For Isabel Poblete Echeverria, teaching Spanish in New Zealand enabled her to work and stay within her ‘comfort zone,’ but in her heart, she knew she wanted a role that would challenge her.
Participating in English Language Partners’ Job Mentoring Service helped Isabel find a library job, exactly what she was looking for.
Isabel left her native Chile five years ago, where she had worked on social projects and in the library sector. Since then, she has lived in three different countries.
“There have been many ups and downs,” Isabel says. “While I’ve had some sporadic jobs, I haven’t been able to work in the library sector due to language barriers and relevant qualifications. Last year, I came to Wellington with my partner. I have been lucky enough to have a strong support network of family and friends who have given me good advice about the Kiwi lifestyle.
“I started my job hunt. At first, I stayed within my comfort zone, teaching Spanish. Even though I enjoyed the classes with my students, it distanced me from the local culture.”
Isabel realised she needed a job that would both challenge and help her integrate better so she joined the Job Mentoring Service.
The service, unique to the Wellington centre, trains volunteer job mentors to help skilled job seekers find meaningful employment. Mentors are professionals in a wide variety of fields, with good connections, knowledge and experience. Isabel’s mentor is Birgit Grafarend-Watungwa, Operations Manager for English Language Partners.
“Isabel wanted to identify the work she was looking for,” says Birgit. “So we reviewed her skills, past work experiences and what she was passionate about. “We reviewed her CV to make it specific to New Zealand, then did the same with her covering letters. “Job mentors also act as referees as it’s often difficult for newcomers to provide New Zealand-based referees, which employers look for.”
Job seekers also meet weekly for peer support, because applying for jobs can be a lonely process, especially when you are new to the country. Meetings include specific job search topics and specialist speakers, such as recruitment professionals. Isabel found this a great opportunity to visualise her purpose in a practical way.
“I’ve learned that objectives are accomplished one step at a time.”
“I’ve broadened my perspective and appreciate that new contexts bring new experiences,” she says. “Deep down, I knew my most rewarding work experience was working in a library. Nevertheless, I was hesitant to find a similar position in a different country.”
She began searching Wellington’s library network for suitable vacancies.
“Every time a related job appeared, I applied for it. I applied and applied until eventually, it became a job in itself. On one occasion, I received a call for an interview, and, with high expectations, I went. Later, they sent me the rejection email. ‘Okay’, I thought, ‘I’m not ready yet, but at least the experience helped me’.
“The next time I applied for a similar role, I analysed the job description and went to the library to check it out. I realised how important networking is to understand your field. I had a couple of coffee catch-ups with very nice people who currently or have previously worked in the same role.
“That gave me a real insight into the expectations and responsibilities. Thanks to Birgit, I changed my CV and cover letter, matching my skills with the job profile in a concise way. Happy with my application, a few days later I received a new rejection. By this time, my spirit was not the best.”
Birgit encouraged Isabel to ask for feedback on why she hadn’t been successful, to help her with future applications.
“I wrote directly to the team lead,” says Isabel. I followed some templates to write the email, attaching my application again. With limited expectations, I was surprised when he said they’d reconsidered my application and would interview me.
“I prepared with a list of questions they might ask. My interview was not amazing, I was very nervous, but I showed the skills that I had learnt from previous positions and my inter- est and desire to learn. One week later, they offered me the position!”
Just after Isabel was offered the role, the government announced Alert Level 4 lockdown. She began her new job by training remotely, but is now working in libraries. She is passionate about encouraging children’s reading and has recently been assisting with ‘parent and child’ story sessions. “I know that this will be overwhelming sometimes, but it will all be worth it,” she says.
“With my energies renewed, I am excited to start this new challenge.”
Writer Patricia Thompson | Photos Stevie Hight
More about Job Mentoring contact our Wellington Centre