Finding Work as a Backpacker in Sydney.

Finally, a useful blog post that isn’t just me rambling about social mishaps and travel drama, crazy times. Before I came here I heard from so many people that finding work here is easy, simple. So many people do it, so it can’t be that difficult right? Wrong! I’ve been here a month and this morning was the first real prospect of getting into work.

It isn’t as though I have been partying my time away, draining my savings into bars and clubs and winding up on the street drinking goon out of a foil bag. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few messy nights, but the majority of my time and energy has been spent cooped up in hostel rooms, and now my shared lodge in lovely Surry Hills, on my laptop trying to find work, and failing dramatically. Just as a side note: Surry Hills is a beautiful part of Sydney and if you find yourself looking for decent acommodation close to the centre but far enough away that you can relax in a quiet park and avoid the chaos, check this area out.

From what I have seen there are two types of backpacker in Sydney: the party types and the people who want to stay in Australia working on something they enjoy and saving for future travel. Both have to work casual jobs for pennies, the reality is that although the government are trying to welcome more and more people into the country, there is still generally very little respect from employers for people coming in on temporary visas. I began job hunting months before arriving, researching and emailing graphic design agencies in search of meaningful work I can use as experience for empoloyment back home and spend my time in Australia doing something I love and benefiting a good studio. I also spent a lot of money sending out physical copies of my portfolio. This got me absolutely nowhere.

After a similarly disappointing persuit of photography gigs at local events for bands and festivals and a consultation with the jobsearch agency I signed up for, I lowered my expectations and began applying to retail positions and Au Pair work if that didn’t go well; resulting in another dismal ending. Now, after sending emails to packing jobs, fundraising jobs and base-level kitchenhand positions, and a couple of terrible interviews, I have bagged myself a gig in a little cafe making sandwiches and no-doubt recieving snide comments from the hard-faced manager and being on the recieving end of pranks and jeers of the typical overly charasmatic head chef. But I’ll be getting paid and the hours seem reasonable, and I don’t necessarily have to go home in five weeks time once I’ve burned through my entire pot of savings; a somewhat hopeful outcome.

The unfortunate moral of the story is to lower your standards straight away, it might be a little soul destroying at first but it’s what you’ll need to be able to stay here. You can continue to look for good work elsewhere on the job. I now have an internship and freelance work lined up with good, Sydney-based studios and it’s all looking good for the future, I just wish I had done it this way around to begin with.

There are lots of sites and apps to find work in Australia, some of which have provided reasonable options for me and many of the other backpackers I’ve met so far. Here’s a couple of the best sites I’ve used, although I still think that turning up with a physical copy of your resume and a big grin on your face beats any email or phone call. Just make sure the places you’re visiting are hiring first, or you’ll just wind up wasting a whole load of energy on nothing.

First up is Gumtree:

One of the more sketchy sites to use, but your applications are processed by real humans the whole system seems a lot more natural, and there are constantly so many ads being uploaded, you’re bound to find something. Many of the jobs advertised on Gumtree are one-off odd jobs or casual work, so it’s good for picking up a little extra pocket money. Just make sure you let someone know where you’re going if it’s someone’s house, you can never be too careful.

Next, I’d recommend using the BackpackerJobBoard site.

This also seems more human than your typical jobsearch sites like Seek, Indeed or Pedestrian for creative jobs. These are good sites and I’m sure they can be effective, but in my experience they’re generally aimed at permanent residents and as a foreigner you get a much higher response rate with the Backpacker Job Board and the jobs are specifically suited to backpackers, instead of competing with Australian residents for permanent positions when you’re only able to work for 6 months on the working holiday visa. The only downside to this website is that it is mainly typical traveller jobs like waitressing, sales and construction and there’s very little with depth, but it is worth it if you just need the hours to save a little and get on your feet.

Plus once you’re working, even if it is something small, you’re out there meeting people and having conversations that could lead you to better things. There is also the iBackpacker app which seems similar to the Job Board, however I always found this to be slow to load and unpredictable. Oh, and never ever use Craigslist! In Sydney it’s just escort jobs and people after dirty Skype calls… not worth the danger it’ll put you in.

Lastly, if anyone has any working holiday stories to tell or is in Sydney looking for work too, drop me a message, it’s always good to help out others, all of my small successes have come from speaking to other people in the same boat, so pop up and say hi!

Little update: I’ve just stumbled across the A New Job Australia Facebook Page and it looks pretty helpful. Comment below if you have any other suggestions!


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