little bit nervous, just like a real interview.”
She also learnt helpful tactics for making phone calls. Studying the NATO phonetic alphabet made it easier to spell out her name on the phone when applying for jobs. “A for Alpha, B for Bravo…”
Another job-seeking approach Joanne learnt was cold calling – asking about job opportunities and leaving her CV with potential employers. That method got Joanne her current job.
“You have to get a foot in the door,” Joanne says, recalling the idiom she learnt about the importance of making contact with people.
After first knocking on the doors of three rest homes, Joanne turned up on the doorstep of Taradale Masonic, on a summer day in 2018. When invited for a job interview, Joanne was surprised at how well the practice interviews had prepared her for the real thing. “Nearly every question from the course showed up in the interview,” she says. “After that interview, I appreciated that one-month intensive course so much.
“Without English Language Partners, I would not have improved a lot. I’m very pleased with myself.”
When she started work, Joanne had new challenges to face. As well as managing her daily tasks, Joanne needed to learn the facility’s emergency procedures and human resources processes.
“To begin with it was quite hard. It was totally new.”
However, she was encouraged to ask questions and now feels more confident in her job. Wendy says Joanne’s improving English skills have helped her pick up many “Kiwi phrases” and become more independent in her work.
“Some of the mandatory training we do with Fire and Emergency, Joanne did struggle to understand.
“We’re talking about fire systems, mini-mimic panels, fire zones versus evacuation areas, that’s not just English, it’s specific to that particular process. We did a refresher education session and she was able to ask some really insightful questions.”
Joanne has also used her Mandarin skills to translate correspondence for a local business with a potential Chinese supplier.
She hopes her growing English will have other advantages, like making it easier to take part in parent-teacher interviews at her son’s high school.
Now Joanne has appeared at a recent Work Talk course to answer questions about her successful job search. “People are from China, Taiwan, Brazil, Japan, Korea, all different countries. I felt like I am even a little bit useful for others!’”
She has also recommended Work Talk to friends, and they have reported positive results.
Joanne’s English journey has taken her from one end of the classroom to the other and back, and she doesn’t plan to end her journey anytime soon.
Taradale Masonic Rest Home and Hospital:www.ndmt.co.nz/care-facility
Story Jack Montgomerie | Photos Sarah Horn
- 48-hour intensive course (flexible hours)
- Learn how to approach employers
- Learn to tailor your CV for specific job applications
- Prepare and practise for job interviews
- Develop your professional networking skills
- English level – Intermediate and above (confident users of English)
- Qualified teachers
- Small classes
- Fees may apply. Ask at your centre.
- In all centres (except Taupo, Marlborough & Auckland West.)
For more about Work Talk, talk to your closest centre