My Journey to My First Full-Time Job in Another Country

Nimmi Varghese
Dec 20, 2021 · 6 min read

Reflections from my 1-year anniversary at my first Australian Company - SEEK

It’s tough to get your first full-time job in a new country

The Big Move

I am sure the statement resonates with a lot of immigrants who choose to move out of their comfort zones seeking a new journey filled with hopes, aspirations, and struggles. We find ourselves leaving our families and friends behind and striving to gain a foothold in a completely new place. I was one of those countless millions who decided to move to a new country, a new challenge!

From my research and countless discussions with multiple sources, Australia seemed like a very charming option, where people from different ethnicities and backgrounds coexisted peacefully. So, I was filled with mixed emotions when I made the decision to leave everything behind in India and come to Victoria in the last quarter of 2019. The first few days were about exploring a few tourist attractions, meeting new people, getting to know that “brekkie” meant breakfast, and “Good Morning!” was not as trendy as “Hey Mate ! How are ya”! Through the interactions I had, especially with international students, I was made aware that the job search process was not going to be easy without Permanent Residency. (What was I thinking?)

The importance of networking in Australia and the concept of meetups was brought to my notice very early on (I use meetup.com). To pay the bills and keep myself occupied, I started working part-time as a customer service attendant at a Servo (petrol service station) nearby. My routine also included preparing for AWS certifications, interviews, teaching online classes and applying for jobs on SEEK and other platforms. Around the same time, I managed to secure myself two job interviews that didn’t necessarily align with my career aspirations. For one of them, my visa conditions turned out to be a problem and for the other one, it just didn’t work out. Nevertheless, I focussed on growing my network by attending numerous industry meetups. But then suddenly, things began to change not only around me, but around the world……!!

SEEKing SEEK

Many of our lives were turned upside down with the onset of the pandemic. The impacts in my life might be minuscule in comparison to what others went through. The fear for family, the world in general being affected loomed in my head. Meeting people seemed impossible, hence my job search aspiration also took a massive hit. After a considerable amount of time, I saw a message in one of the meetup group’s Slack which I had attended earlier about an opportunity in a company. I used this company’s products almost every day especially in applying for other jobs, but never ever had I a whisker of a thought that I could apply there itself, at SEEK!

For those that don’t know, SEEK is Australia’s number one job portal and has been making a positive impact in the lives of job seekers on a global scale by operating in about 18 countries.

I didn’t feel completely confident as I didn’t meet all the stated requirements in the job description but with a leap of faith [Thank heavens!!] I reached out to the sender of the message portraying my interest. I was extremely excited to receive a call from SEEK shortly afterwards. The conversation went smoothly, and I had bagged myself an interview.

The subsequent interviews were anxious moments for me but were conducted online very systematically. The process went on for about a month but every person on the interview panel seemed very warm and welcoming. The feedback and the clear communication I received at each step helped me to prepare for the next one. Fast forwarding to the good part …………!

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Journey

My Expectations

During the subsequent interviews, the feedback I received from ex-employees and other peers, explained that SEEK was a company that:

  • was good for growth
  • was good for work-life balance
  • had a defined purpose of helping people live productive lives
  • solved interesting problems

Hence, naturally my beliefs got stronger in favour of the decision I had made. However, I was unsure about virtual on-boarding, the team, work and a million other things that were racing through my mind.

The Reality
The department, which I was(and am still) part of is called the Artificial Intelligence and Platform Services (AIPS). The AIPS team exists within the SEEK Group and provides AI-centric core services that scale globally including search, behavioural tracking, recommendations, candidate matching, ontological services and personalisation.

It’s comprised of different squads (cool AIPS terminology for a team), each solving different job seeker and employer problems and ensuring a more transparent marketplace. The squad that I am assigned to has the clear purpose of helping employers identify and connect with quality job seekers.

We have Engineers, Data Scientists and Product Managers in our squad. As much as everything sounded so appealing, I knew that the AI domain and pretty much most of the tech stack would be new to me. With things being virtual, everything seemed so strange. My team seemed to understand my apprehensions and set up Zoom calls and chats to ease things. There were multiple instances when I felt Impostor Syndrome hit me big time and the resultant feeling of not knowing things superseded my thoughts.

However, my manager had regular conversations with me and reassured me by saying that things are going to get better and it was just the beginning. My teammates were also there to help me out if I couldn’t get the task resolved after a few attempts. There were virtual coffee catch-ups with peers outside my team, which were very helpful for a new employee like me to get settled in and get acquainted with more people.

Some of the other highlights — apart from the usual perks that continue to amaze and challenge me include:

  • Unusual Slack channels with an active community such as #seek-camera-club, #cooking, #aips-sports, #aips-bloggers, #aips-women and many, many more….!!
  • Dedicated Innovation weeks almost every quarter within and across squads where different people work on ideas and projects
  • Company-wide Hackathons, where employees with diverse role titles from different countries compete together in teams to bring to life their innovative ideas
  • Well-being sessions
  • Personal Flexi leave, which is additional leave for attending to life’s other responsibilities.

Have things become better, work-wise?

Definitely! With every project that is delivered where I can contribute in some way, I feel more confident. There are days when I feel overwhelmed about not knowing how to solve a task or not having enough knowledge about a technology stack. But I bounce back thinking that it’s okay not to know everything and it can be figured out. There are days when after work hours, I am trying to learn something new or attending meetups.

Almost every day has been a learning experience for me in the past year. In this short period, who would have thought that I’d be working on so many different cloud services, APIs, data query services, monitoring and alerting services. I have been introduced to best practices with strict code reviews, collaboration, pairing and brainstorming sessions .

I have learnt to not assume that a query is simple or silly, and be vulnerable enough to raise it in the public forums. All thanks to my co-workers who themselves set a good example by doing the same. I also focus on one thing at a time instead of delving into everything at once.

Looking back over the last year, SEEK is an exceptional place to work with some amazingly talented people, who challenge and inspire you, as well as guide you. I am grateful for this opportunity and to everyone I have met and learnt from as part of this journey! What a year this has been!!

Final Thoughts

“If winter is here, spring can’t be far behind!”

Life is hard and it will always be. We just need to choose hard options and have faith!

Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash

Job seeking can be a full-time job for many people, especially immigrants. I hope you find an employer who takes a chance on you just for your ability to learn and never give up! I hope the connections you reach out to reciprocate your desire to enter the workforce. May you be a part of a culture which challenges you as well as understands you! Signing off by citing the importance of being part of an organisation that values your professional skills as well as mental well-being, cause at the end that’s what matters!

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