As we mentioned in our Ask Us Anything post, we are asked about finding work in Australia a lot. We can’t speak for everyone on a Working Holiday Visa as, like any job hunt, experiences can differ wildly. Having racked up 14 jobs between us, we’ve experienced plenty of highs and lows so we’ve decided to share our job story and everything we’ve learnt along the way.
We’re splitting this post into the three main industries most backpackers like ourselves tend to navigate towards: hospitality, farming and office work. Here’s our Australian job story, hope it helps!
Jobs we’ve had in the industry: Wait Staff (Margaret River), Barista (Melbourne), Chip Shop Worker (Wilsons Promotory), Hospitality All-Rounder (Tasmania).
Best Experience: Waking up every morning in our remote wilderness hotel in Tasmania and watching the clouds roll in over the mountains.
Worst Experience: Sleeping in the same room as a freezer filled with chips when working at the takeaway in Wilsons Prom. It was so noisy!
How did we find hospitality jobs?
Hospitality work can be some of the most attainable for backpackers. You can find it in a myriad of ways, we used Gumtree ads, backpacker job boards (specifically backpackerjobboard.com) and handing out resumes. Putting yourself out there socially also helps with this line of work as many positions would be filled by recommendations from friends etc.
From our experiences Gumtree should be used as more of a springboard than anything. The jobs, particularly hospitality jobs, can get thousands of replies. So put out a post advertising yourself, and as well as responding to the job posts, make the effort to visit the businesses directly and hand in your resume face to face, Ryan found his cafe job in Melbourne within a day doing this!
Did we enjoy the work?
Hospitality can be a mixed bag but on the most part, we were very lucky. It’s easy work to pick up on the move and most of our positions lasted a couple of months or less as we passed through town. As it’s so popular with backpackers, hospitality jobs are a great place to meet people and earn some pocket-money at the same time!
How much do you earn?
We earned $18-23 per hour. Some jobs (although technically illegal) pay cash in hand and justify lower than minimum wage pay rates on the basis that you won’t be taxed on the money.
Try to avoid this if you can. You’ll be losing out on tax and superannuation which you are entitled to claim back once you leave. Unfortunately, the competition for backpacker jobs is pretty high so sometimes you’ll find yourself with few alternative options.
Jobs we’ve had in the industry: Free Range Egg Farm (Western Australia), Dairy Farm Hands (Western Australia), Orange Pickers (South Australia)
Best Experience: Seeing our final calf being born on the dairy farm. Knowing that we had raised over 1000 calves by hand was one of our proudest achievements.
Worst Experience: Picking oranges as the temperature soared to 46 degrees. Luckily we were sent home soon after!
How did we find farming jobs?
We found all three of our farm jobs using Gumtree. A combination of replying to adverts and putting up adverts of our own with some seriously fleshed out resumes worked for us. Another thing that really helped us out was moving out of the city and into a more rural community first, so when the right job came up we were ready to pounce. A lot of this work is filled on a first-come-first-served basis so you need to be ready to commit at a moment’s notice.
Did we enjoy the work?
No industry is more competitive or as wildly unpredictable for backpackers than agriculture. Most backpackers looking to extend their visa for an extra year will be competing for jobs and the high competition for these jobs unfortunately plays into the farmers hands, who are able to abuse and underpay workers desperate to fulfil visa requirements.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The farm work we have done in Australia has been an experience we would never of had at home and is something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
The dairy farm work was a fantastic experience for us both. No day was the same, we were constantly being challenged and were really blessed to work during calving season. Although the cows could be hell at times, we’ve definitely left with a new found respect and love for our bovine friends.
How much do you earn?
Again this differs wildly from job to job as the ball lies in the farmers court. Due to the remoteness of the work and high demand they can decide on the rate of pay that suits them. Depending on the work farmers will pay by the hour, the day or even by piece rate and if you don’t like it there’s probably a whole line of backpackers waiting to take the job.
We were paid a flat day rate of $200 a day on the dairy farm. We volunteered for food and accommodation on the egg farm and were paid an absolute pittance picking oranges at $35 a bin (around $100 a day two of us between us) which, unless you’re superhuman, isn’t a very profitable way to spend your day.
As a side note to our pay on the dairy farm, we later went to Fair Work, a government body who provide ombudsmen to negotiate workplace disputes, to contend our $200 a day pay at the dairy. We had worked over 18 hours a day everyday and were entitled to hourly pay. As we had kept a record of our time-sheets, we were both reimbursed thousands of dollars, it pays to know your rights!
Jobs we’ve had in the industry: Receptionist (Melbourne), Archive Assistant (Melbourne), Customer Service Operator (Melbourne), Sales Person (Melbourne), Student Services (Brisbane), Scan Centre (Brisbane)
Best Experience: We both worked separate archiving jobs and loved them. The work was boring but we had great work colleagues and Ryan even got a full homemade picnic spread for lunch everyday!
Worst Experience: Seeing a disturbed man walking naked through a shopping mall whilst trying to acquire sales for a corrupt college in Melbourne.
How did we find office work?
We have always limped into cities with dwindling bank accounts and a desperation to find work fast. From our experience in Melbourne we quickly learnt that signing up with recruitment agencies was the best way to secure a job. Submit your resume to all the recruitment agencies you can get your hands on and ask other backpackers where they had any success. Most agencies won’t get back to you but if you cans secure an interview with one or two then you’ll be sorted.
If you are especially organised, you can arrange a meeting with a recruitment consultant before you arrive. Try to schedule a meet as soon as possible. In our experience, work has started pouring in a week or two after our meeting but these weeks felt like forever when you have an empty wallet.
Did we enjoy the work?
Temp work is often varied, which keeps it fresh. In Melbourne we both hopped around various jobs before settling into longer contracts. You are often chucked in at the deep end, especially if you are covering someone off sick, but if you know your way around a computer and have a winning smile (and English accent!) you’ll get along just fine.
The longer placements mean that you can settle in and get to know your colleagues. This is great if you are new to the city or plan to stay for longer. Call centres are often where a lot of backpackers are based and tend to have a more social atmosphere.
The down side is that unless you’re qualified, the work that you end up doing is fairly unfulfilling. If you came away for an experience unlike anything you could have at home then this isn’t the best option but if you’re wanting to comfortably live in the city or even look for permanent residency then you really can’t beat it.
A lot of backpackers get roped into sales or ‘marketing’ as job ads like to call it. If you see a job advertised claiming to be social, get you loads of money and fun experiences then it usually means that they want you to sell something for them. This involves trying to stop people on the streets or knocking on doors.
These jobs are dubbed ‘Multi-Level Marketing” which is essentially a smoke screen for pyramid selling schemes. Pay is usually 100% commission based and you can go for weeks without making your first sale. This works great for some people but for most it’s a hard slog. Ryan lasted 2 days…
How much do you earn?
If you sign up with a recruitment agency then you can be expected to earn $22-30 an hour for admin roles and overtime rates can go as high as $50 an hour. It’s often paid weekly which is great and you get all your tax and superannuation on top. If you want to save or live a luxurious life in the city then it’s a great option.