So, you’re heading to Australia?! Bonzer!
Hey guys! Mark here again, this time to give you advice on how to land a backpacking job if you are heading Down Under! Also, some tips on what kind of jobs are available, from fruit picking to bar tending and everything in between!
Working Holiday Visa
Presumably you have your Working Holiday Visa sorted? If not, no worries! Head over to the Australian Governments official website. It shouldn’t take too long to fill out but be careful to take note of all important information and save all emails and passwords. They’ll come in handy for reference later. Your WHV shouldn’t take longer than 32 days to process, but sometimes it might be processed in just a matter of days. When searching online for your WHV in Australia, be aware there are a number of companies who may offer to do the application work for you. It is arguably easier but they will charge you an added fee just to pass on your info to the actual government website. In my opinion, it’s better to save a few bucks, put in a little extra time and get it sorted yourself. You’ll know you’ve been approved when you receive an exciting email saying ‘you have been granted’ – woop! Your visa must then be activated within 12 months from the date it was granted, and you do this by simply entering Australia. Once you have entered, that’s when your 12 months of life changing experiences will start!
So you jump on a plane, land in Australia, and order yourself a congratulatory beer. Then the bill comes…. $9!? WHAT?! This isn’t even a full pint?! What the heck even is a Schooner?!
You, my friend, are going to need job. It can be daunting to be in a foreign country looking for employment, but fear not, there are plenty of opportunities for all regardless of your experience and background. Backpackers are the backbone of Australian labour, we are relied on heavily in the agricultural industry and it’s not uncommon to hear a familiar accent in a restaurant or bar. Aussies love backpackers as employees! Keep an open mind and embrace new opportunities that come your way, and you’ll never struggle for work.
How to find a backpacker job?
Now call me old fashioned, but I believe the most successful way to find employment in cities is the old fashioned way; Print out some CV’s and get walking! It’s easy to ignore an email and for your CV to go to the bottom of the pile but you standing in front of a potential employer with a smile just says ‘Hey! I’m here and I’m ready to work!” They’ll see you’re confident and eager plus its a great opportunity to make a positive and lasting impression.
Personally, I found most of my jobs in Australia through friends and backpackers who stayed at my hostel, so get chatting and ask around. The saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” is definitely true when backpacking in Australia.
You can search online on for backpacker job boards or job agencies, they are usually keen to help out as they will take a small commission from your pay in return for finding you a job. Some of the jobs may not be glamorous but hey, if you have rent to pay, beggars can’t be choosers!
Backpacker Jobs in Cities
If you’ve already established your career or are looking to get a competitive job in your desired field, be aware that the challenge with a WHV is that you can generally only work six months with one employer. This can put employers off hiring backpackers for skilled jobs as they see it as counter-productive to spend time and money on training when unfortunately you can’t stay in your role for longer than 6 months.
After hundreds of CV’s and weeks of trying to find a job in marketing, I realised the ‘max 6 months with one company’ WHV rule was making it very difficult for recruiters to consider me. I spoke to friends of friends and managed to get a job in a Customer Service role for a global company. It wasn’t the ideal role for my CV, but it was a great way to make new friends and improve other useful skills. I spoke to management often to show my eagerness and they ended up offering me an internship to work one day a week with the marketing team. I learnt a lot and it looked great on my CV. When I came home from my travels I applied for marketing roles within the same company and secured a job in London, thanks to my WHV experience. So even if it’s not your dream job, make the most of it, try to be proactive and you never know what it could lead to!
If you are heading to one of Australia’s many gorgeous cities to work in, your choices for employment are plentiful. Hospitality is the number one choice for many backpackers; this will keep you busy in the evenings so instead of spending your money at the bar, you can earn it! Plus it isn’t uncommon for people to tip in Oz, so work hard and smile wide to get the bucks rolling in. Training will be included but experience would help, all you will need to get started is a Responsible Service of Alcohol Licence (RSA) before you start work. This will be at your own cost (anywhere between $24-$100 depending on package and state you wish to work in) and takes no more than a day in a classroom; it can even be done online nowadays.
If you are Irish and looking for hospitality work, head to an Irish bar; German – the Bavarian beer café. You get the idea. Work with what you got!
If you are aren’t afraid of getting your hands dirty, getting a general labour job is a great way to earn good money, even more so if you do have a trade. Electricians, plasterers and bricklayers get very fair pay and are often in high demand.
For work on construction sites you will need to get a White card, which will include a short course and a small fee of around $35.
Call centres and charity collection agencies are always hiring, so if sales and high-pressure environments are your thing then you may thrive in these roles. Hours can be long and competition fierce, but if you aren’t afraid of hard work then there is plenty of money to be made here.
My favourite job working in a city was at a backpacker travel agency. And believe me, there are loads to choose from. A good agency will offer base rate pay as well as commission. So the more you sell, the more you earn. As a bonus you will learn the best way to travel around Australia and often will get free trips yourself known as ‘famils’ in order to familiarise yourself with products you sell. Who doesn’t love free travel?! I got free trips over Australia and New Zealand, saving me a fortune!
Rural Backpacker Jobs
If you are planning on avoiding the hustle and bustle of cities, kicking back with Skippy the kangaroo in the Outback and finding work in a more rural location, you may want to change tactic in your job hunting. The Outback is HUGE and going door to door isn’t going to work here. Checkout sites such as Gumtree and even Facebook for those harder to reach jobs and again, there are multiple job sites set up online now days, a quick Google search will bring up the most popular.
Working hostels are also a fantastic option, they will help you organise jobs while offering a place to stay so if you are lucky you will get a job with your friends if they stay in the same place!
You can find a variety of jobs in the Outback. If you fancy becoming a cowboy/girl checkout ranch work, you could find work at a homestead (a campground mixed with hotel/ fuel station/ restaurant) or even farm work picking and packing fruit.
This is the most popular choice for those wanting to get a second WHV which requires a total of 88 days worked in a rural location to be eligible. This will permit you another 12 months of Aussie livin’! You may have heard a few stories, but don’t let it put you off! That’s the best thing about it… the stories! I would have never thought about working on a farm, and looking back I’m so glad I did. It was so random, so different and some of the stories I have from the odd jobs I had in the middle of nowhere are now my best memories! Check online job boards for farm work and other sites like indeed, Gumtree, Facebook etc. Also, don’t forget to speak to backpackers in hostels. They might have just come back from working on farms and have tips or contact details still. We actually found our favourite farm job by asking a friend back home who did his farm work the year before. He gave us a phone number, we called and asked the question and ended up doing a days work planting seeds and picking peppers for an old Aussie couple. They were impressed with us and phoned their Son-in-law who was a manager of a giant vineyard. Very lucky! But if we didn’t ask and didn’t call, we’d have never got the opportunity.
Looking for farm work? Do plan ahead and don’t expect to find fruit picking jobs slap-bang in the middle of picking season. All the spots will most likely be filled and you will be left with the sucky jobs no one else wanted. Get there pre-season and take your pick (pun fully intended). Also, be willing to work hard. Banana humping may sound funny, but carrying bananas around in 40-degree heat is killer!
Another option, if you’d rather have accommodation included with your work, is WWOOF’ing (Willing workers on Organic Farms.) Although often unpaid it will provide you a free place to stay and sometimes meals. Work is light, often only a few hours a day 5 days a week depending on the employer. It will also count towards your 2nd WHV. There is a joining fee to the WWOOF organisation but once you have it a booklet is provided with hundreds if not thousand of employers all over Australia with verified reviews. Pretty sweet!
Backpacker Jobs with Accommodation
Working as an Au Pair is a popular choice if you are looking for work with children. It’s also a popular choice as it often includes accommodation which is a great way to save for your future trips around Aus. Here’s what my friend had to say about her time as an Au Pair: “I worked as an Au Pair in New South Wales for 4 months and took care of 2 young boys. The family put me up for free in their spare room, provided me 3 meals a day, and even lent me their car to drive the boys to school in. They went on a holiday to Queensland and paid for all my expenses to go with them! I got to sail the Whitsunday Islands for free! Australians are so welcoming and were happy to take me on even though I didn’t have much experience with children. All that was required was to provide a background check and have a valid visa. If you have the chance, be an Au Pair!”
Not a fan of getting up early to travel to work? Then work where you live! Easily one of the most interesting jobs I had was in a hostel. I worked reception from 11pm-6am twice a week and it covered the full cost of my rent which made it so much easier to save. I ended up staying for 3 months in the same hostel which helped me fund the rest of my trip. Most hostels will offer a free or discounted room in return for a variety of jobs including reception, organising entertainment nights, organising trips and travel, housekeeping or working the hostel bar.
Check out hostels in Australia. You never know, it could be your future work place!
Final Top tips
- Sort your CV before you arrive and email yourself a copy. If you don’t know what job you are going to go for just yet keep it broad with your skills and background, then make it more relevant once you know what job you want to apply for.
- You will need a Tax File Number (TFN) to work in Australia, which will be used to pay tax while you are there. Apply for this online as soon as you can once you’ve arrived. Once you leave Australia you can claim a large majority of your tax back depending on how much you have paid while you are there. Think of it as a saving account!
- Working 88 days (3 months) does not guarantee you a 2nd WHV, you still need to apply and be approved, but provided you have completed required work legitimately and have your payslips to prove it, you should be fine.
- An Australian WHV is only granted once in a lifetime, so be sure to make the most of it! It is a Working Holiday Visa after all!
So, you are all set! Australia is a fantastic country to live, work, learn something new and earn some serious money along the way for future travels! It has a thriving economy and a super chill, laidback life style. There are a lot of backpackers heading to Australia, but heaps of jobs are also waiting to be filled! So keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to all opportunities that come your way and you’ll never struggle to keep your bank account topped up.
About the author:
Mark is a full time traveller, part time writer and occasional amateur videographer. He’s been working his way around the world since 2011, including two years in Australia.