Where in the world have the Challenge staff worked?

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We’ve previously blogged about some of the experiences our temps shared with us about working overseas, and what it’s like working here in comparison.

But, did you know members of our team have their own tales to tell regarding their experiences working in such diverse international locations as London, Paris, Chicago and Cape Town? In addition, we are very fortunate to have a wonderful English team member of our own, who has shared her impressions of working in Sydney with us here, too.

This week, five of Challenge Consulting’s staff share their stories …

Lost in London by Elizabeth Varley, Managing Director

London is where I commenced my exciting career in recruitment. After travelling for a year I arrived in London broke. I quickly found the best avenue to replenish the meagre bank balance was to go to a recruitment agency and get a temp job. This was the turning point in my career.

After an interview, the consultant introduced me to the Branch Manager and, amazingly, she offered me a job as a Temporary Recruitment Consultant with the company. So there I was, an Aussie in London working in Earls Court (Kangaroo Valley as it was known then) placing other Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians and the odd South African into temp jobs. The word soon spread that I was one of them and before long the branch had a fantastic team of expat temps working all over London.

What did this experience teach me? For one, flexibility. When in a foreign land, adopt “a can do attitude” and the doors of opportunity will be flung open. I also learned was the fine art of combining a raging social life with the professional necessity of turning up on time, every day, and putting the effort in for my manager and colleagues.

After a year of having a ball at work and acquainting myself with a large number of excellent pubs and pommy lads it was time to come home to a much more sober life, in every sense of the word.

Being away from home, the constraints of family, and the career treadmill can be lots of fun, as long as you are prepared for the unexpected, and make the most of every situation.

Lost in London? Yes, but alive and well!


How I Learned “Hospitality French” in Paris by Melissa Lombardo, Consultant – Temporary Recruitment

I anxiously arrived in Paris after travelling around beautiful and sunny Europe for four months. That means I arrived short on cash and desperate for a job. By short on cash I mean eating €1 noodles for dinner along with some boiled broccoli that I had added for that extra bit of nutrition. By desperate for work I mean, applying for absolutely every job I saw. “Brick Wall Watcher Wanted”. Sure I’ll do it … how many years’ experience required? Brick Wall sounds much better in French anyway.

To add to this dire situation I barely knew a word of French. 

After a stressful four weeks I was lucky enough to be offered two positions, one working for a Parisian recruitment company as a headhunter and the other one in hospitality, at a creatively named English themed pub, Frog Pubs. As the purpose of my trip was more “having a good time” than “career”, I chose the latter option. Quietly, though, I was rather chuffed about being offered the first role, despite not speaking French!

I eventually learnt “Hospitality French”. I couldn’t have a conversation with somebody but I knew when they wanted the bill, to know where the bathroom was, or another drink. Well, except for the time somebody ordered four “coca’s” (coca-cola) and I presented them with four Coronas.

Generally speaking the French were pleasant and friendly and were happy to speak English when I struggled to understand them or ordered them the wrong drink. They were also easy-going when at first I made the assumption of handing over the beer to the male of a couple and the Virgin Pina Colada to the female. I grew to learn that Parisian men absolutely love their mocktails and to never stereotype what a person might drink again.

Working for the pub in Paris was certainly a wise decision. The culture was warm, friendly and team oriented and we were always given fun targets to meet at the start of our shift. I made some amazing friends from all over the world and it was definitely a valuable insight into French culture. I wouldn’t change this experience for the world!


Chicago, City of Extremes by Jenny Madden, Senior Consultant

When my husband and I first went to America to work in 1987, our first port of call was Chicago, a wonderful city hugging the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Chicago is a beautiful city to walk and ride around. We lived in a cosmopolitan area an easy 15-minute bus ride to the CBD.  Chicago is a city of extremes, absolutely freezing in winter and incredibly humid in summer. 

I worked for Hilton Hotels as EA to the GM of the Palmer House, the oldest operating hotel in the US.  It is an amazing structure with gilded, hand-painted ceilings.  I found the Americans to be extremely hard working and demanding. For example, I started off with one week’s annual leave per year!

The next stop on our American odyssey was New York, where I had my first child … but that’s a whole other story!


Movies for Morale in Cape Town by Carmen Mackrill, People Services Consultant

One of the best and most memorable experiences I had whilst working in Cape Town was during my time with a national insurance company.

The company held a large internal drive to motivate staff. It was decided that all 1000+ employees needed to see the movie Antz. Of course.

Each divisional office had to nominate a specific day to watch the movie so, one day, Head Office (where I was working) shut down at 3pm in the afternoon so its 450 employees could watch the movie. The whole cinema was booked out just for us and we all received individual snack bags.

I know you’re dying to find out if, in fact, staff morale was boosted by this movie-going experience.

Well, I am happy to report that my sister-in-law now works for the same firm and has advised me that it remains a very happy place to work, and similar morale-boosting exercises continue to this day!


Sydney: I’m Impressed! by Anna Carveth, Administration Assistant

I remember my first train from Bondi Junction into Sydney on the way to work and remember looking out of the window feeling immensely happy and content. Replacing the familiar view of grey clouds, rain, and more recently snow, was bright sunshine, warm surroundings and a city that was new and exciting.

It’s all about location and Sydney is definitely it! Sydney is an impressive city; it is modern and clean and there are a vast amount of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from. The Sydney Harbour is a 15minute walk away from work and the view of the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge never fails to amaze me.

Having been in Sydney now for several months, I have been lucky enough to have worked for that time right in the centre on George Street. I work in an office where I am the only British worker and have had the opportunity of working with Australians and a South African. Living in Bondi and having friends out here from home, has meant that I have not made as many Ozzie friends as I had imagined. Being able to gain this opportunity through work has been a great advantage. I am always asking questions about everything in order to learn more about different backgrounds and upbringings and although most of it is similar to the UK, there are still some differences.

There are the funny towns that I still struggle to get my tongue around such as Woolloomooloo, Yagoona and Wahroonga, and I have found that if a word can be shortened, it will be! I have also been confused when faced with alternatives such as ‘Mufti’ day.

In comparison to working life at home, apart from the hot weather and the few days of torrential downpour, I don’t find it to be much different. There is the sense that things are more relaxed, however, people still have the same work ethic and work the same hours. There are still the rules and regulations that different companies have to adhere to and the company I work for shares similar core values to the company I worked for at home.

Overall though the experience so far has been brilliant! I am lucky enough to work for a great company and have met some wonderful people. Working in Sydney has only been a positive experience and I know I will go home with some great memories!

Share your stories! Leave a comment below …