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Returning from Exile - Why Northern Ireland is calling its people

19 Sep 2017

Phil Clarke - Manager Brightwater NI

"Having made the move home myself I can confirm that not only is the case for returning compelling, but it's an attainable goal. As I can testify to first-hand at Brightwater we understand the challenges of coming home, both practical and emotional and we have carved out a niche in guiding NI exiles home into career-advancing positions." Phil Clarke - Manager Brightwater NI

Returning from Exile - Why Northern Ireland is calling its people home

In the summer of 2013 myself and the wife packed our bags and headed across the Irish Sea to set up camp in the East Midlands of England. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities at home and the stagnant careers of some of our peers we were lured by the seemingly endless job opportunities, the glossy large corporations and the chance to fulfil our fairly lofty career ambitions.

For the best part of 4 years, almost everything we moved for came to fruition. On a personal level, our careers flew along at a pace we could barely have imagined. I found myself sat in a very promising position within a business that offered almost endless career progression and that had delivered for me so far. We had bought a home, our first, that we could only afford because of the progression within our careers and that we of course fell in love with and we had our eyes open to just how restricted our holiday options were in Belfast when compared to big British airports! On paper, our move could not have been more successful. Yet despite this, the draw of home never went away and before long those urges to move back turned into a desire to do something about it.

The hurdles to overcome

Listening to those urges to head home is one thing, being in a position to do something about it is not without its challenges. From a career perspective, knowing where to look for opportunities is not always easy. With different job boards in operation compared to Great Britain and a trend towards Irish based recruitment firms the longer you've been away the tougher it can be to get the ball rolling. Once you manage to pin down where the jobs are, you then need to convince the recruiter or hiring company that you're serious about coming home, often whilst simultaneously trying to convince yourself of that fact, before you actually make any progress. Assuming you make it that far you then have to deal with the increased difficulty of relocation when the sea is involved, think about selling a house if you own one and of course for anyone based in London and the South East in particular there is the inevitable and eye-watering blow to your salary. Many don't make it past this stage first time round. Even when you do, you can be almost certain that due to our natural instincts to romanticise about home the grass will not be as green as you had imagined; it never is.  That doesn’t help much with the settling in period after what will inevitably be a stressful move. The good news is, the difficulties can prove to be worth it.

The draw of moving home

Speaking from personal experience, the case for returning never went away and only increased with time. Firstly there is the personal element. I am not the world's most emotional person by any means but even for someone like me time away from family and friends is never easy. No matter how many times you try to get home there will always be the missed birthdays, the missed occasions, the births, the bereavements and all of the minor moments that you don't get to be part of. That takes its toll. Then there can be the future to think about, perhaps thinking about starting a family or getting married and thinking about where you would ideally like that to happen, which for me was home.

Putting the personal piece aside, there is also the ever-increasing professional draw of returning. Year after year NI continues to draw in some of the world's most incredible businesses who come here to utilise our exceptional (and fantastic value for money) workforce. Where once some of our brightest and best felt compelled to fly the nest to find decent career opportunities, now our employment landscape is completely unrecognisable and opportunities are plentiful.

Finally, whilst slightly counter-intuitive when talking about an area with lower salaries, there is a genuine financial and increased standard of living draw to returning with house prices in particular remaining favourable when compared to GB and those suppressed salaries are on the march upwards. From both subjective and objective angles, the case to return to NI is increasingly compelling.

Making it happen

Having made the move home myself I can confirm that not only is the case for returning compelling, but it's an attainable goal. As I can testify to first-hand at Brightwater we understand the challenges of coming home, both practical and emotional and we have carved out a niche in guiding NI exiles home into career-advancing positions. If you are currently living away from the island but have thought about coming home and would like to know more, we are available to speak in confidence about your situation. Whether you are committed to the move home or in the early stages of contemplation, we would love to hear from you.