So, you’ve done all the preparation. You applied for your working holiday visa well in advance of your trip and you’ve found a place to live. You even have your tax file number set up and a bank account ready and waiting to receive a salary. Was it easy to get to this stage? Probably not. Still, you had better be prepared for the most difficult task of all – finding work in Australia.
I’ll be honest, I thought it would be easier than it is. When I first arrived, I was lulled into a false sense of security. I had what people call ‘beginner’s luck’. After a couple of weeks staying with very generous and hospitable friends, I found a great little flat share near the beach in Sydney’s Manly suburb and it wasn’t long before the only recruitment agency I’d signed up with called me about an interview.
I’m an editor by trade and it just so happened that there was a temporary part-time position available at the National Art School coordinating publication of their annual year book. Not only did this sound like a fun job, it was good money and would actually do my CV a few favours. It would be the first time I was single-handedly responsible for an entire publication.
I went to the interview, met the head of development and the job was mine a week later. Easy as pie!!
Sadly, all good things come to an end and before I knew it, I was back to unemployment. I threw myself into looking for work with more gusto than a Duracell bunny. In the space of two weeks, I’d applied for over 50 jobs and, yes, there was a freshly written cover letter accompanying each application.
I’d also called over 30 recruitment agencies, met with three of them, completed tests on my attention to detail, typing speed and proficiency in Mircrosoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and sent my CV to every publishing house and brochure-producing organisation I could find.
The result as I write this post, three weeks after my last day of work? Sweet FA…
Possibly the only thing more disappointing than not having found a job has been the close calls. Recruitment agencies have informed me that I would have been considered for certain roles except that someone with specific ‘data entry’ or ‘reception’ experience was deemed more suitable. A hospital requiring editorial assistance sounded interested until I informed them of my visa restrictions. And, most recently, I had an interview for the role of sub-editor on one of the world’s biggest-selling magazines, only for them to admit that, unfortunately the ‘6-months with each employer’ limitation was less than ideal.
Trust me when I say that it’s beyond frustrating to have such enticing roles dangled within your grasp, only to have them snatched away because of something completely out of your control – the laws on immigration.
So, what’s next for me?
I’ve decided to set myself a time limit…
Coming over to Sydney on a working holiday visa at the age of 30, to my mind, makes it all the more difficult. I have a career behind me and I know I could be putting my skills to good use. I’m also concerned that if I spend the next 9 months behind a bar or shop counter, it could count against me when I eventually return to the UK and try to step back onto the same rung of the career ladder I jumped off to explore the world.
I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that perhaps there’s good reason for the age limit for working holiday visas. Older people with work experience would be better off working for good pay in their home country and just visiting other places on holiday.
I’m here to see the country, not to work in a dead-end job that barely covers the rent. My sister’s coming to visit at the end of November and, if I haven’t found a job by then, I’ll throw the rest of my savings into travelling in Australia before heading back to the UK.
Update: Six weeks after my last day of work at the Art School, I got a 6-month contract for a full-time editorial role. It just goes to show that patience and persistence (if you have the finances and sanity to support it) eventually pays off!
Update: I still intend to visit these places, but will have to wait until my current contract ends or else take shorter trips when I have paid leave.
With such a vast country to explore and just 9 months left on my visa, it’s hard to know where to start, but a couple of trips have stood out and I will do whatever it takes to make sure I see the following places…
Firstly, I would love to take a trip up the Gold Coast. This section of eastern Australia has so many points of interest it’s overwhelming to think about. Obviously, there are the beaches at Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Surfer’s Paradise where I would love to try out surfing. The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary lets you cuddle koalas, and who could resist a 4WD tour of Fraser Island and Lake McKenzie. At Langmorn you can experience country life while staying on a working cattle station, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the Whitsundays listed as having some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Finally landing in Cairns, I’m eager to see if I still remember anything about scuba diving as I explore the world’s most famous diving destination – the Great Barrier Reef.
Another region that stands out for me is the Northern Territory. If my pale English skin can cope with the intense sunshine, I would just love to check out Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, where aboriginal rock art, swimming in plunge pools and crocodile spotting are among the activities on offer. At Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park you can hire a canoe and paddle downstream, and just south of here is Mataranka, which has a thermal pool surrounded by tropical forest. After camping overnight at Banka Banka station, it’s just a short drive to the rocky natural wonder that is the Devil’s Marbles. Alice Springs is the obvious next stop, followed by some camel riding! On the journey to King’s Canyon, there is an impressive hike through the ‘Amphitheatre’, ‘Lost City’ and ‘Garden of Eden’. And, saving the best till last, a visit to Uluru wouldn’t be complete without a sunset BBQ dinner and a night sleeping in a swag beneath the stars!
The very lovely people at Blacks Leisure UK recently sent me a pair of sturdy Salomon walking boots and a North Face shoulder bag – two products that I feel would come in very handy as I explore Australia.
The bag is durable and waterproof with loads of useful storage compartments, including a snug home for my net book. It’s a traveller’s dream bag. Whenever I backpack, I always wear a shoulder bag containing my valuables that I can keep with me on long bus journeys when my backpack is stored out of sight. Last year in Colombia, I was mugged, and I haven’t found a replacement in over a year! I can’t wait to see how this bag fares, and I will be reporting on it later this year.
The boots are also a much needed addition to my travelling wardrobe. While travelling in South America, I spent a lot of time hiking in the Andes. My old boots got me almost the whole way up Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador and along the stunningly beautiful Lost City trek in Colombia and Santa Cruz trek in Peru. Sadly, they completely fell apart during the W trek in Chile. I’m really looking forward to strapping these new Salomon Women’s Quest 4D GTX Boots to my feet and exploring the Northern Territory with the secure knowledge that they will be well protected from the elements. Watch this space!