Now based in Hamilton, TC has hardly relaxed since he arrived. His wife, Valerie, an engineering consultant, had secured employment prior to arrival; she was the primary visa applicant. TC set out straight away to find a job too. However, as with many new job seekers, this proved challenging.
“When I first came, I was applying for jobs all the time, many jobs, and I wasn’t getting any results.”
Researching online for assistance, TC came across Settlement Centre Waikato. “I got into their networking session, and met Susan Wright from English Language Partners, who introduced me to the English for Job Seekers programme (formerly called Work Talk).
“English for Job Seekers talked realistically about the job market, how to prepare for it, how to do things differently, and it gave me new ammunition for my search.
“If you wait for a good job to land on your lap – it could take a long time, or would never happen. That’s the reality.
“All these things were clearly explained. If you want it, you need to go and get it. No shortcuts. They give you no sugar coating.”
TC decided to use the opportunities New Zealand offered for a career change. During his English for Job Seekers time he was asked: if he could wave a magic wand and find the perfect job, what would it be? As he enjoyed baking, TC said he’d like to find work in this field.
“If you’re a new migrant who’s seriously applying for jobs, then English Language Partners is a great place to begin.”
He was given details for a well-known local bakery, Volare. “So I wrote to them, and they gave me a trial. After English for Job Seekers, when my trial was complete, they gave me a contract to start as a baker’s assistant. It’s a good start!
“If you’re a new migrant who’s seriously applying for jobs, then English for Job Seekers is a great place to begin, because it gives you a good picture of the job market landscape. They tell you about ways to get noticed by prospective employers, and ways to sell yourself. You could be a very good employee, but if you don’t sell the right points, you’ll miss the opportunity.
“What makes English for Job Seekers different, is that it’s very targeted in providing the right know-how to tackle the job market, and staying up-to-date with developments in employment trends.
“Typically, New Zealand employers and employees have this ‘team interaction’, small talk etc, so if you’re not ready for that, and expect to be a loner in your own cubicle, I’m not sure that’s going to work out for you”, TC laughs. “It’s all part and parcel of what the job environment is like.”
TC’s can-do attitude led him to volunteer with Atawhai Assisi Home and Hospital. He was offered a role assisting the Cooking Club, but once he was working full time at the bakery, a new opportunity arose.
“I was very sad to tell the rest home I’d secured paid employment; I wasn’t sure I could come [to the Cooking Club] any more, and they said, ‘OK, we have a morning slot, for storytelling and singing. Are you interested?’ Oh yeah! I’ve been doing that for a couple of months; it’s really me.”
Recently, TC experienced a ‘money can’t buy’ moment. Many of the elderly residents suffer from dementia, and he’d noticed that they didn’t remember him from week to week.
“But the last session was really touching. Usually after each session, I farewell them, give them a handshake or a hug. This one lady gave me a hug and a kiss, and I was like, ‘Wow, you must remember me to do that!’ She didn’t act like I was a stranger any more, and that felt really good because I’m really connecting with them.”
TC’s supervisor Debbie Palmer speaks highly of his contribution. “He is such an asset, just gives his everything. He really is ‘one out of the bag.’”
TC acknowledges volunteering is a two-way thing. He gets a lot out of the experience too. “Job satisfaction is a great part of volunteering. Another plus is that you can add it to your CV. It gives future employers a different view of you.”
The list of TC’s accomplishments doesn’t end there. He’d been involved in producing a series of English language lessons for Chinese radio in Malaysia, and when the staff at English for Job Seekers saw that reflected in his CV, they put him in touch with FreeFM, the local community access radio station.
TC’s radio show reconnects people with their cultures through the medium of music. He picks a song each week, and teaches the words and how to sing along. It’s a subject close to TC’s heart.
“Now that my 12-year-old son Darius is living in a new country, he’ll need to maintain and develop his Chinese language. If you have a language, skill or knowledge that is not used or practised on a regular basis, it will slowly disappear.
“Sharing songs in different languages raises awareness of this issue. It’s a big part of my objective for this radio programme. Whatever listeners decide to do is a conscious choice. It gives me a great sense of achievement.”
TC brims with energy and positivity, noting the differences in employment opportunities, as well as life experience in new Zealand. “Back in Kuala Lumpur, I’d reached that part of life where I didn’t want to be in that rat-race any more; I wanted to live life, rather than just make a living.”
He’s certainly living a full life, and his efforts to join in with his community are admirable. TC sums up his approach: “As long as you have the hunger and drive, you can succeed.”
TC Sings With U:Live Sundays, 7pm on FreeFM 89.0 (Waikato) and