Finding work in Australia on a working holiday visa can be difficult, time consuming and stressful. Thousands of young people arrive every year trying to find the same types of jobs – usually in the same cities, so competition can be fierce. For every person who we met that landed on their feet there were five more that were struggling and contemplating going home. The job market is different down under but one thing that is the same as back home is that a little preparation, a lot of perseverance and a willingness to be flexible will be major assets to finding work. I’m going to run you through the different job options you have in Oz and the best ways to get those jobs. I’ve also explained how Tim and I found our jobs in Melbourne at the end of the post.
The first decision you need to make before you start to look for a job is how you want to spend your year in Australia. Is your priority living in a new city and saving money or seeing as much as possible of the country? If you’re there to save then getting a career or office job and staying in one place for 6 months at a time will be your best bet. If you just want to travel then there are lots of jobs you can pick up as you go – some will just cover bed & board and others you will be paid for. Think hard about what you want to get out of your trip before you leave, then your job choices will be a lot clearer.
What types of jobs can you do as a backpacker on a 417 visa?
There are a whole host of different job options for working holiday visa makers. Opportunities will be different in big cities versus rural areas or beach towns, and competition will always be tougher in popular places like Melbourne, Sydney or Darwin. From working behind a bar, on a farm, in an office or even on a boat in the Whitsundays there’s so much variety of what you can do. Here are the most common options for working holiday makers – and a few not so common ones at the end!
Hospitality & Retail
This is a popular choice with 417 holders as wages in shops and restaurants can be a lot higher than back home (around $20 per hour in big cities, with tips). This kind of job is a great way to make money and meet new people without 9-5 working hours or the commitment of staying in one city. You don’t always need to have relevant experience and there are always a lot more openings around holiday seasons.
Check out your hostel notice boards for any job adverts and look on Gumtree or Indeed to find openings in restaurants or stores. Keep an eye out on windows as vacancies are often advertised here. Going door to door with your CV can’t hurt, but more often than not you’ll be told to go apply online.
This is another common option for 417 visa holders – especially the younger crowd that just want to stay up all night and party. If you want to work in a bar in Oz you first need to get a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate. You can do this online before you get to the country for every state apart from Tasmania (you have to do classroom training there).
As bar work is so popular with locals and 417 visa holders it can be hard to find a job – we met a lot of people who struggled to find positions in Melbourne. The best way to get a job is to visit bars and see if they’re hiring and check out hostel notice boards for openings – or even drop into the hostel bar and see if they’re hiring. Have digital or physical copies of your CV and RSA cert with you when you’re out and about in case you get chatting to someone or spot a vacancy sign. Some bars will ask that you email your CV to them, so have it ready on your phone.
Bar workers can expect to earn between $15 and $20 per hour plus tips (Oz isn’t like the US where you have to tip for every drink though, so tips won’t be as high).
This is a good option for young female solo travellers. Live-in au pairs get free bed and board along with a wage of around $500 per week on average (depending on the hours worked). Live-out nannies earn between $15 and $20 per hour.
Websites such as Indeed.com and AuPair.com can match you up with a host family, and you can also look on Gumtree. You’ll generally work Monday-Friday so weekends are your own to get out and meet people or travel to new places.
There are loads of cultural, fringe and music festivals going on in Australia throughout the year that require temporary staff. If you’re into music or performing arts, check out the dates of the various festivals and get in touch with the organisers about a job. This would give you the opportunity to travel, earn money and meet like minded people. You may need an RSA certificate if the job involves serving drinks so it’s a good idea to get your cert before you go.
The construction industry is huge in Australia and there are many jobs going for working holiday visa makers. It’s tough work in the Australian heat but you can start and finish relatively early so you have much of the day to yourself. To work as a labourer or in construction you’ll need a ‘white card’ which costs around $100 AUD and requires that you take a day of safety training. Here is a link to the online training. You’ll also need PPE and steel cap boots, but best to get them once you get there rather than adding weight to your pack.
Hunter Labour hire finds jobs for skilled and unskilled labourers, and I’ve heard from many people that they found their jobs on Gumtree. If you’re a skilled tradesperson you can also find quick and easy cash in hand jobs on Gumtree or Airtasker too. From what I’ve read Perth is a good place to find construction jobs but it can be difficult to find jobs in Melbourne so allow a little more time if you are looking here.
As an entry level worker you can earn from $19 per hour and if you’re a skilled worker you can earn over $30 per hour.
We’ve all heard the stories of lucrative mining jobs in Australia but the truth is that these aren’t so easy to come by, and you have to have some level of experience to earn the big bucks. But the good news is that mining camps also require grounds workers, bus drivers, hospitality workers, administration and different labourers including plumber, carpenters and electricians which are also well paid jobs that you can get with a little experience – some are even available to beginners.
FIFO (fly in fly out) mining jobs are really popular due to the remote locations of the mine sites. The workers will fly out to their work site and stay at a settlement camp for the duration of their shifts where accommodation and meals are provided for them, before they’re flown back home to rest for a few days. Shifts tend to be long (around 12 hours) but everything you need is provided, meaning you don’t really spend much money while you’re there and you can save quite a bit. This site will talk you through everything you need to know about FIFO mining.
Most mining jobs are in Western Australia, while some can be found in the Northern Territory and South Australia. Apply through Compass Group, Morris Corp, Spotless and Sodexo directly. Alternatively, travellers seeking more temporary work may want to apply for these positions through Mining Employment Services, Jobaroo, Indeed, or Hays Recruitment, which offer less stability but more opportunity to see different mine sites.
Pay varies depending on how skilled you are. I’ve seen sites that say you can earn around $5k per month as an unskilled worker, more as your skill level and experience increases.
Farm work isn’t just for WHV holders looking to extend their visa, it’s also a great way to travel the country cheaply. The agricultural industry in Australia is huge and farms all over the country are looking for help in return for bed, board and a small wage. There is a massive demand for these jobs and some farmers do take advantage of this so make sure you’re treated fairly and your living and working conditions are suitable.
There are many different jobs you can do on a farm. Fruit picking is popular and other general farm hand positions can be found here. You can find jobs on Harvest Trail and many farms advertise positions on Gumtree or hostel websites. You can also become a WWOOFer (WorldWide Opportunities On Organic Farm) and travel all over the country working for just bed and board.
Please be careful when you answer farm work jobs on Gumtree as there have been instances where young female workers were abducted by someone advertising on Gumtree. I don’t want to scare you but just be careful, trust your instincts and check out the place before you go!
You can earn from around $10 per hour and get free bed and board. This is a good option if you want to see the country and just need enough money to travel and live.
If you have a degree or some experience you can also get a 9-5 job and build up your CV while you’re on your working holiday. This is the best option if you want to save as you can potentially earn a LOT of money. As your visa has a 6 month limit in any one position you’ll most likely get hired on a 6 month contract. Some companies will offer sponsorship if they want to keep you on which gives you the opportunity to stay in the country without having to do the dreaded farm work.
If you’re in a creative industry like fashion, music or film etc then you might find it harder to get a job. Short term contracts aren’t offered as freely and there won’t be openings in all cities so research which ones are best for you to go to. If you are in the IT, recruitment or engineering field then you have a lot more choice of where to live and it’s easier to find contract work in these industries.
How to find a contract
You can find openings on Seek, Indeed, Career One, and directly through recruiters. Here’s a list of top recruitment agencies in Australia broken down by industry. I found my software development job through Huxley recruitment agency and would highly recommend them if you’re looking for roles in Finance / IT.
Salaries vary a lot depending on the industry you’re in but we found that the daily rates in IT were the same as in London. However our monthly expenses were about half as much so were able to save a lot more money than we did back in England.
Alternative, fun things
If you want to travel as much as possible and aren’t too concerned with bringing money home, there are loads of transient jobs you can do that will allow you to see Australia. As well as the above jobs you can often find fun and interesting things to do to make money and explore the country. You can work as a crew member on boats in the Whitsundays, a tour guide at popular sites, a scuba diving instructor at the Great Barrier Reef, a guide at a nature park, picking grapes at a vineyard or volunteering with animals. These jobs are usually found by keeping your ear to the ground and following any leads as you travel. Also check out the Backpacker Jobs Board, keep an eye on your hostel noticeboard (YHA hostels have a lot of openings posted) and look on the Harvest Trail jobs board for agricultural work.
How we found our jobs
Tim and I are both software developers and we were looking for jobs in IT; me in finance and Tim in a startup. We both found positions in Melbourne within around 3 weeks of looking and interviewing.
We started our search before we left for Australia. First we updated our LinkedIn profiles to say that we were looking for work and to set our location to Australia. Then we looked up popular recruitment agencies in Australia and set up some calls with agents to talk through our options. We called larger agencies with offices in Melbourne and Sydney as we knew we wanted to live in one of these two cities.
Steph – through an agency
I wound up getting a job through Huxley recruitment agency – they placed me in my last role in London and I had a great experience with them so I got in contact to see if they could find me something in Melbourne. They found a 6 month contract in one of the top banks in Melbourne and I was offered the position after an interview. I had to wait for around 3 weeks for the formal hiring process to be completed before I could start working at the bank.
Tim – applied directly
Tim was looking for a role at a startup and he found that it was harder to get these through agencies. Instead he googled “Melbourne startups” and found out that the travel site Rome2rio was based in Melbourne and hiring. We had used this website & app a ton while we were travelling – it’s the best way to find out how to get from A-to-B even when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Google Maps doesn’t show international routes so I had been using Rome2rio for ages – when they popped up on the search results it felt like fate! Tim went through a much more rigorous interview process, and once he was accepted he was able to start immediately.
I hope that has helped you with making your decision to do a working holiday visa, or calmed your nerves about embarking on the trip. Australia is a wonderful country full of so many things to see and do, and it’s not as intimidating as it seems from the other side of the world. If you have any other questions or need more advice about visiting Oz then feel free to contact me here, or on Instagram or Facebook!
And in case you missed them, don’t forget to check out the other parts of this series:
- Part 1: Getting Your Visa. A step-by-step guide to applying for your 417 visa – and a few things to watch out for before you do.
- Part 2: Setting up your new life in Australia. From creating your bank account and choosing a phone plan to getting tax ready – and anything else you need to work in Australia.
- Part 3: Finding Accommodation in Australia. What hostels are like, how the housing market differs from home and how to ensure that you get a good place in such a competitive market.
Thanks for reading,