As of this writing, both Adam and I are employed in the wonderful city of Sydney. Coming into the big city was overwhelming at first, but within a week, we found our ground and secured jobs. It has been a rather smooth transition from camping/road tripping to being back in the workforce. While I of course love adventure, I also thrive off of having a routine and doing work that’s important to me.
Before coming to Australia, I was under the impression that I’d only be able to find ‘backpacker’-type jobs, such as hospitality, childcare, farmwork, etc. But there are so many opportunities out there for travelers to use their skills and experiences.
I’m currently LOVING my job as an English teacher to adults from around the world as well as babysitter for an adorable boy. Adam is working full-time at an office of a big camera company. I’m grateful every day for the opportunity to work in the heart of Sydney. I go over the Harbour Bridge and view the Opera House on my commute and walk past beautiful buildings, such as the Queen Victoria Building and Town Hall while navigating through the hustle and bustle of downtown Sydney. It’s a dream come true!
Working abroad gives you a different perspective than just being a tourist. I’ve learned thus far that Australians tend to enjoy a nice work/life balance. Cost of living is high, but people are compensated well for their work. Minimum wage is about $17 AUD ($12.68 USD) an hour, but most people will make at the very least $22 AUD ($16.41 USD) an hour in an entry-level job. Double that for something that requires more skill. So it doesn’t seem like the average person struggles and lives paycheck to paycheck as people do in the US. People in Australia seem to be more relaxed and do not want to add unnecessary stress to their lives. I really appreciate this.
If you want to work in Australia and earn money to continue your travels, here are some tips that I’ve accumulated through the job hunting experience. It is pretty easy to find work in a big city if you have relevant experience and are a fluent English speaker.
Throughout this post, I am assuming that you already have a working holiday visa (or Work and Holiday visa for Americans & other nationalities) in hand. If you don’t, learn more about how you may be able to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year!
Get a Tax File Number
When you first get to Australia on a working holiday visa, go online and get your Tax File Number. You will certainly need this if you plan to be employed here. In order to apply, you need an address for the number to be mailed to you. We used a friend’s, but many backpackers use a hostel’s address. We never actually got the physical piece of paper, but our friend took a photo of the letter for us so we can have our number. That seemed to be good enough! Thank you, James!!!
Open a Bank Account
There are loads of banks around, but we did our research and chose NAB because there are no fees associated with a checking account. Most banks charge a monthly maintenance fee of $5 or so. It does add up and I do not agree with fees on such simple accounts with big banks. NAB has branches throughout the country and plenty of free ATMs (RediBank and BOQ). I also have online banking and use the app, which is simple enough. Other big banks are Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and HSBC. You could open up an account from overseas, but I don’t find this necessary.
Bonus Tip: If you are American, open up a Charles Schwab account before you go overseas. There are no ATM fees worldwide. I must have saved hundreds of dollars over the years in ATM fees alone. Can’t recommend Schwab enough!
Have your Resume Aussie-fied
As an American, I had to go through my resume and change the spelling of words into British/Australian English like “organize -> organise” as well as had some wonderful friends help me. If you have a willing Australian/British friend, have him/her check over your resume for you, especially if you are not a native English speaker. If you’d like for me to give it a look, I’ll do the best I can! I attempt to teach Australian English in my classroom after all, so my brain is kind of switched in that mode. Don’t hesitate to contact me.
My resume is two pages and I did not include a photo, as some websites recommended. You should also tailor your resume to the job for which you are applying. This is pretty standard when it comes to job hunting! Make your resume clear, succinct, and specific. And of course, be honest! But don’t be shy to let yourself shine. More resume-writing tips here.
Gumtree – Lots of jobs on this website. We found a gig helping set up for an event (silent disco on the beach!). We got compensated rather handsomely to put up a tent and make it look festive with decorations. Plus we got to tour a few of the beaches! You never know what kind of opportunities you’ll find on Gumtree. You can even put an ad up selling yourself! I got two great babysitting jobs AND a housesitting gig through this method.
Job Search Engines – I recommend Indeed and Seek. You can find more career-oriented jobs on these sites, whereas Gumtree is better for jobs in hospitality, labor, short-term gigs, etc. I found my teaching job through Indeed.
Temp Agencies – There are several temp agencies out there, but we submitted our resumes through Hays, which was recommended by a friend. Within two days, a recruiter contacted us and we went in for a friendly interview. This particular recruiter found jobs for temporary office work from entry level to professional. She ended up finding Adam a job in an office within a week!
Found App – This phone app is like Tinder for jobs. You make a profile with your employment history and skills. Then you scroll through job offers close to your location. If you both say yes to each other, then you can connect! Through this app, I got a job interview with a fundraising company. Most of the jobs on this app are in hospitality.
Facebook groups – There are some job offers on backpacker Facebook groups, though most of them are for fruitpicking to satisfy the 88 days of regional work to get a second year visa. Some of the posts are vague and sketchy, so do proceed with caution. It doesn’t hurt to give it a look! Try Backpacker Jobs in Australia.
Hostels – Hostels are great if you’re a solo traveler because you can make friends and network for jobs. Some hostels even have job boards and work with employers who specifically want to hire short-term. We haven’t stayed in hostels personally, but it is seems to be a fine resources, especially for solo travelers.
Drop In – I read tips to go in person and hand in your resume, but I didn’t end up going this route because I found a job online quickly. This would probably work best in a hospitality position. Put yourself out there and show your personality and eagerness!
Keep an open mind. You may be the most qualified person in the world for a professional job, but it is difficult to secure such a position because backpackers can only work with one employer for six months. A working holiday job is going to be short-term, so be open to do different kinds of jobs for that time. On the same coin, do respect yourself and know when to draw a line. Your time and skills are valuable and should never be exploited.
Get the necessary certificates. Check some of the state certificate requirements. An RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) is necessary in New South Wales to be a bartender and highly desirable if you are serving food. If you want to work with children, a Working with Children check is often required. If you want to do labor, then you will need a White Card. There are different requirements, methods, and costs for obtaining these certificates, so do your research.
Take the season into consideration. There are loads of temporary jobs in the big cities during summertime because 1) people take off for holidays so there are temporary relief positions and 2) there is a lot of tourism, so restaurants/amusement parks/tour companies will be hiring.
Pack at least one professional outfit. I had work clothes since I came to Australia after teaching in Japan, but Adam didn’t pack any! To add to the stress of finding jobs, we had to navigate through terrible shopping malls to buy some basics. Play it safe and arrive in Australia with at least one outfit you’d wear to an interview.
I wouldn’t recommend packing a whole wardrobe of work clothes because you may end up in a job that requires you to wear a uniform or casual attire. So just pack one interview-ready outfit and then buy some more clothes when you do land a job if space in your backpack is an issue. There are some excellent second-hand shops (called opp shops here) such as Salvos, Vinnies, and other privately owned shops. Definitely check those out first for great deals and to avoid adding to the waste in the world. If you want to buy new, there’s no shortage of clothing stores such as H&M, Uniqlo, Target, etc., in the big cities.
Last, but not least, have fun with it! It’s working holiday visa, not working FML visa. Welcome and enjoy the new work experiences abroad and enjoy beautiful Australia!