Finding a Job on Australia's Working Holiday Visa: Everything I Wish I Had Known

Originally I came over to Brisbane, Australia on a Working Holiday Visa with my boyfriend who was accepted into Medical School at the University of Queensland. He was on a graduate student visa, but because we hadn't lived together under one address for a whole year yet, I didn't even try to be on his visa as his domestic partner. Instead, I applied for the Australian Working Holiday Visa which taught me a lot about the process.

I want to preface this article with 'everyone's experience is different'. My experience is different from other people and these are the nuggets I took away that will help someone else.

Some background: It took me three months to find a part-time job, then three months to find another part-time job and then two more month until I found an office job. It was a struggle for me although I had other friends who found full-time jobs within a month of being in Australia. I know others who didn't find a job at all within the two years. It really varies.

It also depends where in Australia you are - Sydney, Melbourne and other tourist-heavy areas will have more Working Holiday Visa friendly openings. I think (and other Australians have told me) that Brisbane, Australia is an overall tougher market!

The Restrictions

On the Australian Working Holiday Visa, employees are only allowed to work for one company for 6 months. After 6 months you are not legally allowed to work there anymore. You either have to continue your 'holiday' as part of the Working Holiday Visa or find a new job. I had a grumpy Visa worker tell me that I could only work 6 months total on the visa, but that is not true. You can work up to 6 months with EACH employer and stay in Australia for 12 months total.

If you are a citizen of most European countries, you are able to stay in Australia for two years on the Working Holiday Visa if you spend X amount of hours working on a farm. This does not apply to American citizens.

CV over Resume

When you're ready to find a job in Australia make sure to create a CV instead of a Resume. In the United States resumes are a one-page document outlining previous jobs, however CV's are multiple page documents with various sections such as a summary, skills, and more. CV's tend to be more detailed in skills and accomplishments.

Resumes are common in the United States and many employers will not look at any resume over one page. In Australia, employers respond to CV's to get a more holistic look into an applicant's background. If you are used to writing a one-page resume (like I was) you will have to transfer over your entire resume into CV format if you want a chance at landing a job. I wish I had known that before I sent out tens of job applications!

I had an inkling that something was wrong with my resume when absolutely no one would respond to my job applications. Only after I attended a free meet-up on careers did I learn that people only submitted CV's in Brisbane (and perhaps more widely in AUS). I then attended a paid workshop to learn the correct formatting of a CV that would work for Australian businesses.

In the end, I ended up using a mix of her methods and a CV template I found online to land my job as a Marketing Specialist.

Get used to "Trials"

Jobs in the hospitality industry usually require a 2 - 3 hour trial at the place of work. You do not get paid for the trial period and you may not even be hired after you dedicate those hours to the trial.

I ended up working a couple hours at a frozen yogurt shop that NEVER got back to me even after I followed up multiple times. Australians have told me it's quite normal for places to get people to do trials, but then never end up hiring anyone. Free labor is great, eh?

That's not the case most times though! I went to a trail at a cafe and after my 3 hours, the manager sat down with me and asked me what days and times I could work. She scheduled me right there and then for my next couple shifts and got my email to send me more official paperwork.

You can be bumped off the roster with no warning

I worked at that cafe for about a month or two while looking for other job opportunities. At that point in time, I was also considering going back to get my Masters when I moved back to the United States. In order to apply I need to complete the GRE which was only offered in Sydney and Melbourne.

I asked for the weekend off with no complaints from my manager at that time - I fully explained why I needed to take three days off which for the most part I was only usually scheduled for one shift.

When I came back, I received a roster for the following week with my name still on it, but I had ZERO hours. I waited another week to get the next roster and again, zero hours. I called my manager to clarify the situation, but she went on to screen my call and text me instead that because I asked for time off she could no longer rely on me. She needed someone who would be more consistent - aka slave to the cafe!

Chatting to my Australian roommate after the situation, she said that that's how some hospitality jobs got people to quit. They don't want to fire you and have to pay you out so they give you zero hours until you are forced quit.


This was the best job board website and honestly I wish they existed in the United States. have a great algorithm that sends you jobs from time to time that are actually lined up to your interests and skills. They have all sorts of jobs and the most helpful site I found. They also have an app that I would check all the time.

This is site through which I ended up finding my marketing job - it was a temporary, part time position that I applied for the heck of it and I ended up working for 13+ months!

Finding a "real" job is not that easy

When you apply to a "real" job - those that are in office setting, people skip over your resume (CV) with a Working Holiday Visa because they know you will only be able to work for 6 months at a time. They will straight up scoff at your CV and ask why you aren't working at a bar or a restaurant.

They are also less likely to take you because you have no work experience in Australia. Once you have at least one job on your CV that has an Australian address, employers are much more likely to hire you.

When you go to bars or restaurants, you may also run into manager who will ask you about your visa and be unhappy that you only want to work for them with a 6 month restriction. It means they have to spend time training you, just for you to leave several months later.

This doesn't mean it's impossible to find a job, it just means be prepared to be turned away. There are places that don't mind the turnover and run strictly on Working Holiday Visa employees. Going door to door is always a good idea, although I admit its a bit scary!

Work Promo Events

I didn't know this existed at the time I lived in Brisbane, but actually found out about it after the fact. This is a great way to get cash for working several hours for a specific event, product or promotion. There are Facebook groups you can join to stay up to date on the latest promo jobs. This would be a great way to earn some side cash while looking for a more permanent solution.

Are there other things you want to know about finding a job on the Working Holiday Visa? Let me know in the comments!

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