Job hunting tips
Where should I go for best job prospects?
Sydney, Melbourne and the typical backpacker trail along the East Coast are popular for a reason—these are awesome cities and spots to discover. However, you’ll face a lot of competition. Don’t hesitate to go off the beaten to avoid being backpacker #354 dropping off a resume at the trendy beach bar.
If you’re aiming for a fruit-picking job, it’s best to be in the right place at the right time—check out the harvest charts to find job opportunities. Be prepared to work in relatively remote towns. Eh, after all, without a busy nightlife and pricey restaurants, you can be sure you’ll save some of your pay cheque! Afraid to feel lonely on the harvest trail? Stay in a working hostel to meet other backpackers and get a job easily.
Dead set on living in a major city? Consider living or working in a suburb for lower cost of living and more job opportunities. As long as you can get around easily (check public transit options), you’ll get the best of both world—easy access to urban fun and conveniences and a quieter, cheaper life environment.
Finally, take into consideration transportation options from home to work and from one job to another. Backpackers with a car or a campervan have it easy (except when it comes to finding parking spots downtown!). If you don’t have a vehicle, try to arrange rides with those who, like you, work their way around Australia or chose to live a bit further from the worksite.
When should I look for a job (and when should I apply?)?
Don’t wait until you’ve run out of money!
Never, ever start looking for work when you’re down to the last few hundred dollars because it can take a while to find a job (and get your first pay cheque!). “A while” can be a few weeks which isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things—but it will feel like the most stressful time of your life if you don’t know how you will pay for your food and bunk bed.
As a backpacker, you should be flexible enough to move where work opportunities are better. Sure, you’re loving your Gold Coast paradise, but when the town’s three businesses aren’t hiring there isn’t much you can do.
Learn some strong budgeting skills before your trip, network with other backpackers and locals, be patient and time your job search to avoid a last-minute job search and subsequent regrets when you end up accepting a poor offer because you’re stuck.
Apply at the right time
Looking for a restaurant job? Don’t drop off your resume during the lunch or dinner rush (i.e. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 7 p.m. till late). This would be a major faux pas and no one has time for you anyway.
Keep in mind Australia’s major holidays where managers may take time off:
- Mid-December to late January – traditional summer holidays, long school break plus a few public holidays (Christmas, New Year’s Day, Boxing Day)
- Late June to Mid-July
- Easter – shorter holiday but many Australians take time off to enjoy the last few days of summer
You’ll meet WHV holders who complain, at the hostel or online, that they just can’t get a job. And they dropped off resumes everywhere, they swear! Problem is, they showed up red-eyed when they got up at 3 p.m. They were on the way to the beach so obviously, they were wearing flip-flops. That and they smelled of booze (last night’s party, you know…). Moral of the story is, look professional. Dress for the job, look motivated and make a good first impression. You can change into your swimsuit after the interview…!
Where can I find job opportunities?
Good news—there are tons of ways to find a job, both online and offline.
(Psst… if you’re looking for a fruit-picking job, read How to find farm work!)
Use these Australian job search websites to find opportunities before or during your trip:
- Jobactive (especially for fruit picking jobs)
- Backpacker Jobs
- Bluecollar (for trades and skilled jobs)
- Buy Search Sell
- Engineering jobs
- APS Jobs (government jobs)
- Jora Australia
- Jobnet (IT jobs)
- Bridge Consulting (business and education)
- Frontline Retail
- Aussijobs (for Western Australia)
Using local job listings and bulletin boards
- Local newspaper classifieds: Every city or town has a local newspaper and there’s going to be much less competition in print job ads. Classifieds can be a weekly supplement or a daily feature. Local newspapers are typically available in public libraries and small businesses (laundromat, coffee shop, diner, etc.). Check Online Newspapers for a list of all newspapers published in Australia.
- Hostel bulletin boards: Whether there’s an official community board or just a local employer who taped his “help wanted” ad to the front desk, call now to beat the competition!
- Supermarket bulletin boards: There may be a few interesting offers pinned between 4WDs for sale and food drive announcements.
- City website: An upcoming special event? The local team may need volunteers or paid staff for a few days!
Registering with staffing agencies
There are plenty of staffing agencies (also called “placement agencies” or “employment agencies”) all over Australia and many WHV holders find casual or contract work through them. They can even offer long contracts (e.g. maternity leave replacement) that might bridge to a permanent position.
The biggest international agencies are Adecco, Kelly Services, Hudson, Michael Page, Randstad and Manpower. Some specialize in a niche or industry. For example, Frontline has different branches—retail, hospitality, health, education and construction.
You can also register with the following agencies:
- Hospoworld/Pinnacle people (mostly for experience hospitality workers)
- Workpac (construction, mining, natural resources, etc.)
- Healthcare Australia
- Mining employment service
This is not the full list! Use the Yellow Pages to find staffing agencies near you.
Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia prevent staffing agencies from charging you a fee (the client, i.e. your employer, pays it). In South Australia you may have to pay a fee if employment is found for you. Enquire before registering.
Joining Facebook groups
Everybody is on Facebook, even hiring managers. Join dedicated job search groups in your target cities or search for “job opportunities”+”name of city,” “job offers”+”name of city.” You can also use keywords like “networking” or the name of your field.
Watch for employment scams and pushy multi-level marketing representatives!
Networking with LinkedIn
LinkedIn is basically Facebook for professionals. Depending on your profile and industry, you might get contacted by recruiters all the time or not at all. To give it a try, make sure to use descriptive keywords in your profile. Change your location just before the trip and set it to “Australia” to show up in local search results.
You can also be proactive and contact professionals in your field, join relevant groups or “follow” companies (sounds stalkerish but hey, it’s the 21st century!).
Note that LinkedIn is very useful to find hiring manager names to address your cover letter!
Dropping off your resume
Pounding the pavement with a stack of printed copies of your resume is still perfectly acceptable for retail or food service jobs. Franchises and big-box stores may ask you to fill out their own application on paper or online but small businesses generally have a more flexible hiring process.
A few tips:
- Venture outside the “backpacker ghetto” or the main street. You’ll survive if you don’t work in that restaurant mentioned in all backpacker forums that receives 20 applications daily.
- Prepare your “elevator pitch”—especially if you’re not a native English speaker—and simple answers to common interview questions, like “what are your main skills?” and “why would you like to join the team?”
- I’s best to hand your resume/application to the manager (and it’s a chance to make a lasting first impression!). If they aren’t around, ask when the best time to come back would be.
- Develop an application tracking system to stay on top of your job search—for example a simple Excel template where you’ll enter the date you applied for the position, the name of the company, address, phone number, email, name of the manager and the various stages of the recruitment process, if applicable (phone call, interview, follow up, etc.). If you responded to a job posted online, take a screenshot of the original offer or save the page.
Develop a networking strategy
Many positions are filled without ever being advertised online or in print. This is known as the “hidden job market” or the “invisible job market,” millions of openings where candidates are found directly through networking.
Okay, so you’ve just landed Down Under and your network is you and your backpack. No worries, mate, time for a strategy!
Ideally, if you’re serious about working in Australia, you should start networking before your trip. Psst… Pvtistes.net is a good starting point! Head to the forums, leave us a comment and make yourself known! Backpackers love sharing tips and advice. You may not be handed a job but you could learn where and how other WHV holders got lucky.
In the meantime, chat with people in real life as well. Do you know anyone who has travelled to Australia? Friends, schoolmates, relatives? Ask around for info!
Once you’re in Australia, keep in mind that you do belong to a community—WHV holders. And like in any community, members enjoy helping each other out. Ask those working how they found their jobs, let people know you’re looking for opportunities in XYZ field or ABC city. And remember to help out as well when you get more knowledgeable about the local job market!
For skilled positions, you will have to contact local professionals. Networking events are an option but you could end up in a room full of job seekers, a fun bunch but hey, you need a hiring manager. Volunteering in your field may be way more productive. Not only could you get a great reference but you might also connect with potential employers!
For more info on finding work in Australia, join us on the forum!