Following her heart
After moving from China in 2013, Ciao Chen studied Event Communications at Unitec. It not only gave her an understanding of the New Zealand market, but the confidence to follow her passion and start her own coaching business - where she now helps others find a career path they love.
15 November 2021
Ciao initially came to Auckland on a working holiday, but she says it wasn’t long before she decided to make New Zealand her home.
“After about six months I thought ‘this is for me’! I fell in love with this beautiful country and decided to move here. I became an international student as it allowed me to gain some new skills and get myself settled into New Zealand life.”
Ciao looked into a number of different programmes and eventually enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Event Communications at Unitec. She says its dual focus really broadened her horizons and proved valuable when looking for work in New Zealand.
“I’d already done a lot of marketing and events work in China, for large corporates such as Huawei Technology. The Diploma not only complemented this experience, but gave me a formal New Zealand qualification and opened my eyes to what I didn’t know!
“As an international student, New Zealand’s education system can be very different to that of your own country. For me, the language, marketing channels, tone and writing style we were taught at Unitec were totally different to China - so it was a brilliant learning curve. I gained a real understanding of how marketing and communications works in New Zealand, and my writing improved so much.”
Ciao found the teachers and lecturers to be both helpful and inspiring, particularly as they all had established careers in their own fields. She also drew on the support offered by Unitec when it came to her course work.
“Unitec’s learning advisors offer free drop-in academic support lessons, and could help with everything from referencing to time management and goal setting. The most helpful course I attended was ‘how to write your literary review’ - I had no idea! I also attended a series of ‘career ready’ workshops held by the previous Head of the Business Department, Sukesh Sukumaran, covering topics such as CV writing, interviews and how to network. Sukesh drew on his own connections to bring in HR experts and company owners who spoke about what it takes to be a great candidate in the real world.”
From studying to working at Unitec
After finishing her degree, Ciao wanted to combine her love of events and marketing with her understanding of life as an international student - the challenges and opportunities. With no work experience, she offered to intern for Unitec’s International team.
“I was quite determined to work in the international education sector, and the experience I gained working at Unitec was invaluable. It meant I was in a position to contact other Universities and Polytechnics to seek a permanent role. However, when I ended up getting one or two job offers, Unitec decided to offer me a permanent role too. I ended up working there for 2 ½ years as an International Sales and Operations Coordinator, promoting Unitec to the international market, organising events and helping international students find job placement opportunities with local companies. I loved my time there.”
In 2017, Ciao moved to a Marketing and Experience Coordinator role at Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand's Innovation Agency and part of MBIE.
“My job was to support the team to increase the awareness of the Callaghan Innovation’s brand and the services we offered. We had over 400 scientists in the team and offered grants, funding and tax support; we ran training programmes and had many experts who could help Kiwi companies grow in an innovative way.”
In 2018, after attending a 10-day silent meditation retreat programme, Ciao decided to make some big changes in her life.
“The retreat was quite transformational for me! I realised life is short, and I needed to make the most of my precious time. I wanted to live a life I truly enjoyed, and while I liked my role and the team at Callaghan Innovation, it wasn’t where my true passions lay. So, I started looking into career coaching, and discovered my love of enabling and supporting people.”
Ciao completed her professional coaching study while still working at Callaghan Innovation, hiring her own coach to experience first-hand benefits they could offer. Then, in 2019, she left Callaghan Innovation and made the leap to start her own coaching business, Life Potential NZ. She says she hasn’t looked back.
“I realised it was something I’d been seeking for a long time. When I looked at my career highlights they were always about people: helping them, guiding them, enabling them and giving them information. Career coaching just came naturally to me. It’s so satisfying being able to support people in finding a joyful career pathway. I also appreciate the freedom and autonomy of being self-employed. I believe my time at Unitec, both studying and working, provided the foundation for me to follow my heart into a career I truly love.”