Australia Living & Working Abroad

Finding a Job on Your Australian Working Holiday Visa: Melbourne Edition

January 20, 2016

Australia, seemingly more than other places, is a destination people often dream about but never actually make it to. I get it: it’s far from almost everywhere and so big that it’s either overwhelming to know where to start or difficult to make the time for. Perhaps most of all, it’s expensive.

Cue Australia’s working holiday visa — the best solution I know to all of those problems!

I moved to Melbourne on a working holiday visa a year ago. Some of my friends and family back home thought the idea of moving halfway across the world without a job sounded crazy — and it kind of does, especially if you haven’t worked abroad before. Trust me when I say that it’s a lot less scary than it sounds. In fact, for a first-time traveller looking for a long-term experience, starting out in Australia on a working holiday visa is ideal.

In Melbourne especially, hospitality jobs are among the most popular options for backpackers on a working holiday visa. After all, this is a city famed for both its foodie and nightlife culture, so there are plenty of jobs to go around! If you already have experience as a server, bartender or barista, finding a job should be as easy as dropping in with your resume and showing the restaurant that you know what you’re doing during a trial shift. While a lot of restaurants (and bars in particular) prefer hiring staff with experience, Melbourne is probably also one of the easiest places in Australia to get your foot in the door in hospitality, if only because the industry is so big here.

While many of my backpacking friends and I worked hospitality in Melbourne, I get that it’s not for everyone. Luckily, there’s lots of other work to be found around here, no matter what your background. For this post, I’m going to hand it over to some of my friends from way back when I first landed in Melbourne a year ago. Take it from them – this is what it’s really like to work and live in Melbourne on a working holiday visa!

JOE: ACCOUNTING

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What kind of work do you do in Melbourne?
Accounting! I promise it’s more exciting than it sounds — well, at least if you enjoy numbers as I do. I work as an Assistant Accountant for a nonprofit company helping keep track of government grants and philanthropic donations along with the corresponding costs of the social programs.

Did you have trouble finding work in your field? How did you go about it?
It is definitely a little more challenging looking for a professional job than a typical part-time job. However, there are usually opportunities that arise if you have the diligence and patience. I worked with a few recruitment agencies and one was able to place me in a position within two months.

What are your hours and pay like?
Monday-Friday, 38-40 hours per week. Competitive pay, however no holiday or vacation pay and the rate is slightly lower due to the fact I’m working through a recruitment agency.

What’s been the most expensive part of living in Melbourne?
Drinking and eating. This is a bit of an Australian thing and not consigned to Melbourne. However, due to the multitude of places to eat and drink, it can definitely be an expensive part of living in this city.

I know you’re looking into getting sponsored. How is that process looking?*
So far, so good. I’ve done a great job stepping up at my position at the non profit and they are about to start the process of submitting an application to issue me a work visa!

*Since I asked Joe these questions a couple of months ago, he’s been sponsored and promoted. He’s well on his way to becoming a full-on Austin-to-Melbourne transplant — proving that Australia’s working holiday visa can turn into a whole lot more than casual work for travel if you want it to!

More than other travelers, you’re based pretty long-term in Melbourne. How do you fit in travel?
Weekend trips. Even though I don’t get vacation or holiday pay my job still allows me to take unpaid days off. So far I’ve visited Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. I also took a side trip to Thailand and Bali, but that was before I had a job. Once I get sponsored I will have vacation time and be able to take longer trips.

What do you love most about making Melbourne your home?
This city feels like it has a soul. Just walking down a city street I get the sense that the city is alive and it makes me feel more alive. You can’t walk a block without passing a vibrant cafe, a great happy hour spot or a restaurant from any part of the world you can name. If city life isn’t enough, each suburb of Melbourne has its own personality. From the beach town atmosphere of St. Kilda, to the quirky streets of Fitzroy, to the hole-in-the-wall bars in Brunswick. Want to get completely out of town? The Dandenong Mountains, Yarra Valley Wineries, and world-class Great Ocean Road are only a train ride or short drive away. Last but not least, this is one of the greatest sport cities I’ve ever been to. There’s the Australian Open, the F1 race, the Cricket World Cup, 90,000 fans at some AFL matches, two local soccer teams, friendlies between premier league teams, two local rugby teams and I haven’t even been here for horse racing season. In 2015 Melbournians get two public holidays for sporting events — enough said!

MICKAELA: CALL CENTERS

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Tell me about your job in Melbourne.
I didn’t work much in Melbourne. I got there with a bit of savings and as any traveller would tell you, I underestimated how much alcohol, eating out and hostels would cost me. After about three months of doing nothing I was in dire need of an income so I started working at Acquire Learning. I was doing outbound telephone sales selling diploma courses to people who were looking for work. After about two months I quit that job and worked in a café for cash in hand for about a week. I was getting $13/hour and doing dishes so that lost my interest pretty quick and I returned to being unemployed. After a couple months of doing nothing once again I started working for Australian Unity Healthcare in the inbound customer service call center. It was a temporary contract so once that finished after five weeks I started looking for work again only to work at another call center for Australia Post for about a week.

Did you have trouble finding work in Melbourne?
I never had trouble finding work in Melbourne as long as I made somewhat of an effort. Melbourne is one of the easiest cities to find work in which can also be a bad thing because it allows lazy people like me to wait until the last minute, when you can’t even pay your rent, to look for work.

What were your hours and pay like?
Acquire Learning was $20/hour plus commission, the café was $13 cash in hand/hour and Australian Unity Healthcare was $24.50/hour.

How expensive have you found living in Melbourne?
It is quite expensive coming from Canada, although as long as you work it is super affordable because the salaries are so high. I payed about $180/week for my rent and could spend anything between $20 and $100 per week on food depending on how much I ate out.

What do you love most about living in Melbourne?
Everything. It is the kind of city that you don’t visit, you have to live there for a while to feel its true beauty. It is a very cultural city with tons of things to do. There are a lot of festivals, markets and an endless amount of shops and restaurants to go to. The people are friendly and you meet a lot of eccentric characters that add to the atmosphere of the city. Melbourne has become my second home and I have nothing but good things to say about that city. If you have the chance, get a share house somewhere in Melbourne and make it your home for a couple months — you won’t regret it!

JACK: LABOR

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What kind of work do you do in Melbourne?
Laboring.

How did you find your job? Did you have any trouble getting one?
Online, mainly through agencies advertising work on sites like Seek and Gumtree. The work wasn’t always ongoing, mainly contractual or at best I would get between 3-4 days a week. However there were times where I would have no work for weeks, mainly because I don’t drive or have a trade.

What are your hours and pay like?
Between $20-$25 casual rate but could increase depending on working hours and weekends.

Have you had any exciting or unusual opportunities through your job?
My first job was to set up and take down the concerts for One Direction and Foo Fighters in the Etihad Stadium plus I did demolition in offices on 53rd floor of Rialto Tower.

What’s been the most expensive part of living in Melbourne?
Based on sharing a room in accommodation that was quite rundown — which was the case for most other backpackers I knew — rent.

What do you love most about Melbourne?
The variety of bands, DJs and other live music the city has to offer!

PIN IT!

Working in Melbourne, Australia on a working holiday visa

Have you worked in Melbourne on a working holiday visa? Share your experience in the comments! If you have any questions, feel free to email me, too.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Maddy January 21, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    This is such a great post and will be so helpful if (when) I get to do this too! I will have to come back and re-read this when the time comes!! Thanks for sharing!
    Maddy recently posted…10 Dutch Foods to Try in AmsterdamMy Profile

    • Reply Katie January 21, 2016 at 11:54 pm

      Thanks, Maddy! Glad it’s helpful 🙂 Here’s to that being a when and not an if 😉

  • Reply Kathryn February 16, 2016 at 3:51 am

    I’m from Melbourne so interesting to read others experiences.

    One thing disturbs me. Joe said he earnt less than the full time rate working through an agency. I’ve done a lot of contract work and you should always get paid more if you work as a casual than full time. I don’t think this is always the case in other countries but, in Australia, the rate should compensate for no holiday or sick pay. Also, the agency fees should be paid by the employer. it’s good that Joe got a full time job but I’d hate to see other people get ripped off.

    Oh, and hospitality work — I know a few cafe owners and they are usually willing to take on inexperienced people if you show that you are enthusiastic and reliable. Of course, experience is good but someone who turns up to work on a busy Saturday morning will always beat the person who calls in sick because they are hungover.

    • Reply Katie February 16, 2016 at 4:46 am

      I think that what Joe meant is that because he went through a temp agency, he wasn’t earning the same amount as a full-time employee of the business — which I thought was standard for temp work? He’s since been sponsored and is earning a full salary now. Definitely interested to hear your take — I wouldn’t want anyone to be ripped off either! I totally agree with you on the hospitality side — the cities actually seem like a really good place to get started in the industry since there are so many positions available. As long as you’re willing to work, they’re usually keen to hire!

  • Reply Sasha February 28, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    I love the way you formatted this post with interviews with the different trades! great idea! The call center/door to door/fundraising job is very popular in Melbourne, I always saw them in the street downtown. Don’t you love Melbs? No reason to be afraid to try out a working holiday. I lived in Australia for 2 years and have an article that could be helpful for anyone who is here and wants to know more about the different working holiday jobs and pay you can expect: http://doyoueventourist.com/how-to-find-working-holiday-jobs-down-under-jobs-and-pay/
    Sasha recently posted…Working Holiday Jobs in New Zealand | Jobs and PayMy Profile

    • Reply Katie March 7, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Thanks, Sasha! I absolutely love Melbourne. Could totally see myself back there one day — for the warm months, at least! 😉

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