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Why Indonesians abroad are missing out
I am an Indonesian citizen, an Australian graduate, former Indonesian disapora, and a recruiter. All these different aspects give me a unique perspective on one facet of Indonesia’s inclusive talent economy: returnee Indonesians and the Indonesian diaspora overseas. I graduated from the University of Melbourne and joined an international executive search firm on Collins Street, which is lined with top-tier consulting firms and the largest global companies.
Being the most junior in an innovation team of 30 across a network of 41 offices globally, I did well enough to be promoted twice in three years. By the end of that role, I had delivered work in all major continents excepting Africa and contributed to securing millions of dollars in engagements.
And yet, no matter how well I was doing, when I went home to my Indonesian roommates (which over the years has included: scholarship students, a doctor, a fast-tracked Big 4 manager), we often bemoaned the questions from Indonesia that frequently rankled us: “Kapan pulang?” “When are you coming home?” This question ranks up there with “Kapan kawin?” “When are you getting married?” in the internal groaning and eyerolling it causes.
We want to respond by saying: “It’s not that easy!” or more aggressively, “why would I go home?” I was comfortable in Melbourne, performing well in an internationally attractive job, and in my eyes, Indonesia had little to offer my future.
I returned to Indonesia anyway in 2017 after a family member fell severely ill. I decided the tradeoffs were worth it and I’ve been rewarded for that leap of faith. Indonesia has given me more opportunities to grow, learn and thrive than my base in the mature Australian market. Within a couple of years, I joined an international executive search firm to grow their Indonesia market, made it onto the board of a well-respected thinkthank, launched a public service education program in conjunction with a national institute, and have been fitter and performing better than ever before.
I learned firsthand that though certain assumptions Indonesians abroad may hold are right (terrible traffic! Lower salaries!), there is more to Indonesia and my future in it than just these things. Here are 3 reasons why I’d encourage Indonesians abroad to consider the return home:
We want you
Returning to Indonesia amplifies your career opportunities. Your international experience places you well ahead of the majority of jobseekers in the market. Employers are actively on the lookout for internationally-competitive candidates with the ability to adapt and perform locally. Local conglomerates want skilled and experienced returnees to elevate their company to international standards. Multinationals are seeking the generation of leaders to grow locally. Even in the senior executive and C-level roles where I specialise, there is a marked preference for local executives over expatriates in a broad range of roles
Better mileage per dollar
Indonesian salaries may be lower than those overseas, but each dollar goes further. A movie ticket in Melboune set me back AU$10-15, whereas it’s a mere IDR 35.000 in Jakarta. I can take IDR 20.000 to the canteen for a plate of Nasi Uduk or a heaping meal! On the other end of the spectrum, I can also eat at world-class Michelin star restaurant Hakkasan or any of the city’s other high-end restaurants, and still be relatively better off in terms of money spent. There’s something for everyone, whatever your budget.
The other thing to remember is that where mature markets like Australia see 7-8% increments for job switches, Indonesia can see 15-30%. We know this because it is the range at which we close roles in Michael Page Indonesia!
It’s not a step back—it’s a leap forward
Life abroad is often much more comfortable. The call home is not for those who value comfort above all else, but for those willing to embrace discomfort to make a difference and leave a legacy. It is not just about ‘coming home’, it is about building the nation by contributing your unique knowledge and skillset. I am grateful to be able to contribute directly to Indonesia through my work in recruiting for the top jobs in the country. Beyond my work, I sit on the Executive Council of Reformed Center for Religion and Society, where I direct planning and execution of Program Abdinegara, a public servant development course, which is run partly in collaboration with the National Resilience Institute (Lembaga Pertahanan Nasional).
It’s hard work but immensely rewarding. Returning to Indonesia has allowed me to amplify my impact on the community around me, and it has grown me exponentially. I heartily recommend my fellow Indonesian overseas at least consider the idea of returning home!
At Michael Page, I have the opportunity to communicate that enthusiasm in ways few can or will: leveraging our global network of offices, we run Membangun Negeri, a campaign which connects overseas Indonesians or returnees with suitable employment opportunities back home. Last year, I took a trip to Melbourne where I met with close to 40 Indonesians who were all studying and working. Many of them had questions or valid fears about what returning home would entail; and by the end of the session they felt better equipped to evaluate the idea of a return home.
If you are ready to start a conversation about coming home, we are here to help. You can begin by sharing your CV with us, and one of Michael Page Jakarta’s consultants will reach out to you if a suitable role comes up that suits your profile. In 2018, 3 out of 5 professionals we placed in jobs were overseas or returnee Indonesians from other countries – you could be next!
Whatever reasons you have for coming back, I hope you will find—as I did—that it truly is good to be home.