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From the busy lifestyle of London to relaxed New Zealand ... it's not such a big jump these days.


New Zealanders once flocked to the UK for the opportunity to gain work and life experience, but it seems many are now giving up on Britain and returning home to settle.

Aaron Baxter, managing director of GE Capital NZ, says he's noticing more Kiwis coming home and looking for jobs here.

He thinks this is because of the re-emergence of the New Zealand economy, the high dollar and, with Europe being in a tough place economically, the local market looking more attractive than Europe once did.

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As a multinational employer, Baxter says it's critical to attract people who know the local market but also understand how to work in a global context.

"If you think of world volatility at the moment and forecasting the future outlook, it's very tough, so if somebody has a global mindset ... but also has local market insight, that becomes a whole lot more powerful."

And Baxter says there are definite advantages for employees in working for a multinational.

"If you look at GE, it's essentially a global technology, infrastructure and financial services company," he says. "So you can imagine that it's very attractive for an employee to be one day running a component in financial services and then be working in an energy business a year later."

Laura Taylor-Valiant, senior legal counsel at GE Capital NZ, returned to New Zealand last year after eight years living in London.

After gaining local experience in corporate law, she says, she went overseas to further her career, as well as to see the world.

"While New Zealand is a fantastic place to grow up, I think in my early 20s I wanted a bit more," she says. "I was looking for the ability to hop to Paris for the weekend, and to earn pounds.

"When I arrived in the UK the exchange rate was around $3 to £1, so it was quite attractive.

"The UK was fantastic in terms of the opportunities. It was 2002, so the economy was absolutely booming. I worked right in the heart of the city and I found the vibe quite addictive.

"The work was always challenging, but it was very interesting. In terms of employment opportunities, it was easy to convince an employer that with your skills and experience you could do whatever it was you wanted to do."

Although the exchange rate was down to around $2 to £1 when Taylor-Valiant left the UK, it wasn't a reason for returning to New Zealand.

"As I was living in England, the costs and prices I was most interested in were local ones. If I was now looking to begin my OE, I imagine that the exchange rate and the state of the UK economy would be a large consideration, and other areas of the world might look more attractive in terms of employment," she says.

The main factor in her move home was having young children. She was wary of the UK school system which she says is complicated and competitive, and the government's cutbacks and rising unemployment were beginning to filter through and be felt as growing social disparity.

"The result was that you could feel and see the difference in sentiment on the streets around you."

Taylor-Valiant feels certain her overseas experience has been of benefit in working for a global company in New Zealand.

"Being able to show you are adaptable, can pick up concepts easily, and work in organisations with diverse internal and external challenges will be beneficial," she says.

"I worked through a pretty tumultuous time in London and found that those who adapted quickly, collaborated with others and responded to changes in the market fared best, and this experience has enabled me to take a more strategic view to change and challenge at work."

She says that working for a global company in New Zealand gives her the best of both worlds - experienced New Zealand professionals with great industry knowledge and a dedication to the local market, and the scale and resources that come with a global company such as GE.

"It means we take a strategic global view to problems, learning from experiences overseas," she says. "Employees have opportunities to work in different countries and almost all executives and senior managers have lived and worked in at least a couple of countries for GE."

In Taylor-Valiant's experience, people go to the UK for either a two-year working holiday or they stay on to build a career and lifestyle.

"People tend to make one of two decisions - settle in the UK, buy property and enrol kids in school, or return to New Zealand to let their kids grow up with the same lifestyle opportunities we all enjoyed.

"The challenge for many people when they return is deciding what they want to do. There are a lot of good roles, and the local economy seems to have weathered the global economic storm. New Zealand employers do value overseas experience and perspective, which can mean you're in high demand."

Taylor-Valiant misses the buzz and excitement of London, "and the shopping!" she says.

"But Auckland's development is coming along in leaps and bounds. It feels very European in a way now, which is great. The best thing about being back in New Zealand is the connection between work and home.

"Working in London, you're there for very long hours and you make good friends but you don't see them outside of work. You get more of a holistic view in New Zealand, and everyone appreciates the same things. They go fishing, they've got boats, they've got young families, they take advantage of what Auckland has to offer, and I think that's so important."