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The basics
New Zealand: Career Prospects - Must read

How to find a graduate career in New Zealand

To start on a successful career after you graduate in New Zealand you need to take those first steps. Read on to find out everything you need to know from visa advice to cover letters and top tips.

Graduate teacher


Many international students choose their study destination based on the career opportunities available when they graduate. New Zealand is a destination that many students grow to love and want to continue living there. If you’re considering studying in New Zealand and want to know how to find a career once you’ve graduated, read on.


Follow visa rules


Before looking at the finer details, you must follow the visa requirements. We've got a quick summary of the options available to you.


If you have already completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in New Zealand or have applied for a student visa before 11 May 2022, you will be able to apply for a post-study visa to work for up to (a maximum of) three years. 


If you apply for a student visa after 11 May 2022, you may be able to apply for a new Post Study Work Visa. More information about this visa will be available on the New Zealand immigration website


For work purposes it’s also important to remember that as an international student studying in New Zealand, you are allowed to work part-time for up to 20 hours per week while you’re studying. You can also work full-time in the holidays (subject to your visa conditions). You must use this allowance to your advantage. Read on to find out why. 



Work experience


When you’re applying for a job after you graduate, employers will always prefer people with relevant work experience over an applicant with none. Use the part-time and full-time work allowance on your study visa to gain relevant work experience in the industry of your choice. 


If you can’t find a part-time job in the industry or field you want to work in, try to volunteer instead. Any experience you gain, paid or unpaid, will help you stand out from other graduates applying for the same job. 


Another option is to do an internship or directly contact a company you’re interested in working for, asking if they’d consider you for work experience. Doing this will give you valuable insights. For example, it will allow you to see if it is your dream job or if it isn’t something you’d like to do in the future. Both insights are incredibly useful. 


It will also allow you to make contacts in the industry, find mentors and network. Networking is vital when it comes to finding work.


Use university careers services


Your university will have a careers centre and people on hand to help you at each stage of the job-finding process, from CV/resume writing to interview skills and practice. They will also enable employers to connect with students and advertise any vacancies or internships they may have on offer. The Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka, for example, have regular events, expos and workshops that give students the chance to network with employers. You can also book a session to get your CV/resume, application, and cover letter checked. 


Many universities in New Zealand sign up for the NZUniTalent portal. This allows students and recent graduates round-the-clock access to recruitment information, advertising for jobs, internships, and voluntary positions. So, whatever you do, always remember to visit your university careers service first. 


CV / resume and cover letter 


To help yourself appeal to a prospective employer and stand out from other graduates, you need to put together a graduate portfolio, which includes a CV/resume and cover letter. These are your opportunity to highlight that you have the necessary skills and experience for the job being advertised. 


Your CV should use the same key words as in the job advertisement and job description. Quite often employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which is an automated system that scans a cv/resume for the key words, skills, experience, and qualifications for a particular job. If you don’t include them in your CV, your application will automatically be screened out of the process. 


If you don’t have the necessary work experience for a particular post, you should consider writing a ‘functional CV’ instead. A functional CV or skills-based CV highlights your skills and how these can be used in the job you are applying for. It doesn’t list work experience in date order. Indeed (a leading job recruitment website worldwide) provides useful information on how to write a functional CV. 


When writing a cover letter make sure you:

  • use key words from job advertisements and job description
  • include both the soft skills and hard skills you possess
  • include some of the in-demand skills for careers in 2023 
  • highlight your achievements and how they relate to the job in question
  • show your knowledge of the industry
  • show that you’ve researched the company
  • customize each letter to each job you apply for. 


Recruitment agencies


In New Zealand, recruitment agencies are a key resource for businesses and employers. Psychometric testing of candidates is also a popular part of the recruitment process. Consider uploading your CV and registering with a few agencies when looking for a job. Most of the time it’s free, and you're notified when positions open that match your job searches or keywords listed in your CV. You can search directly for agencies online or follow the prompts where they’re listed on job advertisements.


There are also many online search engines you can use to find a job. Working in New ZealandSeek.co.nz or Job.co.nz are a few great examples. You can also search for a job on the New Zealand government website or industry-specific openings by simply typing the name of a profession or study field into a search engine and following on from there. 


Top tips for finding graduate employment in New Zealand


Before we leave you, here are some final top tips for finding graduate employment in New Zealand: 

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Start applying early – at least three months before you graduate.
  • Always send a cover letter even if a job advert doesn’t ask for one.
  • Have a clear Key Skills section in your CV/resume.
  • Ensure your CV and cover letter have good formatting, spelling and grammar.
  • Create a LinkedIn account.
  • Check your personal social media profiles. Prospective employers will be sure to look at them.
  • Use your social media accounts to your advantage. Post about things an employer will be interested in. 
  • During an interview, ask good questions and show that you’ve researched the company. 
  • If you haven’t heard back from a company a week after your interview, follow up with an email or call. 


After working hard at a university in New Zealand, finding graduate employment may feel like yet another challenge for you to overcome. And although it is a challenge, the rewards will most definitely be worth it for the opportunity to start a graduate career in an amazing place like New Zealand.