Atefeh was sitting in her car feeling depleted after applying for many jobs and not securing one position. It’s at that exact moment that she received a much-anticipated phone call – one that would change her life for the better.

Atefeh answered the call. It was Angela Rodriguez, the Accounts Manager at Commonsense Organic on the line, announcing the exciting news – Atefeh was to be their newest team member.

Atefeh could not contain her excitement, this was the moment she had been waiting for since arriving in Aotearoa two years ago.

“I was crying because I was really excited and happy. It was my first paid job since arriving in New Zealand,” says Atefeh.

A long journey to Aotearoa

Atefeh entered New Zealand with her family under the refugee quota after fleeing Iran in 2011 and seeking refuge in India for six years.

“We had to get rid of everything we owned in India and came to New Zealand with only two suitcases,” recalls Atefeh.

“I didn’t know much about New Zealand, I had no idea where it was on the world map.”

Atefeh and her family safely arrived in New Zealand in December 2017. They spent three months at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland before finally settling into their new home in Wellington on 7 March 2018.

Before Atefeh received the much-anticipated phone call, the road to employment was not easy despite her impressive resume.

Atefeh started her career in Iran, where she has over ten years of experience working as an accountant, and where she also completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology and worked as a maths teacher. While in India, Atefeh completed her Master of Commerce majoring in Corporate Accounting and Financial Management while in India. So, when Atefah arrived in New Zealand, finding a job in accountancy was very important.

“When we first arrived at our new home in Wellington, we were so depressed because we couldn't find jobs,” says Atefeh.  

Atefeh Behnam Nejabat at Commonsense Organics Head Office.  

Building blocks to success

Atefeh worked closely with Lynne Harding, New Zealand Red Cross Employee Liaison in Wellington. The Pathways to Employment team supported Atefeh through every step of her employment journey in Aotearoa.

“The team was really helpful. Before I met them, I could not find a job and Pathways to Employment helped me finally find my first job,” says Atefeh.

“Their optimism helped me be confident in myself.” 

New Zealand Red Cross’ Pathways to Employment programme supports new Kiwis like Atefeh on their career path. From working on their CVs, to introducing them to employers and enrolling them in relevant courses and training, the work they do varies from person to person.

“Atefeh's first building block was getting her CV refined and then building her CV. She had great qualifications and experience overseas, but we needed to build her experience in New Zealand,” explains Lynne Harding, New Zealand Red Cross Employee Liaison.

Atefeh started by enrolling in English language classes when she first arrived in Wellington, completing her level 3 certificate. From there, with the help of Pathways to Employment, Atefeh enrolled into various short courses, which enabled her to upskill in relevant areas specific to accountancy. These courses included a Xero accounting software course and the English Proficiency Programme at Victoria University in Wellington. 

“It was Atefeh's willingness and motivation to take the necessary steps that helped her on her employment journey and land her first job at Commonsense Organics,” expresses Lynne.

Lynne and the team also helped Atefeh with gaining relevant work experience. This included completing an internship at New Zealand Red Cross House in Wellington in the accounts team and volunteering weekly as a math homework support teacher at the Wesley Organisation.

Atefeh and Angela Rodriguez, Accounts Manager at Commonsense Organics. 

Embracing diversity in the workplace

The team at Commonsense Organics celebrates diversity in every shape and form. With a diverse accounts team made up of mostly women from different ethnic backgrounds and a history of hiring former refugees throughout the years, this was the perfect match for both Commonsense Organic and Atefeh.

“It was easy for us to connect with Atefeh when she started working with Commonsense in our accounts team. We have people from different cultures, which helped us to understand and support her better,” says Angela Rodriguez, Accounts Manager at Commonsense Organics.  

“It has been very nice having Atefeh work with us. She was a great fit for the team and has been such a great support for us.”

 “I’m really happy at Commonsense Organics. I’m surrounded by very friendly people in the office and they are always super helpful. I really appreciate them,” shares Atefeh.

Be the next employer!

Our Pathways to Employment teams across the country are always on the lookout to match people from a refugee background with Kiwi employers. As Lynne puts it;

“I would say to any employers out there, let us know if you need someone because we have some great people who just need a chance. They will prove to be some of the best employees you will ever get.”

We have teams in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch, Ashburton, Timaru, Dunedin and Invercargill – get in touch!