Ok, I know the ‘working’ part of an Australian Working Holiday Visa doesn’t sound fun, but it’s definitely a big part of it. And it definitely can be awesome!
Before I committed myself to 2 years of making my way around fabulous Australia, I was pretty worried about the work situation. I’d joined a number of Australia backpacking groups on Facebook and had seen the troves of people asking for work and getting nothing back, and it scared me. I was scared of coming out here only to find myself skint and on a flight back home faster than you could say ‘goon’. How to find a job as a backpacker in Australia was a big concern for me.
But I’m now on the second year of my working holiday and have done 2 ‘normal’ temp jobs. I decided to stop travelling and top up my bank account in Brisbane and Sydney and managed to find jobs within a week in both cities. Finding a backpacker job in Australia can seem like a mammoth task but if I can do it then so can you! I wanted to share my tips and experiences with you to help you find work so you can carry on exploring Australia and cracking on with the more ‘holiday’ part of a working holiday.
Just a little note before we crack on, this post is based on my experience of finding an office backpacker job in Sydney and Brisbane and not farm work. But I do have some handy posts for this part as well which you should definitely check out **shameless self-promotion**.
You might also like:
- What’s it like working on a dairy farm in Australia?
- Everything you need to buy to convert your car into a camper
- How to spend 3 days in Melbourne
- Budget friendly and free things to do in Sydney
- Budget friendly and free things to do in Brisbane
Create an Australian Resume
Back home in the UK it’s called a CV, but over in Australia it’s called a Resume. To be honest, I don’t know what the difference is but you’re going to need to create a resume to send over with your job applications. For me, it was a slightly different format to my CV but it’s not too complicated. As always, try and keep your resume to no more than 2 pages (even if that means making the margins tiny) and keep things to the point! Be sure to check out websites such as Seek and CareerOne for layout tips and examples.
I’ve also found that employees and recruitment companies really want to see a local address on the top of your resume to show you’re close by. If you don’t yet have an address, I would consider asking a friend living there if you could use their address, or alternatively a hostel address. As you get work in Australia, make sure you keep your resume updated as being able to show that you’ve worked in Australia before makes it easier for the next time around.
In general, and the way I have my Aussie resume laid out goes like this:
- Personal details – name, address, phone number and nationality at the top in the header.
- Your objective in a short paragraph underneath – this section is used to showcase how awesome you are and what kind of work you’re looking for.
- Key skills in bullet points underneath – be sure to link these directly to the job you’re applying for and amend them accordingly.
- Previous employment details – including a summary of what your role involved.
- Education history – I just literally have a summary of my subjects and grades here.
- Hobbies and interests – keep it short and just to a list
- References – I used to have ‘supplied upon request’ here but I changed it and added actual details here because I have nothing to hide by my previous employers being contacted for a reference.
Always add a cover letter
Argh, the idea of writing cover letters might make you want to destroy your laptop, but you gotta do it guys!
Guys, you got this!
For me, this is the most tedious part of applying for jobs, but you really don’t stand any chance at all if you don’t include one. As with any cover letter you’ll ever do in your life, it has to be linked directly to the job description and you have to show how perfect you are for the role. It also helps if you can do some digging about the company and say why you want to work for them.
In terms of the layout, I use a couple of different formats because I’ve seen both used in online cover letter examples specific to Australia. The first format is the same as back home whereby you have 3 or 4 paragraphs showing why you’re ideal for the role. The second has a simple opening paragraph which ends with something like ‘ I’m confident my following skills and experience make me a strong candidate for the role of x’, followed by bullet points showing your skills for each of the requirements, and then a closing paragraph.
I haven’t found one format to be any more successful over the other so I think it’s best to just use your judgement. Just make sure the bullet point format doesn’t make you look lazy and you still put the work in! I know writing a cover letter for each application can be tough, especially if you’re like me and don’t really mind what work you get, as long as you get something but job hunting is competitive, especially for temporary roles.
It helps if you have some work experience before you arrive
This sounds obvious but I came out here super eager to try something new and do jobs I’d never normally do back home. But where have I ended up? Back in an office job. I don’t want to make that sound like a huge negative though as I’ve liked all the jobs I’ve had so far in Australia, but more of a reminder that finding work where you have no experience is damn hard.
You see, I loved the idea of having a go at working in a bar, mixing up cocktails and learning something completely new, but this has never worked out as I’m always trumped by people who have that kind of experience. But I’m quite possibly beating those who want an office/admin/reception role because I have that experience. So if you’re looking for something different to add to your Australian experience, I would recommend trying to get some work experience in that area whilst you’re still back home.
I’ve got loads of exprience, what do you mean?
Look online for jobs
When I was searching for information about where to find jobs, a lot of people say to just trawl the shops and hand out your resume but I had no luck whatsoever doing this. In fact, I found that the majority of these businesses have an online application process so they won’t even take resumes in store any more. So at this point I decided to look online which was much easier, and ultimately a more successful way to go.
These are the top websites I would recommend:
- Recruitment agencies such as Hays and Robert Half as well as some smaller local ones
Not only are these websites great for finding jobs but they make it easy for you to apply and for employers to find you. Be sure to create a profile and add your resume to each to help with your search. I had a couple of people reach out to me to see if I was still looking for work after viewing my profile so make sure you fill in all your details on there.
Get in touch with recruitment agencies
Recruitment agencies are essentially the middleman between you and a job so you want to impress them and build rapport. Recruiters interview candidates so the companies don’t have to so always dress smartly, turn up on time and have the documents with you that they need to see.
I found both my office jobs via recruitment agencies. My biggest tip for finding temporary work as a backpacker is to not just submit your resume to recruitment agencies but to actually call them and speak to someone. It can feel a bit nerve-racking but don’t freak out and go for it!
Real life me cold calling recruiters
As you’re searching through jobs online, you might notice contact details of the person who’s created the advert. In this case, pick up your phone and call them. Think of some questions to ask about the role and be sure to mention that you’re in the area and are looking for work. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have an interview with them which is awesome as they don’t put candidates forward for roles without meeting them first.
Be flexible with work times and roles
I kinda go with the approach of ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ when it comes to looking for work in Australia. This sounds a bit depressing but if you’re able to start work immediately and you’re not too picky about the role, it will open up more opportunities. I think you’ll find it a lot harder if you only want part-time work or a certain role as it’s luck at the time with vacancies.
Keep your phone on loud
This is essential if you’ve managed to bag interviews with recruitment agencies. Quite often last minute jobs come up with immediate starts. And by immediate, they can be for a role starting the next day or even that same day. Recruitment agencies usually give a job to whoever answers the phone first so make sure you don’t miss any phone calls!
Try your best to live in a central location
Another thing I’ve learnt from working through recruitment agencies is that they sometimes offer jobs to people based on their location to the vacancy. This is a bit of a pain when it comes to finding a place to rent within a suitable budget but staying close to the CBD can help. I lived within 20 minutes of both Sydney and Brisbane’s CBD and I really think this helped me. Of course, it’s more important than anything to live within your means so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find somewhere based on this.
Look for seasonal work
At busy times of the year such as Christmas, lots of companies need more staff to help. This mainly applies to retail and hospitality roles but there can be a lot out there so it’s worth taking a look around this sector. Tom managed to get a job working at a big department store for the Christmas period and he was one of about 80 seasonal employees. Keep an eye on their websites for when seasonal applications go live. The only thing to bear in mind when it comes to retail and hospitality is that the work might be at various hours and include weekends.
How seasonal are you feeling?
RSAs and White Cards
For work in hospitality or retail or where alcohol is being served or supplied, you need to get an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) card. This involves attending a course and passing it in order to get your card. An RSA is only valid for the state in which you get it, so if you get an RSA in Victoria, you won’t be able to use it in, say, Queensland. When I was looking into hospitality work, the online applications often ask you to upload your RSA certificate so be sure to get this in advance if this is the type of work you want. Take a look at the state government website to find the relevant information for you.
Similarly, if you’re a construction worker, you’ll need a White Card in order to work in that sector in Australia. Again you will need to attend a course and pass to be issued with one. You can take a look at the New South Wales information on White Cards here to get a better idea about them.