Get a Job on the Working Holiday Visa

I was at my desk, reporting stories for the newspaper when I saw the email pop up.

Visa Grant Notification Application for 417 – Working Holiday.

Never in my life has a more exciting subject line grabbed me and made me smile like a maniac for a solid 48 hours!

“This is to advise that you have been granted a working Holiday Visa, Subclass 417…We hope that you enjoy your stay in Australia.”

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I would enjoy my stay. The Working Holiday Visa is granted only once per person and needs to be taken before you turn 30.
I was 29 and desperate for a new adventure.

As well as seeing as much of Oz as possible, I wanted to spend a big chunk of the year working in Sydney and gaining experience that would enhance my CV. Finding a job in a new country isn’t easy when you don’t know anyone but there’s plenty you can do to give yourself the very best chance of success.

If you’re serious, don’t waste time:
I gave myself four days to get acquainted with the city, to relax and enjoy the beaches and night-life before I started the job search.
A few days is enough as you will quickly acquire the taste for lying around on Bondi and lose all motivation to ever become employable again.

On my sixth day in Sydney I had a call from my recruitment agent asking me to interview for what I thought was categorically the greatest job on the planet!
Later that same afternoon I had a call from Universal Music Group to say I could start work on their website on Monday and I have never, even now, been able to believe my luck.

Sara Hardman Travels

Very excited to be working for Universal Music Group!

Good planning

✶ Create a great CV at home before you go and tailor it to the work you are looking for.

✶ Pack at least one decent interview outfit in your backpack. Even if you want casual work, you need to look like you’re serious and capable.

✶ Bring a small laptop or iPad with you so you can access the internet easily, send your CV and reply to emails quickly.

✶ Register with at least three relevant recruitment agencies as soon as you arrive.

✶ Use social media to follow agencies and companies on Twitter to see who is recruiting and stay up to date with their news.

✶ Promote yourself. Follow-up after interviews and check-in daily with your agency for new opportunities to show you are keen.

✶ Use online job websites like Seek and let the hostel staff know you’re looking as they will already have lots of local contacts.

✶ Do as much research as you can before interviews. Thoroughly check the company background, refer to it in the interview and familiarise yourself with the organisation mission statement. It should all be on their website.

✶ If you have a dream job in mind, contact the HR department directly and ask if you are able to intern or do some work experience one day a week without pay to get to know the team and be first in the queue when a vacancy arises.

✶ Use the free wifi in places like McDonald’s & Starbucks so you don’t have to pay hostel internet rates while you search for jobs and responses.

Working in Australia:

✶ If you want to do bar work you will need to pay for the RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course – It can be done in a few hours and even online in some states and costs around $75. You cannot get a job in any licensed premises without this certificate, regardless of any qualifications from your own country. Different states have different licences so don’t expect to be able to work in Queensland with a New South Wales licence.

✶ To work in construction, you will need a similar ‘White Card’ licence – around $75

✶ Think about your accommodation – It’s VERY hard to perform well in a demanding job while getting two hours sleep in a shared dorm where other people do not have jobs – check Gumtree for a house share with a short lease. You’ll probably need 2-4 weeks rent up front as a bond (deposit).

✶ You cannot take a job without registering for your Australian Tax File number – you can recover a proportion of your tax when you leave the country. You do not need to pay an agency to make this claim for you. It is easy enough to do yourself, for free, through the ATO website.

✶ Make sure your recruitment agent/employer sets up your Superannuation account straight away. This is like a UK pension but your employer has a legal obligation to make contributions and you are entitled to recover a proportion of this money when you leave the country so save the paperwork and statements – it could fund your onward travel.

Sara Hardman Travels
Beer o’clock at the Sydney office on Fridays


✶ Average office jobs pay between $18-$30 per hour through a temping agency.

✶ Generally, salaries were much higher than the UK but so are living costs.

✶ If you work through an agency, you will complete a time sheet and are likely to be entitled to overtime rates, so check when you take the job.

✶ You will be paid weekly through an agency but often monthly when it’s direct from an employer, so factor this in when you arrange accommodation bills.

✶ Sydney hostels are between $25 and $35 per night as an average. Read my post on the best Australian hostels here
✶ You could expect to pay around $150-$250 a week (including bills and internet) for a shared room in a private apartment.

✶ Consider the transport costs if you need to take a train or bus to work every day. Most cities have a Travel 10 or weekly travel card rate which saves you money.


✶ If your aim is to land a full-time job that sponsors international employees, you’ll need to work very hard in your first few months. Under the restrictions of the 417 WHV you cannot work with any employer for longer than six months. Make a great impression as quickly as you can.

✶ Make your interest in finding sponsorship clear to your recruitment agent and the HR department when you find a position you like. Most employers cover the sponsorship costs but it’s an expensive business so your chances may be higher with a large, international company as they also need to demonstrate that they have a minimum number of Australian employees and can commit to a training programme for staff.

✶ Join local networking groups to make influential contacts who may be able to help you. Promote yourself and be honest about what you are looking for and what help you need to get there.

✶ Sponsorship is typically granted for two years but comes with the risk that you cannot remain in the country if your employment comes to an end, for any reason, within this time.

✶ Use job sites and enter the search term ‘visa sponsorship’ to pull up jobs that are advertising this opportunity.

✶ Sponsorship can lead to permanent residency if this is what you are seeking but it can be a lengthy process. Check the links below for more help.

✶ Give yourself more time by applying for the second year visa. You are only entitled to this if you work for three months on a rural farm which meets the government second year visa criteria – read my post on this here.

Sara Hardman Travels

Working on a lettuce farm for the second year visa


Great job search site –

Get your Tax File number –

Superannuation entitlement –

Help with visa options –

About the RSA licence –

Fruit picking around Oz –

Find a house-share –

Good luck – I’m pretty sure it will be the best year of your life!

Follow SaraHardmanTravels on Twitter @SaraorSarah


10 thoughts on “Get a Job on the Working Holiday Visa

  1. Hi Sara! Like your adventurous journey! I am planning to move to Australia (got a PR yay! ) I am desperately looking for a good recruitment agency…can you please ping some that might have worked for u.


    1. Congratulations, that’s amazing!
      I used Apsley Recruitment on Alfred St, Sydney. They were really professional and also arranged my Super fund. I walked in for a general interview and that same afternoon they arranged for me to have an interview at Universal Music – I was offered the job two hours later. Definitely worth a try if you want office work and I found them to be a really friendly team

      Good luck, I’m sure it will be incredible 🙂

    1. Thank you. I’m so jealous, I’d love to go back and show my boyfriend all the incredible places I visited along the East Coast. Hopefully we can save enough to stay in hotels this time, rather than returning to my old dorm days!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s