This weekend marks 8 years since we packed our personal and household goods and left Canada for New Zealand. My husband is a Kiwi, so the decision to return to NZ was a good one for him from a personal and professional perspective. Canada did not recognize his qualifications so to have more career opportunities and be paid a salary commensurate with his experience, he would have had to complete an additional year of university as a full-time student. It would have cost us time and lost wages and there was no guarantee that he would be accepted into the university where we were living. Had we moved for his study, there was no assurance that I would be able to find employment. After struggling for 5 years to make things work, we decided to give New Zealand a try. So, on Canada Day (July 1), 2004 we left for a new life in New Zealand.
We both found work quite soon after our arrival, but unfortunately my appointment was very disappointing. The salary was low and there were none of the benefits I was accustomed to in Canada, like group health or a pension. The work did not take advantage of my qualifications or experience and there was insufficient budget or organizational support to meet my position’s objectives. Most disturbingly, I found myself the victim of bullying. In hindsight, I believe my suggestions to improve systems and services based on my professional experience abroad were misinterpreted. Instead of welcoming my ideas, many of my New Zealand colleagues saw me as what is referred to here as a “Tall Poppy”. I had never heard of this concept, but the tall poppy syndrome “is a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticized because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers” (Wikipedia). This concept is pervasive here and consequently New Zealand has one of the highest rates of workplace bullying in the world, according to a joint NZ-British university survey in 2010.
In 2008, I resigned to continue studying online towards a postgraduate Certificate in Aging from Mount Royal University in Canada. In 2009, I took another position and although it still doesn’t pay much and there are no benefits, the work is more consistent with my past professional experience. Most of my colleagues are pleasant to work with and more importantly, I no longer rely on my career to define who I am. It was a hard lesson to learn considering I had spent a lifetime preparing for and having a successful career. I still become frustrated at times by not really practising my profession, but realize that there won’t likely be an opportunity to have the kind of career success I experienced in Canada and the Middle East.
Next month the organization I work for will review staffing in our department, so redundancy is a distinct possibility. Should that happen, I think I will consider starting a business or perhaps undertake some research. And, I am pleased to say that I have graduated from Mount Royal and received my certificate last week in the post!
Until next time,
Your Boomer Life Partners