Kiwi Working


Building a Career – and a Life – out of a Working Holiday

After two years of teaching English in Spain and travelling 27 European countries, my heart was torn in two: half of me wanted to continue my adventure, seeing the world, discovering new countries, while the other half was ready to work on my career and begin the dreaded process of settling down and becoming a ‘real’ adult. Moving to Australia for a working holiday seemed like the perfect way to reconcile these conflicting internal factions.

The dream was to find a contract job in the field I had been pursuing for years, digital marketing, spend three to six months living in Sydney and building up experience, then travel Australia and surrounding countries before returning home to California to start the rest of my life.

I was warned to lower my expectations about employment in Australia: although the job market is strong here, naturally, many employers prefer to hire employees who can work beyond the six-month working holiday visa limit. As a result, most working holiday makers choose to look for casual work in retail, food service or hospitality, which, with Australia’s high minimum wage, will earn you the money you need to travel the country. I figured that worst case scenario, I would take a temporary job in one of those fields and enjoy a brief stint in the country.

But I stuck to my idea, and, after about three weeks of tenacious job hunting, I found a job at the recruitment company people2people doing exactly what I wanted, digital marketing. On top of that, I had great coworkers, autonomy to explore my creativity, and a plethora of opportunity to improve relevant skills like Photoshop and jQuery.

It’s true that finding a job in a specific field on a working holiday can be tough, so here are a few tips I’d share:

  1. Arrive in the country with experience! Impressive skills and background will go a long way in making you a more attractive job candidate.
  2. Search for temporary/contract jobs. Many job listings specify that a company is looking for someone to work for a set number of months. As your working holiday visa limits you to six months with one employer, you’re more likely to be considered for a short-term contract than for a permanent position. Job boards like Seek usually allow you to filter jobs by duration.
  3. Approach recruiters. Recruiters can keep an eye out for jobs that might suit you, but remember that this is a two-way relationship. As they provide a free service, you can’t simply send them your resume and walk away without putting in further effort.
  4. Keep an open mind. Accept that you may have to settle for a job outside of your field or one that is only loosely related to it.
  5. Don’t get discouraged. Any job seeker has to send out a seemingly endless number of resumes before securing a job, and the job search may be even more difficult for you as a working holiday maker. It may take time, but through some hard work and perseverance, you can find work that suits you.

They say that the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, and despite my initial plans to stay in Sydney for three to six months, I’m still here one year later, with a work visa that allows me to stay beyond a working holiday year. These pieces of advice apply to New Zealand: stay focused and you will turn your holiday into real life.

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