Top tips for finding backpacker jobs in Australia
Finding backpacker jobs in Australia is high on the list of priorities for any traveller over there. It’s an expensive country to live and travel, unless you have the opportunity to rack up those Aussie dollars. The good thing is – it’s also super easy to get jobs, to earn large amounts of money and to save a lot fast once you start working. I can’t recommend it enough that if you plan to travel over there for any length of time, you get the working holiday visa. It’s aimed at those between 18-31, can include up to 4 months of study time over there, and just requires 3 months of working in a rural area to qualify for a two year visa. (UK citizens) I spent two years over there and it was absolutely incredible – I’ve missed it every day since I left.
During my time in Australia, I worked in Darwin and Melbourne twice each, and in Central Queensland for my “farm work” to get my second year visa. My jobs around the country ranged from sales and hospitality, to au pair, ticket seller and receptionist. Darwin was the first place I worked in Australia – it was also the first and only time I’ve run out of money while travelling. I saved up a lot of money before travelling, but the East Coast was hard on my wallet and by the end, I was desperate to start working and earning again. Any backpacker who has reached the instant noodles and can barely afford rent moment – will know how rubbish it is. So here are my best tips and advice for helping you to avoid reaching this stage.
Read these posts:
- 10 free things to do in Sydney
- How do I afford to travel so much?
- My top tips for getting a second year visa
How I found backpacker jobs in Australia
Now while I want to stress it is a lot easier to find backpacker jobs in Australia that pay well, than it ever would be in the UK. It still takes a bit of work – those who find jobs are not just lucky. They are the ones who put the work in and make the effort to stand out. While Australia’s system may be more relaxed than the UK, you will find that a lot of whether you get the job relies on in-person first impressions and personality. So let yours shine, and don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.
One thing I really loved was the real range of jobs that are open to backpackers. You’re not always limited to the usual backpacker jobs in Australia – barista, bar work, hospitality or retail. There’s a whole world of office jobs, sales roles that take you all over the country, farming, fishing, construction, pearling, fruit picking and au pair work. You don’t have to stay working in the same roles you’ve always worked in, why not branch out and learn a new skill or have a once-in-a-lifetime experience like when I worked on a cattle farm?
Jobs in Darwin
When I knew I would be arriving in Darwin in need of a job, my first port of call was Facebook. Before I even boarded the flight, I put out a shout-out looking for contacts there and asking if anyone knew of jobs. By the time I landed, an old friend contacted me to say he knew of a job at a bar and to get down there quick with my CV.
Within an hour of checking into my hostel, I had reorganised and updated my CV to highlight hospitality work and printed off countless copies. I walked the length and breadth of the city handing out CVs in person, chatting to managers and making a good impression. It worked! Within two hours I had two trials and two new jobs. One job as a waitress in a party bar, and the other at a nearby events centre. When I returned to Darwin a year later, I had two jobs within my first week there, so it wasn’t just a one-off.
Jobs in Melbourne
Finding jobs in Melbourne was a bit tougher as there’s more competition there. However again, straight away I was on Indeed & Seek to find jobs advertised online and apply for all. I also rang about several jobs and handed out CVs at a few places. Both times, within a few weeks I found sales work which paid very well and saw me travelling across the whole of Melbourne. And on my second time in the city, I found work as a waitress at the number one rooftop bar in the city, which again, was very well paid and meant I could pay my rent out of my tips.
Top tips for finding backpacker jobs in Australia
Do some scouting before you arrive
Ask any friends who might be there or who are in Australia as often they have contacts – use Facebook! 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.
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. I found my “farm work” cattle farm job in Central Queensland through Gumtree which qualified me for a second year visa.
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. In Darwin there is one that is free to join called Top End Consulting, and another good one for tradesmen was Skilled, which managed to find work for several of my friends.
Update your CV and make it relevant
If you’re looking for bar work, just stick your bar/restaurant experience on there. I don’t recommend lying, but embellish a little if needed, usually references from a different country will not be checked. Hospitality is easy to pick up on the job and you will be trained in anything you don’t know.
Get a white card or RSA
Anyone who works on a construction site in Australia will need a white card. Anyone serving alcohol, or working in a place that does in Australia, will need an RSA. Do your research and make sure you get the one you need – and only if you need it. If you’re set on working construction, get it ahead oft time to avoid slowing the process. But for RSA, don’t rush and spend unnecessary money. In the Northern Territory, it took 25 minutes online and cost me $10. In Melbourne, it cost $40 and meant going into a centre for several hours to complete the course. Check online for the cheapest and best offers for these at the time you are planning to complete the course.
Look good and have a big smile on your face
First impressions are everything. Especially when looking for backpacker jobs in Australia. 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.
Commit to the job and be there to stay
If they ask you how long you’re staying in town, always keep it vague and make it clear you’re there for the season, or the long haul. No company wants to train someone up to have them disappear two months later. I stayed for around 3-4 months each time I worked so I could save money. I always tell employers four months minimum, or even mention vague ideas of sponsorship. If you are there just short-term, either you will have to lie about this, or look for casual work instead.
Speak good, clear English
This is super important when you go for a job. Employers will always favour those who have a good level of English and can chat fluently with the customers. Particularly if you’re working hospitality! If your English is less good – I recommend looking for job roles that are not front of house – perhaps work in the kitchens if you wish to stay hospitality. Or look at fruit picking or manual jobs that don’t require such a high level of English.
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear
This is very important, especially if you are going for a trial. In my hospitality roles I had to pick up a black skirt and top plus black shoes, but luckily this outfit worked for many of my jobs so I could get a lot of use out of it. If you’re working for construction or fruit picking companies, you may need boots, hi-vis jackets and much more. Set money aside for this and always check the backpacker Facebook groups as often those leaving will sell theirs on.
Don’t get the trial?
Don’t lose faith. Perhaps even contact the company to ask for any feedback so you know what you struggled with for next time. Keep asking around, keep handing out CVs to everywhere and ask friends who are already working if they can put a word in for you or listen out for jobs that come up. Many backpacker jobs in Australia are actually shared through word of mouth. I got two of my jobs this way and know lots of other people who did the same.
When you do get a job – what do you need?
Make sure you have your RSA or white card, tax file number, back account and superannuation set up ready so you have them ready to hand them over and will get paid straight away. You will also need an Australian mobile number so you can set all of these up. I recommend Telstra for a SIM card as they work all over Australia, even in the most rural of places.
Pay it forward and help the backpacker community
Don’t forget those that helped you! Once you have a job, use it for good and help other backpackers in a similar situation to find work. Across my two jobs in Darwin, I managed to find jobs for about 15 other people and that’s not even including the people who replaced me when I left. Spread the love and help everyone you can.
What if you really can’t find a permanent job?
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. 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.