Tag Archives: careers

Leaving Melbourne – back to life and back to blogging | Australia

imageToday marks the start of a brand new adventure. Yesterday, I sat in my apartment attempting to squeeze my life into my backpack and felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump. Oh god how I’ve missed that feeling. I’ve missed the feeling of freedom and excitement at picking up and starting again somewhere new and different. I’ve been back in Melbourne for five months after living here for five months last year – don’t get me wrong, Melbourne has turned into a home from home for me and remains one of my absolute favourite places in the world. But when you know it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

Living in the city, both times, has been a real challenge with surreal highs and some crazy lows that have left me questioning everything. Every time I come here, I seem to end up in jobs that push me to the very end of my tether and while I’ve loved my cocktail waitress gig and have had an amazing time working on a rooftop bar all summer – I am more than ready to move on and get back to traveller life. This last few months have been both amazing and exhausting – I’ve worked too much in my goal to save as much money as possible and I’ve had to sacrifice my writing due to lack of time and routine. But at the same time, I’ve made some amazing new friends and I’ve had some pretty special adventures in this city and beyond. I don’t regret a single second of it, but I know that out there a healthier and happier life is waiting for me, so I think it’s about time I went and found it.

This past week has been a flurry of goodbyes and leaving drinks, after living here for a total of ten months I’ve picked up a pretty special crowd along the way. I want to say a huge thank you to every single person, who no matter how short a time we spent together, really made my Melbourne experience. Now I plan to finish my time here with a bang, tonight I’m heading to a pretty incredible house I’ve rented with my friends for a joint-birthday celebration along Great Ocean Road. We’ll be spending the weekend there and, just as it should be, I’ll be finishing my time in Melbourne with the people who mean the most to me. Follow me on Instagram and check out my InstaStories for all the live updates.image

So what’s next for Absolutely Lucy?

On Monday I’ll be flying to Adelaide, where I’ll be catching up with an old friend and checking out the city for a week. I’m definitely going to need a chilled week after this hectic last few weeks in Melbourne! Then I’m heading to Perth, where I’m hoping to find some road trip buddies to start heading up the West Coast with – it’s been a dream trip for a long time and I’m so excited to be on the road again. I can’t wait for the sunshine and beaches after this last week of rain in Melbourne, get me tanned, fit and healthy again. I’ve slipped into so many bad habits lately, not sleeping enough, barely eating and drinking way too much – hospo life has definitely got the better of me – so now I’m looking forward to taking care of myself for a while.

I’m excited to get back to blogging and to be able to focus on my passion for a while instead of working the same repetitive job and having the same conversations over and over again. Being a waitress in the bar was fun but I’m so much more than that and I can’t wait to pursue the things I really love, to have the time and the energy to be creative again. I’ll miss my big city life, my cute little apartment all to myself with a gym downstairs, my local coffee shop and bars where the staff remember my orders, my work crew and how much they cared about each other. I’ll miss the families I found in my neighbours, my work crew and my besties I’ve met all over Australia. Melbourne is an incredible city but it is always the people who make the place and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing characters who I already can’t wait to see again. Next week I’ll have lots more to share with you all – trust me I have a lot of adventures to catch you all up on! But for now Melbourne, over and out.16683867_10154214948757617_1195632386496349610_n

image7-1-1

Travel | What it’s really like to work as an au pair in Australia?

imageUnless you’re sitting on one heck of a trust fund or you’ve just won the lottery, Australia is pretty impossible to travel long-term without working. I worked lots of different types of jobs during my first year down under – hospitality jobs in a theatre and a bar, I got my hands dirty working on a farm, I even became a sales manager! Talk about variety, but one experience stood out above all the rest, for all the wrong reasons. You always hear about backpackers taking an au pair jobs while in Australia – for some it makes them brave enough to move over here having a job already lined up through an agency. For others, it’s a nice break from hostels and a chance to have your own room and live with a family for a while. It can be a great way to get childcare experience for those hoping to work in this industry, or in teaching, in the long run, but it can sometimes be totally different to what you expected.

My time as a nanny was without doubt the worst job I have ever worked in my life. I had never once underestimated the workload I would be taking on, the fact that I wasn’t that keen on children or what the job would entail, and yet I was still horrified by my own experiences. Saying some of it out loud to friends really showed me quite how much I put up with while I was there, and because of this, I wanted to write this post so that other backpackers travelling Australia will be a bit more prepared than I was. I’m not just going to focus on my terrible experiences, because that’s just not fair, I know several people who have had amazing experiences working as au pairs for really lovely families, but I also know some who have really struggled. This post is here to give you all the information so you can make a decision for yourself whether the job is for you, and to know what to do if it doesn’t work out.image

My experience

“I worked as an au pair for three months in Charleville – we’re talking 800km west of Brisbane – which was an incredible opportunity to experience real outback Aussie life. I took the job at the last minute when I struggled to find anything else and on first glance it looked like a good opportunity. It offered me $300 a week plus my own annex, food, gym membership and car/scooter access. I was looking after two boys (6 & 7) who were at school during the day, when I would have cleaning tasks to complete – I would get them ready for school and do drop-offs, then look after them after school, take them to their activities and prepare dinners. It sounded like the dream job for an au pair, but the reality was very different.

“I was never told that one of the children I would be looking after had special needs and with limited experience of looking after children I think this was vital information. This child actually turned out to be the most precious, he was loving and kind and sweet, and once we settled in he was great to look after. Saying goodbye to him was hard after several months together. The other child however, was spoilt, overindulged by his parents who were never there, he bullied his brother and was violent towards me. I don’t blame the child for one second, but the constant changeover of nannies in the home plus a lacklustre attitude to parenting hadn’t helped. Neither had the way his mother spoke to me, which he keenly imitated.

“Every day I would be kicked, punched, slapped, pinched and spoken to like I was worthless by both child and adult. I would be told I should be dead because everyone hated me, or that I was selfish and lazy. I worked 12-14 hour days dealing with every body fluid going, scrubbing, cleaning and cooking for the family and most nights I would finish late, sometimes several hours after I was supposed to finish.

“The family had no respect for their home, it was filthier than most hostels I have stayed in and they would constantly throw rubbish everywhere. Their menagerie of animals would leave trails of droppings across the floor and would piss on the carpets. One weekend, I had cleaned the house on the Friday and left it spotless, the family went on holiday that Sunday and left me to do a deep clean of the house. When I went in on the Sunday, there was rotting food laying all over the kitchen, there was rubbish everywhere, clothes scattered, shit on the floor, there was no end of filth in a house that had been pristine less than 48 hours earlier. It was this spiteful behaviour that became my daily life.

“There are some even worse things including abuse over social media that I won’t share on here, but I want you guys to understand, I worked my arse off for this family and was treated terribly. It makes me really sad that I never got to experience the amazing bond you can get with some families as an au pair, but I could have done no more to make that happen. Despite this, my outback experience was one I will never forget for the amazing people I did meet along the way, it’s just a shame my working life left so much to be desired.”image

Holly’s experience

Holly is an English girl I met while I was working as an au pair, she was a real rock through my three months there and helped keep me sane on many an occasion. She was also working as an au pair for a local family but had a completely different experience to mine. Read on to find out about her job:

“I found the job on Gumtree, I must have applied for around 50 nanny jobs in total and only two ever replied! The one I got and another one prior to that but decided this one was a better fit! I worked for a family in Charleville, in outback Queensland. I was only supposed to work there for three months but ended up staying with the family for over a year, and even moved towns with them!

“I didn’t get a very big wage which was the only thing I didn’t really like about the job, I worked from 7am till 9pm, six days a week so it was long days and very intense! I got $300 a week which doesn’t sound like much at all but I was quite lucky because my family paid for me to live in a house in town, I ate with them 6 days a week and they also provided me with a car and fuel (mainly for work purposes but I could use it in town socially) so the money I earned I got to spend on what I wanted.

“I looked after twin girls, they were five months old when I arrived and 17 months by the time I left, so I saw them change and grow up so much while I was there including crawling, first steps. I was pretty much their second mother, my involvement with that family was pretty intense. I cooked, washed, cleaned, fed, changed, bathed, shopped, played all day! Some days I had the twins just by myself which was hard work and other days the mother and I both looked after them.

“I honestly LOVED this experience. Charleville is so out of the way its not somewhere your average backpacker would’ve stumbled across but I’m so glad I did. I love the town and have made some great friends through it, and the bond I had with the family is one that I think will last a long time. Obviously not everything was perfect, things rarely are but on a whole I wouldn’t have changed this experience at all. At least I can say I’m prepared for my own children now. And I don’t think I ever would have done a lot of the things I have if I hadn’t come out here, I can’t say going to a rodeo or mustering cattle was ever high on my list of things to do but I did them out here!

“What advice do I have for other people interested in doing something like this? Say yes to everything! Life is too short to say no or be too scared, especially when you’re going to a completely new town by yourself. Just be brave and get stuck in! Enjoying yourself is the most important part!”image

Coping with your au pair job:

You might get lucky and have an amazing experience like Holly, or you might suffer like I did, but if things don’t turn out the best with your au pair job – here’s how to cope:

  • Try and have a Skype chat with the people you will be working for before you actually go there, it can help put your mind at ease and prepare you a little.
  • Make sure your job role is clearly outlined before you start – hours working, what your package (accommodation/food/transport) will include.
  • Nanny jobs can often be found on Gumtree instead of through agencies – this can be a good way of finding work. But make sure you vet them as much as possible beforehand – safety above all else and never go to an outback job without letting someone know where you’ll be.
  • Be prepared to work long hours and have a job that will take over your life, but also make sure you have boundaries and allow yourself to have nights completely off from the job.
  • Make sure you get your pay – don’t leave any outstanding when you leave as some will try to get out of paying you.
  • Make sure you get payslips and if you have to drive a vehicle for them, make sure you are insured.
  • Try and raise any problems – if you feel confident enough – with the family and see if they are open to discussion.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no – you’re an employer, not a slave.
  • If you’re somewhere outback, make the effort to get to know people in the closest town, don’t be stuck out on your own with a crappy job. My friends got me through three months of that job – I couldn’t have done it without them.
  • If you’re going very rural – check out this post I wrote on 18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback
  • If you’re in the outback or somewhere secluded and don’t feel safe, contact a friend or someone who can offer advice and get you out of there.
  • If you’re with an agency, contact them and raise concerns, see if they can transfer you to another family.
  • If you’re doing it for a second year visa and think you can battle through, see if you can stick it out, don’t risk finding an even worse employer and losing the hours you have worked.

imageIf you need any advice or have any questions about au pair work, leave a comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you worked as an au pair in Australia -what was your experience like? Where else in the world have you worked as a nanny?

image7-1-1

Backpacking | My ultimate guide to finding a job when travelling Australia

imageYou’ve booked your ticket, you’ve quit your job, your visa is ready. You’ve got a bit of money saved but you’ve heard how expensive Australia is and figure it won’t be long until you have to find a job. But how easy is it to find a job in Australia? That’s the question that plagues the conversations I have with friends, messages from readers and the Facebook groups for backpackers down under. Well, I’ve teamed up with Dimitri Roumpos of Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs websites to put your mind at ease and prepare you for job hunting in Oz. I’ve posted before about my top tips for job hunting when in Darwin and top tips for getting that second year visa, but this post will be focusing on the best ways to seek work, what you need to have prepared and how on earth you find a job that will qualify for your second year visa. So sit back and prepare to learn all you need to know to get a good job in Australia – coming from a girl who figured it all out as she went.

What you need to have prepared:

  • A working holiday visa or a student visa to work limited hours – you cannot work on a tourist visa.
  • A tax file number – apply when you arrive and it’s posted out within a few weeks.
  • A bank account – you will need to set this up immediately and make sure you also have a Superannuation account (for this you will also need an…)
  • Australian mobile number – easy to get a SIM from a corner shop/supermarket, go for Telstra as they offer the best coverage even in the outback.
  • White card – this is compulsory for anyone that wishes to work in the construction industry in Australia.
  • RSA – this is compulsory for anyone who works in a job with alcohol involved – bars/restaurants etc will require this and there are different RSA’s available for each Territory. Northern Territory is the cheapest and easiest to get online, New South Wales and Victoria require you to actually attend a session at a centre.
  • CV – always arrive with two or three copies of your resume at the ready. You want to make sure you have one that is in your chosen field with all relevant experience (mine is a journalism CV) then another that focuses on hospitality work with bar/restaurant experience. Then it can also help to have another specialised CV available – I have one that focuses on administrative experience and another on sales experience and all of these have come in handy at one point or another. If you have any outdoor work/construction/manual labour experience, this is also a good one to have at the ready.
  • References – whether you have good references from back home or you put down a mate’s number – make sure they are aware they may get a call and have something prepared.

Preparation is key and having all this ready can really make a difference to the speed at which you find a job and can actually start work. I had all this ready and it meant I got two jobs and started both the following day which really helped my bank account after the East Coastimage

Where to look for work:

  • Sign up to Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs, like the Facebook page and follow on Twitter to make sure you get instant updates of job alerts.
  • Use social media to ask friends/contacts when you move to a new place – if lots of your friends are travelers too this could help get you a tip. This scored me a great bar job in Darwin thanks to a friend-of-a-friend messaging me back.
  • Word of mouth – speak to other travelers in your hostel, they’ll always know if anyone is leaving and their job might be up for grabs.
  • Hostels – check the jobs board daily and talk to staff, they have all the insider information.
  • Hayes Recruitment are fantastic for finding administration jobs and, if you’re looking for sponsorship, a more long-term prospect. My friend found a job as a property manager and is now being sponsored to stay.
  • Job seeking agencies – don’t get sucked into paying to join a club or job fair who promise to find you a job, just get out there and find it yourself. It saves you money and is quicker.
  • Print off CVs, walk to every business/cafe/bar/shop in town and ask to speak to the manager. If they’re not available, ask what time they will be and go back. It’s much easier to secure a job in person than over email/the phone.
  • Check out Seek and Indeed – they’re great for the professional job seekers.
  • Gumtree and Craiglist are a used a lot more in Australia than the UK – I found my second year visa job on Gumtree. Obviously be careful but don’t write them off as full of creeps. These are great for one-off labouring jobs and these can be almost as good as a full-time job.

It can be difficult to know where to start when you’re job hunting, but don’t let it put you off actually looking. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find something. If you don’t have access to a computer go to the library, print CVs at Peter Pan’s for free and speak to everyone. Don’t let it get you down if you don’t find something straight away, just change your approach and get a friend to glance over your CV.image

How to find a second year visa job:

  • First of all try to choose a Territory where you would like to work – narrowing your search to QLD, VIC, NT, NSW, WA, SA or TAS can really help when trawling through endless job lists. Also, you’ll be spending three months in a place – make sure your location is suitable.
  • Be aware that a lot more different types of job count in the Northern Territory and you don’t have to be quite so remote when completing your 88 days there as you would in Queensland or Victoria.
  • Think about the type of work you would like to do – you could do anything from fishing and pearling, to fruit picking or landscaping, even working in a vineyard counts. Think outside the box and turn it into a travelling experience not just ticking off your 88 days. I have a friend who worked in real estate and on a cattle station and said it was an amazing experience, he was glad he didn’t just stick to fruit picking. Check out a full list of suitable jobs here.
  • As mentioned, sign up to alerts from Fruit Picking Jobs and Working Holiday Jobs, plus any others you can find, these are great for finding work. Also, check out Gumtree as this can be a goldmine for second year visa work – be careful and don’t take risks.
  • Look carefully at what is offered as part of the deal – some will offer reduced wages to cover food and board, others will charge you after wages have been paid. Be savvy and compare different jobs so you have an idea of what is fair.
  • Likewise, compare wages for fruit picking, check how they pay – whether by hour or by bucket and make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. You can actually make and save quite a lot of money doing your farm work, but you have to be clever about the job you take.
  • Speak to other backpackers/friends who have completed their farm work and see if they can recommend a job/place, also listen to the warnings. I heard on the backpacker grapevine that Bundaberg was still accepting backpackers despite there being no work, so I knew to avoid.
  • Try and get it out of the way in plenty of time – don’t leave it until the final three months as seasons and work aren’t always reliable. Give yourself six months to complete it and then enjoy the time if you get done early.
  • Make sure you get payslips, evidence of you working – pictures etc – and any paperwork signed off. You need payslips now since the laws have changed – and you need to have been paid for the work. Extra evidence will help you if you end up being one of the unlucky ones to get investigated.

Don’t say I just need to do my 88 days! I was amazed how many people said I need a job so I can do my 88 days to get my second year visa. Whilst we know that is the reason most backpackers seek regional work, stating that that is your pure motivation, does not sit well with a lot of farmers. By stating this your basically saying your heading out to a regional area under sufferance and you can’t wait to get the hell out of there!

Dimitri Roumpos

image

Top tips for job-hunting:

  • If English is not your first language, get a friend/dorm mate to check over your CV and right any wrongs. Bad spelling is a big no-no for employers.
  • Be available – if you’re asked when you can start, tell them straight away.
  • Have a smart outfit at the ready for interviews – and if you’re going for a hospitality job having an all black outfit can be helpful in case you’re asked to start the next day.
  • If you can’t find something immediately, ask in the hostel. There are almost always opportunities to work for accommodation or to take on paid roles in hostels.
  • Don’t be afraid to big yourself up – list your skills and talents with pride.
  • If you don’t have any experience, gloss over the truth. A lot of jobs, especially in bars/cafes/restaurants, you can learn on the job so if you’re not getting anywhere you can easily pick it up if you’re willing to work. I don’t recommend outright lies claiming you can do circus tricks while laying tables but it’s okay to bend the truth a little.
  • Ask those already working to recommend you at their workplace – I got a lot of my friends jobs in this way.
  • Don’t give up. It can seem hopeless and frustrating if you don’t get something straight away, but don’t lose hope. Keep at it and you will find something – it’s much easier to find a job Down Under than it is in the UK!

What do the travelers say?

  • “Word of mouth. My friends were at a hostel where the manager finds you the work. Just had to wait til there was a free space at the hostel and then was working two days after.” – Devon Tobin
  • “Go to a cattle station or crop farm where you get to do actual helpful work that’s fun and really teaches you something!” – Holli McCarthy
  • “Remember that people also can do construction in all of NT, SA, Tassie and lot of other smaller towns for the second year.” – Robin Lassinniemi
  • “I had to be up as early as 6am as the farmers were up posting jobs. The good jobs went fast so you had to be up at the crack of dawn.” – Stuart Harrowing
  • “Make sure you’re getting a legal wage ($17ph) and check how many days are you actually being signed off for? Don’t assume a week sign off if you didn’t work the weekend.” – Jodie Green
  • ” I lied about being a farmer in Sweden on Gumtree to get a job.” – Richard Andersson
  • “I’ve heard a few stories about people working picking jobs and having to spend most of their pay just on the accommodation and food but I think if you can make the right contacts and get smart about it, you can find some good jobs out there. Pro tip though: prepare an iPod with all the music/audio books you can get your hands on, three months is a long ass time and the days go faster if you’re listening to tunes!” – Paul Jefferyes

imageWhile I was in Australia, I worked in a bar/restaurant, a theatre box office, as a nanny, on a cattle farm, and in sales. All of them were a great experience and I’d really recommend getting in a range of different work while away. It keeps things interesting and broadens your skill set, plus you can make great money in all of these. Darwin is a good bet if you need work fast, particularly in dry season, I managed to find two jobs within an hour when I was at my poorest. If you need good money quick and don’t fancy taking your clothes off, it’s worth trying sales, I was on $2,000 a week in Melbourne within just a few weeks and it gave me invaluable work experience. If you have any questions about finding work in Australia – leave a comment below, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at absolutelylucy@hotmail.com

How did you find a job in Australia? Any top tips for finding work? How did you find your second year visa job?

image7-1-1

Careers | Why you should always always answer when opportunity knocks

imageLife has been pretty busy since I arrived in Melbourne and although it has meant blogging has taken a bit of a back seat, I wouldn’t change the last few months for the world. I’m now just three weeks away from returning home and I can’t help but reminisce over the last 18 months of travelling. I’ve learnt so much about myself on this journey and have had the opportunity to experience things I never dreamt I would. There have been ups and downs, bumps in the road, some of the wildest parties and some of the most sobering experiences of my life but every second of it has made me happier than my wildest dreams. My time spent flitting between Asian beaches and mountain ranges was incredible, as were the memories and friends found along the East Coast of Australia. But while the constant movement and escapism of travelling was exactly what I needed at some points – to truly lose myself in the whole experience – I have also found such happiness in staying put, in developing a life, a career and a base.

During my time in this amazing country, I’ve had the chance to explore career options I had never previously considered and that in itself has been an invaluable experience. I’ve done plenty of the usual hospitality work in bars and theatres over here, but it was my job as a nanny that was a real eye-opener. I’ll be posting more about that job in the future, but for now I really want to share the job that has taken over my life since moving to Melbourne. When I arrived back in February, I was so happy to have escaped outback life and to be reunited with my Darwin friends that I couldn’t resist a few weeks off work – I spent these job hunting and enjoying life after working so hard for seven months straight. It was wonderful, having all the time to explore the city and to really enjoy it. But then I started to get impatient, I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to work. I had originally been looking for journalism or writing work, or some kind of office job, but my visa stood in the way time and time again. It was difficult to find a job that would take me on with a working holiday visa – especially when I had decided I really wanted to avoid hospitality work.13092046_10153463041812617_1559144075203980058_nI applied for everything and then finally one job called me in for a meeting – I had no idea what the job was having applied for so many, but I figured I had nothing to lose by going. It turned out to be an information session for a sales job – door knocking to be precise – not something I would ever have applied for had I known what the job entailed. I always hated the idea of working in sales, all the targets and pressure, and the lack of creativity just didn’t appeal to me. But with no other job offers on the horizon I felt I ought to give it a day to see if it could be a short-term option, plus I instantly liked the rest of the staff and found it a pretty fun place to work. Despite having no experience, I managed to make over 100 sales every single day in my first four days leading to an instant promotion. Within a couple of weeks I was managing my own team of people which ranged from 12-18 people, training others to do the job and developing their skills to eventually branch out and run their own buses. It’s now two months later and I’m one of the most senior members of the channel and a team manager who has just launched another team branched from my own. Last week I also had the second top selling team in the entire country and became the highest ever paid team manager in the channel, earning $2,000 in a week.

Why am I telling you this? Not to boast I promise, I am very proud of what I have achieved since being in Melbourne – this job has given me a wealth of new experiences, skills and a fantastic reference. But my point in sharing my own experiences is to make others realise what I have – you should never judge a book by its cover, nor should you ever turn down an opportunity without good reason. Had I known what the job was before attending the information session, I never would have gone. I would have missed out on a invaluable two months and some amazing friends along the way. I always felt so stupid when I first started and had to tell people what my job was, but now I announce it with pride and happily recruit people from everywhere, even on nights out! I have people requesting to be in my team because it is the very best of all the teams, and I’m proud to lead a group of people who work their asses off, who are all filled with ambition and positivity. I never once thought I would end up working in sales and I may never do it again, but I will be forever grateful that I answered when opportunity came knocking on this occasion. This job has definitely taken over my life at times and has even brought me to the verge of breakdown because I was exhausted, but it’s also been the most rewarding experiences I could have had career-wise in such a short space of time.11822272_10152959995477617_5291704052004368303_nSo many people, myself included, let silly things stand in the way of opportunity. Letting things like pride, greed and urgency prevent you from trying something new or unexpected can life-changing, in all the wrong ways. No matter what point you reach in your life, it is so important to always remain open and accepting of all new ideas and to always try. The fact that you put yourself out there and tried in the first place sets you apart from the rest, it makes you brave and automatically more likely to succeed. Those individuals who let embarrassment or fear of failure stand in their way are just setting themselves up for a fall, or they just avoid even putting themselves out there. But if you never take a risk, you’ll never get that feeling of butterflies in your stomach, that excitement that you don’t know what will happen next. I’ll tell you something, that butterflies feeling is my favourite in all the world. Why? Because I associate it with all the happiest and most successful moments of my life. The moment when I met my first love, the moment I quit my job, the moment I hopped on that plane and the moment I realised I had achieved the life I dreamed of. I realised earlier that I’m the happiest I’ve felt since travelling and I’m putting it all down to following the butterflies.

Have you found a whole new career through a fleeting opportunity? What moments in your life have given you butterflies?

image7-1

Relationships | Why it can be great to start a New Year single

imageChristmas and New Year are definitely some of those times when people really start to think about their relationship status – a bit like the post-Christmas bloat, it’s something that hangs over every festive party and moment under the mistletoe. It can suck a bit to be single at Christmas, to not have someone special to keep you warm and to get you that extra special present. But it can also be great to be single at Christmas – you don’t have to feel guilty when you sit there and eat an entire cheeseboard in one sitting then spend the night farting in bed, and no awkward decision about whose family you’ll spend the day with. When it comes to New Year, this was my first as a single girl for nine years – which seems crazy to me. Basically as long as I’ve been old enough to go out drinking I’ve been in a relationship, more than a third of my life. And it was a good relationship, a great one in fact, but 2015 was all about the start of something new, about taking control of my life and doing something for me. I broke off my relationship and left to travel the world solo, a year later I should be heading home but have decided I’m not ready for my adventures to finish yet. Last December 31st I was surrounded by good friends and spent the night celebrating with my other half. But this year, it felt right to celebrate independently after the year I’ve had. I’ve conquered all sorts and I’ve done it all by myself, so I was more than happy to be a single girl as I took my first steps into 2016.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of the season – all those engagement rings popping up on my newsfeed, all those cute couple photos in matching Christmas jumpers, and all those New Year kissing photos. We’re blasted in the face with the expectation and the pressure to be in a happy relationship or left to feel like failures, but I have to ask, isn’t it more important at this time of year to be looking inwardly and thinking more about the relationship we have with ourselves? New Year is always a great time to look back over the year as it comes to a close – at what we’ve achieved and suffered, learnt and lost over the last 12 months. We’re all planning and making goals for the year ahead, but so many are setting goals, more like ideals for where they see themselves in 12 months. They’re thinking about things like relationships statuses, job goals, having their own homes. All of these are great in their own way, but why not take the time to think about how mentally healthy and happy you are. Two Christmases ago I took a two week break from work and from life – I finally had headspace to think and after the two weeks was up I realised I didn’t want to go back to that life. That was when I realised that how I was working and living was not making me healthy or happy – it was time to plan an escape and my next moves. That was when I began saving, when I bought a plane ticket. A year later, I hopped on that plane and never looked back.

It’s not the answer for everyone and I’m not saying this to tell you to go do the same. Travel might not be your way of healing but starting 2016 on your own could provide you with a good opportunity to really look closely at your life. Are you happy? Are you on your way to achieving what you want out of life? If not, why not? This is your chance to claim 2016 as your year to work on you – do what I did, step back and reassess. Our goals change as we grow as people and sometimes the ones you set a while ago will no longer fit the person you have become – if you no longer want something why work towards it? Evolve your goals and you will find happiness in working towards what you truly want. If a job no longer makes you happy, look elsewhere and find one that does. Feel like work is taking over your life? Take a step back and explore your passions in your free time. Unsure whether a relationship is still giving you what you need – make a change, end it or go in search of something new. It doesn’t matter how trapped you feel, even if it feels like there is no way out, there always is. But you have to be willing to make the first move – once you’ve taken that first step it turns into the easiest and most natural thing in the world, but first you have to take a leap of faith.

It can be a huge change that all your family and friends talk about, or it can be something tiny that just makes a world of difference to you. Either way, having the courage to examine your life and really think about where you want it to go can be simultaneously the scariest and most valuable thing you do this January. Why? Because it will help give you focus and goals for the year ahead – to find the happiness you’ve been searching for. 2015 was my happiest and freest year yet – it was so amazing that I skipped my flight home and chose to stay and carry on for as long as possible. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings – I’m just hoping for more happiness, the love of many new friends I have yet to meet and even more opportunities to follow my passions. Most importantly, I’m not sitting around and waiting for life to happen to me, I’m out there making it happen for myself.

Have you made any New Years resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Is travel in your plans for 2016 – where are you heading? 

image

Darwin | Being broke down under and top tips for finding a job | Australia

imageDarwin was the first place I have tried to find a job in Australia – when I was in Sydney I looked to see what was available and found loads of jobs but my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t really need to work. But by the time it came to arriving in Darwin I was flat broke, seven months of living the dream had been fun and I’d never once had to hold back from spending because I made sure I saved a good wad of cash beforehand. But now I was at a point where I could barely afford rent and instant noodles – any backpacker out there will know the kind of broke I’m talking about. The kind of broke where you suddenly have a horrible feeling you won’t be able to get yourself out of this situation, where you realise you can’t even afford a flight home and you start feeling like you need to call on the bank of mum and dad. Its kind of scary when you’re backpacking solo to know that when you run out of money you have no backup, that you don’t have a boyfriend or best friend there to loan you a few dollars. It’s happened to us all – it doesn’t matter how good you are with your money, sometimes life just catches up on you. But that’s okay, I think if you’re a backpacker who hasn’t lived in dire straits for a while, you’re not a real backpacker. I’m very lucky and I know that if I were ever desperate my parents would be able to help me out but I know many people who aren’t that lucky, and to be honest, there’s much more satisfaction in fixing the problem all by yourself.

I knew I would be fine after I managed to secure a job and luckily after putting something on Facebook about needing work, an old friend contacted me to say he was already in Darwin working in a bar and that he knew of another bar that was looking for staff. As soon as I arrived in Darwin – within hours of getting off the plane – I had updated my CV and printed off countless copies ready to pound the streets looking for work. I walked the length of Mitchell Street and back handing out CVs, talking to managers and flirting shamelessly, and it worked! Within 24 hours I had two trials and two new jobs. I would be working at Monsoons – if you know Darwin you will know it as the infamous party bar where we all have spent nights better forgotten – and Darwin Entertainment Centre, a theatre for the arts where I would be working in the box office. Now I was very lucky getting both jobs straight away and I have no doubt that it was particularly down to the fact that I was English, could start straight away, and wasn’t completely ugly. It’s horrible to say but a complete truth that employers in Darwin, and any other city, are very keen on employing those with English as a first language and, particularly in bars and restaurants, they want good looking staff. I had friends who were German and French who struggled to find work for a while because their English wasn’t as good and I had one friend who was told he couldn’t have the job in a bar unless he shaved his beard off! In Monsoons the girls were expected to parade around in their underwear and bikinis on a nightly basis, while the guys all flaunted their six packs.imageBut it’s not all about luck – I happen to believe we make our own luck in this world and part of that is down to our own determination to succeed. I know a few people who really struggled to find work, but when it came down to it they were not desperate for money like I had been. They had the luxury of enough money to keep them afloat and that gave them time to be lazy, to hand out CVs but not to push for jobs. For some, their priorities were more about having fun and partying first, finding work later – and they did, as soon as their situation became desperate. For me, I had no choice but to find work straight away otherwise I couldn’t afford basics like food or a bed, partying would come later and after the East Coast, a break was welcome. One thing to realise, Australia is full of jobs, everywhere you turn you hear of a new working opportunity. They might not all be career jobs but there’s a good mixture – and a hell of a lot more available than back home in the UK. After all I had heard about Darwin, it didn’t disappoint and offered a huge range of jobs for all kinds of people. I think that was one thing I loved about the city – it attracted such a range of people and all kinds of workers. I had friends who were working on fishing and pearling boats, others who were working construction or landscaping, others filled hospitality roles in bars, restaurants or hotels, worked as cleaners, hairdressers, chefs, mango farmers, or nurses and the list goes on. There was work for every type of role, the only thing that was lacking were office jobs but that didn’t seem to bother many.

So if you arrive in Darwin flat broke like I did – how can you make sure you don’t spend too long in limbo and quickly get earning again? Here are my top tips for finding work in Darwin:

  1. Do some scouting before you arrive – ask any friends who might be there or who are in Australia as often they have contacts. Use the Darwin Backpacker Facebook page as jobs and tips are always being posted up there. Perhaps even contact bars/hotels asking if they need staff.
  2. Look on Gumtree – it’s a reliable source for jobs in Australia unlike at home and I know lots of people who have found great jobs and casual work through it. My current job is one I actually found on Gumtree.
  3. Sign up to agencies – if you’re looking for specific farming, catering or construction work it might be worthwhile signing up to one of the many agencies in town. There is one that is free to join called Top End Consulting, but I don’t know anyone who actually found work through them. A good one for tradies was Skilled, which managed to find work for several of my friends.
  4. Update your CV and make it relevant – if you’re looking for bar work, just stick your bar/restaurant experience on there – feel free to even lie and make it up as I know many who used references from their home countries that were never checked. Hospitality is easy to pick up on the job and you will be trained in anything you don’t know.
  5. If you need a white card or RSA, make sure you know what you have to do to get it. But don’t rush and spend unnecessary money. I waited until I had the bar job to go home and complete my RSA – it took 25 minutes online and cost $10 for the Northern Territory but I wouldn’t have bothered if I didn’t have a bar job.
  6. Make sure you look good and have a big smile on your face – first impressions are everything – then walk the streets. Go by yourself, it looks better than having a friend waiting for you, ask for the manager in every place and hand over a CV. Ask if they are looking for anyone, tell them your experience and that you can start straight away.
  7. If anyone asks how long you are staying in Darwin, always lie. I knew I was staying for at least a month and a half but told them four months minimum. It meant they were keen to take me on as I wasn’t leaving and I loved it so much there that I stayed for three months anyway! No one wants to employ someone who is there for three weeks but they understand it is a backpacker town and people are always passing through.
  8. Make sure you speak good, clear English if it is not your first language, if you don’t understand anything, try to hide it then check with a friend later.
  9. If you get called in for a trial, make sure you wear appropriate clothing and footwear – I had to buy a black skirt and top plus black plimsolls for Monsoons and luckily could wear the same for DEC. There isn’t much choice in Darwin so you might need to make do until you can get to Casuarina – the nearest shopping centre.
  10. Don’t get a trial? Don’t hear back? Don’t lose faith – just keep asking around, keep handing out CVs to everywhere, not just Mitchell Street. Ask friends who are already working if they can put a word in for you or listen out for jobs that come up. You will get something – I don’t know a single person who failed to find work altogether!
  11. When you do get a job, make sure you have your RSA, tax file number, back account, superannuation set up ready so you have them ready to hand them over and will get paid straight away.
  12. And don’t forget those that helped you! Once you have a job in Darwin, use it for good and help other backpackers in a similar situation to find work. Across my two jobs I managed to find jobs for about 15 other people during my time in Darwin and that’s not even including the people who replaced me when I left. Spread the love and help everyone you can.

And if worst comes to worst and you can’t find anything permanent – why not do like a friend of mine who arrived in Darwin with a beat up old car, which he was sleeping in, and no money. He found some casual work, then more casual work, then more. It ended up being more reliable for him than permanent work because he could work several jobs around each other – he was doing everything from waitering, to bar work and front of house, to landscaping and odd jobs. It helped that he had a car and wasn’t fussy what kind of work he would take on. Within a month he had a good income and an apartment and it was another month until he found a steady job as a landscaper to get his second year visa signed off. But he still continued to take on casual jobs as well.

Have you worked in Australia – how did you find the job hunting process? Any other advice for finding work fast? Tell me about your experiences as a broke backpacker.

image

Careers | 10 jobs everyone should do in their lifetime

imageI’ve had a lot of jobs in my time – from dominating hospitality in bars, shops, restaurants, pubs and box offices, to working as a journalist, editor and freelance writer. I’ve supported students in primary school, helped provide learning materials for college students and even worked as an au pair. Can you tell I like to experiment? I’ve always felt that we should try out as many different jobs as possible in order to really gain an idea of our skills and talents, plus working a cross section of jobs really helps to show how diverse we are. Many of these jobs I have held at the same time, and I think five is the highest number of jobs I have held simultaneously. Right before I came travelling, I was saving hard so I was working full time as a journalist, while also working in a pub/restaurant, freelance writing, taking an editor role for an online magazine and babysitting. It was a busy time for me, but I loved the challenge and the chance to gain experience in so many different roles, plus I was organised so I still managed to have a social life. It paid off, because getting the experience of working on a bar and recent waitressing experience helped land me a job in Darwin’s busiest bar/restaurant where I was working 40 hours a week. The babysitting experience and reference helped land me a job as an au pair which saw me working with two little boys five days a week and helped me save a lot of money.

While travelling, it is easy to pick up a range of different roles, because often you are looking for a stopgap role to save money before moving on a few months later. This is the perfect opportunity to keep trying new things and broadening your skill set, plus you have the sense of adventure and lack of restrictions to push you to try things you never have before. For example, living out in Australia has given me the opportunity and the drive to take on a job in the outback in order to get my second year visa, not something I would have had the chance to do while back at home. But even when we’re job hunting at home, there are plenty of ways to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. It’s important to do this, even if the job won’t directly affect your career, because it gives us a greater understanding and respect for the roles others take on.

Here are 10 jobs I think everyone should try in their lifetime:

  1. Work in hospitality. Every single person should at some point have to serve others, whether it’s drinks, food, milkshakes or working on a supermarket checkout. It can be fun or it can be soul destroying, but it’s important to see both sides of the coin and to seriously understand the impact the way we treat those who serve us has on the world. It’s the domino effect – a simple please and thank you can mean the difference between good and bad service.
  2. Work with children, whether babysitting, teaching or nannying. It’s a learning curve and really helps you to understand whether you are ready for children of your own. It can be the hardest and the most rewarding job in the world. Sometimes you will feel like your head is going to explode, other times it will be your heart that is full to bursting.
  3. Work the shitty job. Everyone has one, that horrendous job you had to work in order to motivate you to move up, to change your career or to make a change. For me, it was working in a terrible milkshake shop that was so unprofessionally run that people were stealing from the tills. It’s what drove me to get the job at the newspaper and the rest is history.
  4. Work the job that changes you. I’m talking about the one that ignites a passion in you when you don’t know what to do with your life. The one that inspires you and fuels a drive to learn and grow within the role. This is the really important one, so many are left searching for something they truly love, but if you find it, it can change your world.
  5. Work for a good cause. Everyone in my opinion should volunteer at some point in their lives – whether it’s helping out at the Red Cross shop once a week, helping to run a kid’s after school session, working with the disabled or elderly, or volunteering overseas. Giving up my time at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand has inspired me to do more and was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
  6. Work the job that challenges you. We all end up working at least one of these, the job that pushes you to your limits, takes advantage of your good nature and willingness to work, the job that takes over your life. It’s always a horrible time when you realise how much a job like this has taken over, but it’s important because it pushes you to grow and to refuse, it helps you realise your limits and your worth.
  7. Work the fun job. Sometimes it might not pay well or it might be more of a hobby with benefits on the side of a main job, but it’s always a good one to have. For me, it was my role as the editor of an online magazine which gave me experience and free tickets to any festivals I wanted. Blogging is my latest fun job, it pays and fuels a passion of mine.
  8. Work the creative job. This is the one that really lets you be yourself and to use your talents to their full potential whether it is writing, building, designing, communicating, fundraising or whatever it might be. It gives you space to grow and to develop a new way of working.
  9. Work the career job. The one you really take seriously, the one you’ve been waiting for, the one you know will take you to a new level in your profession. The one you realise you’ve been working for all along.
  10. Work the change-of-career job. Not for everyone, but sometimes you get to a point in your life and you realise what you’ve been working for all along no longer matters to you. You realise that there is a new passion bubbling away inside you and you just have to follow it.

What types of jobs have you worked? What career would you like to get into? Have you had a game-changing career moment when you realised you had a passion for something else?

image