Backpacking | My ultimate guide to finding a job when travelling Australia
You’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 Coast.
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.
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!
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
While 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
How did you find a job in Australia? Any top tips for finding work? How did you find your second year visa job?