Regional stepping stone

Getting a start in the big city can be tough but there's an answer, Sue Green writes.

Getting a start in the big city can be tough but there's an answer, Sue Green writes.

It's a long way from Brisbane to Warrnambool, but for junior journalist Kellie Scott that journey has brought opportunities she would not have had in the city.

"I think it would have been a lot harder to get my start there," says Warrnambool Standard reporter Scott, 28, who grew up in Brisbane and moved to Victoria 2½ years ago with her helicopter pilot partner.

"I definitely think I will have an advantage when I go back - that I have worked for a paper."

Scott, who completed a Diploma of Journalism from Griffith University over several years through Open Universities Australia while working in a government job, has discovered what recruiters say is increasingly the case: that rural and regional areas can offer opportunities not available in the city, can kick-start careers and provide a chance to add valuable experience to a CV.

"I think it would help to get experience in regional or country locations, provided the company you were working for was of a reputable standard," says Peter Bateson, recruitment consultancy Robert Walters' director of IT development for New South Wales.

"We have candidates that cannot get jobs in the city due to competition looking for country positions. Having work on your CV is better than having no work on your CV.

"From a recruiter's perspective a candidate that is flexible and willing to travel to other locations is favourable to them. Consultancy work in regional jobs can be difficult to attract candidates for."

Victorian regional recruitment agency Fox Personnel finds many vacancies listed in regional areas are with companies that have city offices, offering a possible entry point to those city jobs.

Fox co-founder Judy Black told MyCareer other advantages included less competition for higher-end roles and opportunities for entry into a wide range of industries because some regional companies found it difficult to fill jobs.

When Scott and her partner moved for his job opportunity her expectations were low: "I thought I would be working at the local fish and chip shop."

Instead, after a brief stint in an advertising agency, she got casual work with Western District News in Camperdown and 18 months later achieved her goal of a job on The Standard. "I gained experience through these different roles before starting here," she says.

She retained her grading, avoiding the low-paid cadetship which many young journalists, even with a degree, face before obtaining a graded job - something she is sure would have been impossible in competitive Brisbane.

And although long-term she intends to return to the city to be near her family, when she has one of her own, she loves her job and the challenges of a regional newspaper. It is easier to build up contacts and relationships, she says.

"I believe moving to a place like this opened up these opportunities."

Bateson says a move to the country can be a solution for young graduates finding it hard to get work in the city, and for new arrivals from overseas struggling for their first Australian position.

With more companies looking to take advantage of government tax breaks and cheaper land outside the major centres, being willing to take a job there could increase employment prospects, he says.

"As companies perhaps increasingly look to save costs, especially in the challenging financial times, it may become more realistic in the future for candidates to be more flexible. From a recruiter's perspective the more flexible the candidate the more likely we are to place them."

A City of Melbourne spokeswoman says people with experience working in councils elsewhere were attractive to it and organisations like it.

"Often this means they have an interest and passion for local government. They're also more likely to have an understanding of the complexities of working in a government organisation that has multiple interests, stakeholders and transparency requirements," she says.

"Importantly, as regional-based councils often have finite resources and limited staff numbers, their people are more likely to have skills and varied experience developed across a broad range of services and programs."

Scott says working in a regional centre offered many lifestyle advantages: affordable housing, cleaner air and less traffic, free parking, short commutes and better work-life balance.

Regional areas offer a range of sporting opportunities which offer working networks as well as friendships - regional sporting clubs are always looking for new members, she says.

Regional recruitment companies have extensive local networks and local knowledge to assist with finding reputable real estate agents, schools, moving companies and medical practitioners, Scott says.

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