If you are serious about migrating to Australia, you probably already know about the Facebook group, South Africans Migrating To Australia. And you have probably recognised the name of the fascinating woman I am interviewing today on the blog – Marlene Prentice.
Marlene is one of the seven MARA registered migration agents who act as admins on the popular Facebook group and answer countless queries from people looking to move from South Africa to Australia.
Born in South Africa, but now living on the Gold Coast, Marlene runs Migration Network Australia and helps hundreds of people every year make the life-changing move from South Africa to Australia. In 2015 her expertise meant she was interviewed on Radio 702 about why so many South Africans are leaving for foreign shores. You can find her Facebook page here.
I’ve asked her a few questions to get an insight into what it’s like to be a migration agent in 2016 and also get to know the person behind the name.
Tell us how you first got involved in your industry.
I am an accountant by trade, but after we emigrated, all I wanted was to help the rest of my family to emigrate to Australia. We realised it would be expensive, so I offered to qualify and become a migration agent to facilitate with their process. Once my younger sister emigrated, word of mouth got around, and the next thing I knew, I had clients. I have been doing emigration since 2008 and it has grown from strength to strength.
What does a typical day in your role/business look like?
During the day we attend to lodgements and document preparation and also the odd face to face consultation (95% of my work is done online with people I have never met before). When South Africa wakes up at our 4pm, the real work starts and from Monday to Thursday nights I usually work until midnight, attending to all my correspondence and attending to the Facebook forums. Weekends are saved for skype calls with my clients.
What has surprised you most about working in your job?
How much you get to know about a person’s life in order to assist them with their visas. Professionalism and privacy is of the utmost importance.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
Having to say to someone that there are no migration options available for them. It breaks my heart.
What do you wish other people knew about your job?
Sometimes people email me on a Friday at 10pm and cannot understand why I have not responded by Saturday afternoon. I do take some weekends off to spend with my family and friends. I think the accessibility that the internet has given us, has also created very high expectations in some cases. Most of my clients understand this and respect it, but getting phone calls at 1am still freaks me out.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I have been married 5 times…to the same man! There are a lot of runners who do 7 marathons on 7 continents, well we decided to give it a twist and do 7 marathons and 7 weddings on 7 continents. We have 2 to go.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing instead?
I would love to do volunteer work with the SES (state emergency services) but I just don’t have the time for it.
How would your colleagues describe you?
Hard working and play hard.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
Run, motorbike rides with Glenn on his Harley or taking short breaks to far off places.
What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
I lie awake and make mental lists about all the most important tasks I have for the day
What book are you reading now?
Read? I wish I had time for reading.
Chocolate or vanilla?
What was your favourite subject at school?
If you could live anywhere in the world (not South Africa or Australia) where would you live and why?
South of France. The people are amazing and relaxed and has such a great outlook on life. I would have to learn more French words though!
What is your dream holiday destination and why?
Fiji – the people are just amazing.
What’s your favourite film?
The Notebook and Forrest Gump
What’s your favourite book?
Into thin air – Jon Kraukauer
What did you want to be when you grew up?
An air hostess.
What’s your worst habit?
My husband says I bat my eyelids when I get really worked up or trying to stress a point.
What first world problem annoys you the most?
Trying to remember the hundreds of passwords for everything, the computer, software, banking, shopping. I even have a password for my password file, and heavens forbid if I forget that.
What qualities do you look for in your friends?
Positive, fun and loving life.
What’s the most adventurous thing you have done?
I ran the Sahara desert marathon (240km) in 2012 and have also completed 5 Comrades marathons, however the craziest thing I did was run a mile in a 747 at 37,000 last year when I stopped my running streak (running a minimum of a mile every single day for nearly 9 years).