Employment of occupational therapists in New Zealand

This year in New Zealand it has been significantly more difficult for new graduate ocupational therapists to find work. This appears to have been for a number of reasons:

  1. The first most obvious – the world wide recession, times are tighter workplaces worldwide  are more cautious. We have noticed a significant reduction in occupational therapists heading off for their big OE (for those non New Zealanders OE = Overseas Experience) with occupational therapy work being difficult to obtain in places such as the UK .
  2. District Health Boards in New Zealand are feeling the pinch
  3. Changes in ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) have meant that many occupational therapy agencies/companies have lost contracts or had reduced work . Those staff affected have appeared to move back into district health board employment, changing the usual balance in these workplaces of internal promotion versus external appointments and thus not freeing up the positions traditionally taken by new graduates.

This has meant that there are still a number of new graduates seeking work but not yet in work. On a positive note there does seem in recent weeks to have been an increase in new grads being offered work. It is interesting to note that on seek.nz (internet job search web site) there are currently 30-40 occupational therapy jobs advertised thoughout NZ. All of these are not new graduate positions, however one would hope that the stepping up of others into these positions will free new graduate positions.

What to do meanwhile – my advice (for what it is worth!)

  • Keep your focus don’t give up
  • prepare prepare prepare – do your homework for each position you wish to apply for. Find out as much as you can about the job, the organisation and the people in it. Use the internet, people you know, ring and ask questions about the post (work out carefully what you wish to ask before you call ) and then use the information you gain in your application letter and to help you prepare for the interview
  • Write your letter specifically for the job you are applying for (don’t use a generic one).
  • Make sure your CV is up to date. Put on your CV any part time work you are doing at the moment and any volunteer work you might be doing
  • Consider volunteering – volunteer work can be a useful stepping stone into work, it can mean that you are gaining skills by working in an area related one you wish to gain emplyment in.
  • Make sure you gain feedback from previous interviews. What did they see as your strengths, ask them about how you presented at the interview, how well you answered the questions, did your knowledge and understanding come though, was there an are you were weak in.
  • Build up your networks, be seen in occupational therapy circles
  • Practice interviews, have someone give feedback on your CV, letters etc
  • Keep your referees up to date witht he jobs you are being interviewed for – as their reaction when telephoned for a reference check can help
  • Stay cool, some of getting work is being in the right place at the right time

If you are a new grad from Otago Polytechnic and still looking for work and wanting suport or help please call.



4 responses to “Employment of occupational therapists in New Zealand

  1. Through therapy, millions of Americans of all ages live healthier, more productive lives.

  2. Hi there

    I am still a new graduate without no job still and have been doing community support work which is quite valuable, I graduate in December 2009 and have had six interviews and no job, three of them went well the other three not so well, i still didn’t get the ones I did well in. I don’t know if I am still eligible to apply for OT graduate jobs, would I be rendered as ineligible? The OT board says I should just keep applying, but they don’t realise that not all OT’s are on the same page!! I would probably get grilled if I had another interview, they will want to know why I haven’t got a job yet!! The jobs I did apply for where not graduate ones, 2 of them were but the others needed experience, but they gave me an interview any way. I know people in my class who have given up, and who are not registered because they don’t have a job, its so sad. I don’t want to give up just yet. Does any one have any advice as to what I should do?

  3. occupationaltherapyotago

    Getting a job is hard and it is not always easy to see why you haven’t been successful. Don’t give up !! There are a whole lot of reasons why you are not successful in an interview and only some of those have to do with what you do. The things you can consider ….You might have to think differently about the jobs you are applying for, the geographical region, the type of workplace, you may need to think about what you are doing whilst you are looking for work. For example, what are you doing that shows you are using your occupational therapy skills? You also might need to get some help re job searching or interviewing as sometimes we can’t see what we are doing that may not be selling ourselves well.
    Good luck with the searching .. now is the time to up your efforts before new gradates complete there study – I have noticed an increase in job adverts recently.
    If I can be of help give the school a call, I am happy to talk with you.

  4. Such a different situation in the US. I work in the schools and we are chronically understaffed! Good luck to your graduates.

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