‘Networking is key for young professionals in Australia’
Australia Q&A: Property development manager Aoife Kealy moved to Melbourne in 2010
Aoife Kealy: ‘It is not easy to get into property development here - the market is very competitive and it is very much about who you know, and that goes for a lot of professional sectors.’
Why did you decide to emigrate?
I left Ireland in April 2010 after finishing work on a big project, the development of the Grand Canal Theatre and commercial space in Dublin. I loved my job, but once the project was finished there was no opportunity to continue in the position or a similar one in Ireland. So I decided it was a good time to pack my bags and see the world.
I left Ireland on my own and embarked on a trip through India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and New Zealand before landing in Australia, where I still live.
The Victoria state government at the time I arrived was in a good position economically, and there were lots of projects that suited my skills already underway in Melbourne.
What visa are you on?
I am one of the lucky ones with Australian citizenship. This isn’t my first time here - my parents emigrated to Western Australia in the 1980s, where I became a citizen. Our family moved back to Ireland in the early 1990s.
How did you find work?
I did some telephone interviews before arriving in Australia, and got a job lined up in advance on a construction project in Melbourne Airport, where I worked for a year. I wanted to focus on project development rather than delivery, so I started looking around for alternatives and found my current job.
I now work as a property development project manager with a government corporation, dealing with joint venture partnerships with private developers on state-owned land.
It is not easy to get into property development here - the market is very competitive and it is very much about who you know, and that goes for a lot of professional sectors. Networking and developing contacts with people in your industry is the only way in, because they often don’t advertise jobs. Overall, there are much more opportunities here in Melbourne than there would be for me in Ireland, and wages are also much better.
What advice would you have for other Irish professionals looking for work?
Join the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce (read more about the Chamber and how it supports Irish professionals here). It took me a year to find the IACC and I only wish I had found it sooner. I didn’t know many other Irish people in Australia, even after working here for a while, and joined it for the social opportunity but have benefitted from it so much professionally too.
I have met people I never would have met at home, many of whom are now my good friends. It has taken me out of my professional bubble of just property and construction, and introduced me to accountants, engineers, writers, travel agents and entrepreneurs, which has helped me to think in a different way.
I joined their mentorship programme and was paired with the founding director of Fugen Construction Tim Murphy, who has family from Co Kerry. Tim has introduced me to other big property developers in Melbourne, and the network I have met through him is the best I could have asked for. I’m involved with the Horizon programme for former mentees, which is a great support. If you’re going through a difficult time, there are people you can talk to and ask for advice, through the mentors and your peers.
How does the cost of living compare with Ireland?
It varies. Some costs like groceries are higher, as are rent and bills. But eating out in Melbourne is far cheaper than at home, and there a lots of options. Higher wages compensate for higher costs.
Are there any downsides to living in Melbourne?
Definitely the distance from home. It is too far from Mum and Dad.
I would advise other Irish moving here to... take a holiday along the way if you can. Make sure you have good enough savings to set yourself up here, and once you get a good start, it is the land of opportunity.
Have you made plans for the future?
I wouldn’t rule out moving back to Ireland or somewhere else in the world for a while because I love to travel, but Australia is home from home for now.