How to Get a Job in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa

February 11, 2016
How to Get a Job in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa

I’d been told that as long as I didn’t care what kind of work I did, I’d have no trouble finding work once I got to Australia. “Don’t be fussy, that’s the number one thing,” said a 20-something British traveler at a bar in Thailand. “Don’t be fussy and you’ll find a job easy.” I’d talked to a lot of people and read a few blogs by travelers who had found work in Australia on a working holiday visa, so I thought I knew what to expect.

One blog made getting a job seem easier than finding a cab on a Friday night. The writer had resumes in hand when she got off the plane. The day she passed them out she got a trial shift at a restaurant.

If everything was pain free about living abroad, we’d never build much character, and we would never learn the value of our achievements

I landed in Melbourne feeling confident. While determined and excited — I wasn’t planning on being “fussy.” But I found getting a job more challenging than I had anticipated, and became frustrated. I have been accessing all the traditional outlets, such as Gumtree and Seek, as well as emailing, calling and speaking to prospective employers.

Now, already two weeks in Melbourne, over 40 applications emailed or delivered in person, and no jobs, trials, or interviews. I’m reflecting on how I perceived the experience would be. In the midst of my job search, I’ve began to notice four important aspects of finding a job on a working holiday visa.

How to apply

“It’s always better for them to see you in person,” someone told me when I asked for advice on applying for jobs.

With this in mind, I printed out ten CVs and distributed them at hotels and English language centers around the Central Business District (CBD). While this strategy may work for some industries, most people I spoke to received my request with what I can only describe as a gentle yet confused face.

“We don’t accept CVs in person anymore, love,” one lady told me with a regretful look.

Another woman was almost shocked. She let out a slight cackle and said, “Ah! We stopped accepting CVs in person years ago!” She then instructed me to email HR.

My realization was that unless I wanted to continue wasting my time walking around, I had to be more deliberate with the industries I delivered my CV to in person. While cafes and restaurants might prefer this, other companies–especially corporations–use online databases for hiring.

Experience matters

I assumed that if experience matters, a college degree is enough to get a job at a café. However, in Melbourne–with so many backpackers and locals with restaurant and café experience and hospitality qualifications– actual, practical experience trumps education.

With my experience and education I’ve found myself in an awkward spot. I have a college degree and some professional experience. But not enough to convince a company that with my six-month limit of working with the same employer, I’m still worth their time.

Most people I’ve explained this to here have told me I should lie. One Aussie told me to just say I worked at a bar when I was 18. Since I don’t feel comfortable doing this, the advice I’d give to you would be to get a job in any bar or restaurant, even a few hours a week. This way you can feel confident in their experience without lying.

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Strategically plan your arrival season

While passing out resumes at restaurants and stores this week, it’s become apparent: I arrived during the wrong hiring season in Melbourne for the work I’m looking for. Retail hires in bulk for the holiday season. Then, they begin to let employees go as business slows. A woman at a store recently told me six people had been let go that week. Things aren’t very different in the restaurant and bar scene, either.

Employers told me that hiring for summer had been filled in December. I arrived when it was convenient for me, coming from the United States. What I failed to take into account was the idea of a hiring season.

It takes time

Based on blogs, especially the experience of the girl who was hired the day she arrived, I thought the process would be much faster than it has been. Unless I happen to walk into an establishment where someone has just walked out that same day, it is unlikely that I will have such a short waiting period.

When applying through temp agencies, as I have been for event staffing positions, I can’t expect to get called the day I email in my CV. I need to be hopeful, persistent, and most of all, patient.

Although still jobless and my savings are starting to dwindle, I haven’t lost hope. Finding a job is not impossible, but it won’t be as easy as I had anticipated. I consider each experience training for the next, more difficult one. At least I’ve learned persistence. And that is no small skill.  If everything was pain free about living abroad, we’d never build much character. We would never learn the value of our achievements.


Related Reading

Why Working in the Australian Outback is One of the Best Things You’ll Do
Settling into a Temporary Home in Australia
Adjusting My Expectations of My Working Holiday in Australia
Jillian’s Take on Health, Romance and Safety in Australia
How to Experience Eastern Australia on a Budget
12 Things That Surprised Me About Australian Culture
5 Australian Phrases You’ll Want to Know
On Working Holiday: Flipping Burgers in Australia
Van Life and Stealth Camping in Australia

How to Get a Job in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa top photo credit: Allison Yates

Have you worked in Australia on a working holiday? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

About Allison Yates

Allison is a Chicago-based writer covering travel, women and society in U.S. Midwest, Latin America, Ibiza. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

4 thoughts on “How to Get a Job in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa

  1. Gemma
    January 21, 2018

    It is comforting to hear that I am not the only one! I feel like I have sent hundreds of job applications and have heard back from just one company! Part of me wants to jack it in and move on somewhere else!

  2. February 11, 2016

    I did a working holiday in Oz a year ago. Your experience sounds so similar to mine! I read all the blogs and was really confident before I got there too. The economy is in kind of a down-turn and it’s a lot harder than it used to be, for sure.

    My advice would be to make as many friends as possible, and work your connections. Most jobs I got were because I knew someone either who worked there, or knew the boss. They recommended me, and I got the job even without much experience.

    Good luck!

    • Allison Yates
      February 12, 2016

      Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who went through this. Thank you so much for the advice, you make a great point. I’m hopeful that as I start to know more and more people it will become easier. I’m glad to hear it worked out for you. Cheers!

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