Working in Australia – myths and reality
You must have heard a lot of things about Australia, both positive and negative. Let’s do a bit of reality check.
In Australia, employers basically give you a job you didn’t even apply for!
Friends, backpackers, travel forums, the media and even your grandma swear they know someone who know someone who got a high-paying dream job Down Under less than two hours after landing—and without speaking a word of English! You’d settle for finding a job a day or two after landing but it shouldn’t be too hard, right? Everybody said so!
The thing is, people love to talk about the “unicorn” but most backpackers won’t be this lucky—and the story is probably edited or twisted anyway. The employment rate may be lower than in your home country and wages may look incredibly high but keep in mind that you’re a newcomer without local references and cost of living is high too.
It’s good to be optimistic but don’t get your hopes too high. Expect an adventure with good and bad surprises to avoid being discouraged as soon as things don’t go your way.
I don’t speak English that well, so fruit picking is basically my only option…
Of course, decent English communication skills can only help you as a candidate. However, employers are also looking at your work experience, flexibility, skills, and ability to fit into their business culture. Speaking a foreign language (e.g. your mother tongue) can also be an asset. Finally, sometimes, you’re applying at the right time when an employer desperately needs help so the fact you don’t understand the local accent that well isn’t a big issue.
Not interested in the fruit-picking experience? Don’t give up on the idea of finding a job in another industry. Read on, we’re offering a few other options as well as tips to improve your English skills.
It’s going to take me a couple of months at most to be fluent in English!
It’s always hard to assess and measure language proficiency but realistically, chances are you won’t be fully bilingual after a year in Australia. Your English will improve but it takes time to become bilingual—seven years, according to experts.
Practise your English skills, take classes if needed, be curious and willing to learn but don’t expect to become an English teacher by the end of your stay.
I have enough savings, so I don’t need a job until I’m down to my last $200!
Australia is expensive. As of 2019, it has the 18th highest cost of living in the world, with New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Taiwan and Spain well behind. A night in a hostel is $25 minimum, food ain’t cheap, fun costs money and it’s a big country so getting from point A to point B is expensive as well.
It’s wise to leave with as much money as you can but don’t wait until your funds run out to look for a job—finding one may take longer than expected.
I don’t need to leave home with savings, I’m cheap and resourceful
There are plenty of ways to travel in Australia on a shoestring—you can volunteer with HelpX, WWOOF or Work Away for room and board, stay with a Couchsurfing host for free, use rideshare services, become a driveaway and deliver someone’s car while enjoying a free rental, survive on ramen to save on groceries… Still, there’s stuff you need to pay for and even if you’re very frugal, you will spend money.
There are always going to be backpackers who brag about travelling all around Australia for $500 or $1,000. Maybe they edited their stories, maybe they got lucky, who knows. However, we do hear regularly from WHV holders who left with a very small budget and had to go home earlier than planned because they simply ran out of money. Do you want to be stressed out about finding a job ASAP because you can only afford Australia for a couple of weeks? Do you want to be that backpacker who has to beg relatives for a plane ticket home?
Leave home with as much money as possible. If you haven’t reached your target yet, delay your trip for a few months—Australia will always be here.