Travelling to a new country can be daunting, confusing and is never 100% straightforward, especially if you intend to stay there for an extended period of time and work. If you go completely unprepared, you may feel bombarded by new information, rules and regulations, which is why it’s good to be in the know about a few things before you set off on your adventure and to get yourself together soon after you touch down on new soil.
During my 2 years in Australia I had 4 different jobs between my travels. I was a nightshift baker, I worked on a koala sanctuary for my regional farm work, in a coffee shop and in a hotel buffet restaurant. I found the hospitality industry in Australia the best option for my personal needs, as the hours and wages were decent and depending on location, work was readily available all year round.
So, if you get organised, do your research, be flexible and choose your location wisely, you are on your way to successfully finding a job Down Under.
1) Apply for the right visa
First things first, get your visa. There are tonnes of different visas for people entering Australia. The most popular is the Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417), for backpackers wanting to travel AND work. I picked this visa for it’s length and flexibility, however, do keep in mind that there are still limits and restrictions to watch out for including your age (18-30) and the length of employment allowed per employer (6 months max).
Some aspects will also vary depending on your nationality, for instance, only certain passport holders are entitled to this visa and the option of applying for a Second Working Holiday Visa. As a British citizen, I personally found the application process straightforward. I applied online for my visa months in advance and got a positive response within the hour.
2) Set up an Australian bank account
I did the majority of this before even touching down on Australian soil. You’ll need one if you are planning to work and it will also save you from spending a fortune withdrawing money from a foreign account. I went with ANZ. You can arrange most of this online, then all you have to do is nip into your chosen branch and pick up your card once you’ve arrived. Other major banks include: Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac.
3) Get your Tax File Number
If you’re planning on working, then you’ll need to obtain your Australian Tax File Number. Again, this is a quick and simple online job that you can do once you arrive in Oz.
4) Get phone savvy
If you are planning on being in Australia for a long time, it’s probably best to get yourself an Australian sim card. As a backpacker, I would highly recommend going with Telstra. Although one of the more expensive options, it’s the most widely spread network and from experience, some of the more remote locations do only have Telstra services available. Other popular networks include: Optus and Vodafone.
5) Do your research – the internet is your friend
Whilst living in Adelaide, my main method for finding hospitality jobs in the city was to use Google, Facebook and TripAdvisor to suss out the café and restaurant scenes (I found this better than using job hunting sites as many places don’t even advertise on them). I personally found this method to be quicker and less tiring than physically walking around searching, although you should get yourself up and about and do a bit of that too. When I was looking for remote hospitality work in other states, I also used this technique. I found the Luxury Lodges of Australia website very helpful for inspiration and insight.
From here I created a checklist of all the places I wanted to apply to work at. Next;
6) Update your CV, compose a general cover letter and get yourself out there!
If possible, tailor your CV to the industry you are looking to work in. I also created a template cover letter which I could quickly edit to suit each job I applied for. Once you have done this, it is just a case of getting yourself out there. Armed with your checklist, CV and cover letter template, you can then email each place individually – and don’t be shy about it. I must have emailed about 60 different contacts each time I wanted to apply for a job. Alternatively you can also walk around handing out your CV in person.
7) Be prepared for a lot of disappointment
Out of all of my emails, only about 5 would get a response. Don’t let this get you down and discourage you.
8) Don’t be afraid to live and work remotely
My personal experience of living and working remotely on Kangaroo Island and in Strahan, Tasmania was equally, if not more eventful than any other time I spent in Australia. Going remote was intense, often frustrating, confronting and claustrophobic, but I can safely say that it was never, ever dull.
It lead me into the most unexpected and unlikely of friendships, I witnessed and experienced the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright bizarre like never before, it taught me to be more patient and understanding towards people – but at the same time, it’s made me realise who and what I will and won’t tolerate. It also encouraged me to question my entire existence, helping me grow tremendously as a person.
Of course, this might not be the case for everyone and you may be sat there thinking I’m talking a load of rubbish, but I do think that anyone with the slightest hint of curiosity should consider giving it a go, because you could very well end up as surprised as me. If you also happen to be working, it is a fantastic way of saving money for future adventures. Speaking of saving money;
9) Try not to be sucked in by an agency
In the early stages of your working holiday, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to know exactly where and how to get the ball rolling. The idea of an agency making your trip as simple as possible – by completing your paperwork and finding work for you, is understandably an attractive option, especially for rookie travellers. This almost always comes with a fee, something an incredible amount of people are actually willing to pay, to avoid the ‘hassle’ of doing these things for themselves.
An example and something that seemed to be a recurring problem, was people relying on these agencies to find work for them. I worked alongside people who paid hundreds – in some cases over $1000, just to be in a job, when I had successfully applied for the exact same position for free. The only difference? I took the time to update my CV, spent a day or two sat on Google and pumped out dozens of generic emails enquiring about work.
When I chatted about it with these folks, every single one of them had been shocked and unaware of how simple it could be to find your own work. They also commented on how these agencies had given them false and misleading information about their job roles.
So do keep that in mind when you start looking for work. Have a little faith in yourself and your own abilities. Be patient, do your research, read travel blogs and forums. I firmly believe that you are able to get yourself around Australia without being ripped off by some company claiming they can do the things that you’re sure as hell capable of doing yourself.
10) Coincide your plans with the seasons
Since day one, I carefully took into account Australia’s seasons whilst making any plans and decisions. I lose the ability to function when it get’s to anything over 30 degrees, so I did my Outback tour before the miserable summer heat and flies truly kicked in. I also did my farm work in winter, which undoubtedly saved me from death by sunstroke.
Try to save travelling until off-peak season. It is generally cheaper and with less tourists around, you will easily find yourself on beautiful, deserted beaches and driving on wonderfully empty roads.
- Summer: December to February
- Autumn: March to May
- Winter: June to August
- Spring: September to November
Leading up to Christmas is a great time for backpackers to find seasonal work. Yes, it potentially means that you’ll be working on Christmas Day and over New Year, but with public holiday pay rates, you won’t be complaining when pay day rolls around!
11) Consider buying a car
Obviously this is not feasible for everybody, but after much deliberation I decided that it was totally worth it for the extra freedom. My little gold Toyota Echo was cheap to run and safely got me around the dirt roads of Kangaroo Island and across 4 states. It also meant that I could do things in my own time, see places that I’d otherwise miss using public transport, visit places off the beaten track (literally) and carry a great deal more in terms of luggage.
Moreover, it opened up more possibilities in terms of my flexibility with remote work locations. Without the car, I would have struggled to get to Kangaroo Island and around Tasmania.
12) And finally, don’t get too comfortable
As humans, we are programmed to dislike change and it is all too easy to get into a comfortable situation, be it that you have found somewhere nice to live, got yourself a great circle of friends or a steady job. I met folks who came to Australia with the intentions to travel, but actually ended up doing very little travelling at all, settling in one place for so long that when the time came, they were almost fearful of moving on. With that said; keep on keeping on, it will make you a much stronger person in the long run.