Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To Find a Job in Australia...and a blurb about Banking

This post is about finding a job and about how to transfer money to an Australian bank account.  I realize there's very few people this post is applicable for, and if it's not you, I'll get back to anecdotes soon enough I'm sure.

To get a job in Australia, or an analogous city abroad, you'll need the things listed below.  And yes, I realize most of these are applicable to the States as well, but hopefully it will make for a good checklist.

- Voicemail!!
Just because you got a phone number the first day you got in and you've long since patted yourself on the back for that, don't think for a second that everything works.  Have someone call and leave you a message.  I just found out I had a week old message from a recruiter sitting in my voicemail box.  Granted, I've tried to set up my voicemail message multiple times, to no avail, but you can bet I would have been at the Vodafone store had I known the extent!

This is a tax file number.  It's easy to fill out the paper work, you can do it online (just google AU TFN) and you'll find it.  Granted, if you want to clean dishes or something similar, you probably don't need this because those jobs often pay under the table (you don't pay taxes because they pay you in cash)...and yes that is illegal.  Just like in the States, not paying taxes is illegal for you and the employer...you've been warned.

- Work experience
Having work experience for EXACTLY the thing that you're applying for is paramount in Australia.  Not only that, they have plenty of citizens who are also looking for work in the same area you are, so make sure you stand out (have several years of applicable experience).  You are not special just because you're foreign.

- A proper visa
A work/holiday visa is great...if you want to pick grapes in a field.  They'll hire you all day long for that.  And they'll even extend your visa for an extra year if you do that as well.  But, if you're looking for a corporate hire, be realistic.  The overwhelming majority of companies are not going to sponsor you for a permanent residency visa unless you are truly worth it.  If you have a work/holiday visa and are trying to find corporate work, set your sites at contract jobs that are 6 months or less.  If you prove yourself there, then broach the subject of corporate sponsorship.

- Proper Expectations
The above is true for most situations, set your expectations accordingly.  If you want to live here for a year and don't care how it happens (waiting tables, picking grapes, making crepes, etc) then don't worry about it.  If you want to go corporate, make sure you understand the market ahead of time and set your expectations accordingly.  Most professions, save for highly specialized ones, you are not a unique snowflake...approach your job hunt accordingly.

- An Australian formatted resume
I tried to resist.  Oh god how I tried!  Alas, it would seem stubbornness is not a virtue.  So, I took my (what I considered to be) pristine one-page resume and broke it out into 4 pages.  Yes, 4.  It's the same information, and it's now 4 pages...and it kills me.  But, I have gotten positive feedback, so, c'est la vie.  All that said, it's great to have both.  Just like in the states, there's no "one way" to do your resume and there's no "one thing" that everyone is looking for.  And, it's worth noting, that most countries have their own general formatting.  e.g. France keeps it short and sweet, and they don't write objectives, they just list the job title they're after at the top of their resume instead; Germany has job candidates put pictures of themselves at the top; do your research and when you find it...don't be stubborn dammit, just make another version of your resume...you'll likely be glad you did.

- Patience
Make sure you have enough money and hobbies to enact a bit of patience.  Also, keep a list of the recruiting agencies that you have applied to jobs for.  If you inundate the same company with your resume it is NOT helpful.  They pass your resume amongst themselves (sometimes) and word will get around that you're impatient.  Knock it off.  Maybe try to give yourself something to do by keeping your list of companies you've applied to as detailed as possible.  Keep all the phone numbers, people, and notes all in one place.  Anyone you've interacted with that you don't want to work for, put that in there as well.  If you want to see how I've been doing it, feel free to ask.

- Lots of online submittals
First, see the section on Patience.  Don't do it to the same company because you'll immediately be written off.  But, be sure to give yourself a fighting chance.  If "What Color is Your Parachute?" is correct, only 2% of online submittals lead to jobs.  Therefore, if this is your approach, treat it as a numbers game.  Just do it intelligently (see above, again).  Or...read that book and take the myriad of other approaches it suggests, which if you're in a foreign country...may be limited.

- Follow Up
Call the hiring manager and the HR person that are posting the job (if possible).  Don't call daily, but don't just send a resume and forget about everything.  And if you meet with them, send them a brief email thanking them (this is also in the book, but I believe should also be common sense).  People like to be thanked for doing things, especially when they're ultimately doing things for YOU.

- Bank Account
So you finally have a job?  Well, you'll need some way for them to pay you.  Set up a bank account!  This can actually be done long before you even arrive.  And might I add, in Australia, you can get some pretty killer interest rates for savings accounts compared to the States.  See below for things to keep in mind with bank accounts and transferring money.

**Added Dec-12-2012

For the love of god don't come to Australia when I did.  I got here at the end of the year and that was a bad mistake.  The reason it's not good is that is when budgets are contracting and being planned for the next year.  You're far better off to get here mid-January or later.

They do not like you.  In fact, they will go out of their way to not deal with you.  You are not an Australian citizen and therefore not on their radar (unless you have HEAPS of experience and/or are in a specialized field).

For Better Luck, Try:
- Researching companies in the industry you'd like to work in and specifically going to their websites and applying to them.  Call their HR person as well.  They're friendly.
- If you find a job you'd like, you can bring it to certain recruiters and they will/can sponsor you.  So, you'd actually be working for the recruiter who is a contractor with the company.  This costs the company and you money because the recruiter takes a cut (I hear a sizable one at that).  So be sure you're very applicable for the job otherwise the company will tell you to get lost.
- Talking.  Talk to everyone.  People here are incredibly friendly and will help you get a job...even if you've just met them.  Seriously.  I've had this happen multiple multiple times now.
- Volunteer.  Get something going on your resume that is substantial; if it has to happen without pay, so be it...it's better than nothing!  And, you can sleep smug and sound because you're helping someone else.
- Apply for regional work.  Or rather, be flexible with your location in general.  If the most important thing to you is that you're in the country...there's some jobs in remote locations waiting just for you.  If you really want a particular city...well, I hope it goes well for you.
**End Addition.  Back to the original post:

Transferring money to your bank account:

From what I can tell, it is very difficult to move money internationally with American accounts.  This is likely due to international money laundering, i.e. money from an American account is usually seen as "clean" and therefore there are many more rules and regulations on importing and exporting to US bank accounts (thanks NPR for that tidbit).  Neither my Wells Fargo nor my ING account will let me transfer money to my Australian bank account directly, so here's some options if you're looking to work abroad or travel for extended periods:

- Pull money from your US accounts, one ATM transaction at a time, and deposit this into your account in AU.
Advantage: It's relatively easy.
Disadvantage: Every transaction there's a fee from your bank AND your AU bank ($3.00 and $5.00, respectively, from what I've found).  One way to get around this would be to raise your withdrawal limit as high as possible (mine was stuck at $500 US, alas) and do it all in one lump sum with only the combined $8.00 fee.

- Have a bank that allows transfers between overseas accounts.  This appears to be HSBC for now, but there are probably others.
Advantage: You can do it all online.
Disadvantage: You'll need to research this ahead of time and may even need to set up a new account in the States as well.  Double check the fees to make sure this is a solid option!  I don't have it fully set up just yet, so I can't say numbers-wise if it's the best.

- Use a currency broker.  I found the idea here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2018580
Advantage: It *seems* to be the cheapest solution.
Disadvantage: There's some set up involved and you need to trust a third-party with your money.

- http://usa.visa.com/personal/cards/prepaid/visa_travel_money.html
I *think* this is a viable option.  I stayed away from it because I thought there was no protection if it was lost, but apparently there is.  Make sure to check the cap on it and the fees.  Seems like you have to go in-person to figure these things out, otherwise I'd give you the details.
Advantage: It's easy and you can do it ahead of time.  May also be the best option for longer term travel.
Disadvantage: There may be fees!  Make sure to ask about currency conversion fees, transaction fees point-of-sale), set up fees, ATM fees, etc.

- Depositing an American check into a foreign bank.
For example, I sold my car before I left.  CarMax gave me a nice little check that I though I was being pretty damn clever with by waiting until I got to Australia to deposit it...
Advantage: There's one fee and you get your sizable deposit at that day's exchange rate
Disadvantage: You're carrying around a check for thousands of dollars you dolt! Don't get robbed or forget your bag somewhere (and after 23 hrs of travel...both are much more likely)!  Also, your money is not available until 28 days later, yes, 28.  Lastly, checks from CarMax have an expiration date...so you're at the whim of the exchange rate within that month (see below).

NOTE: With ALL of these options, pay at least a modicum of attention to the currency exchange rate fluctuations.  If you're only converting $500, don't worry about it.  But if you're converting $5,000+ than you better be watching!  Currency forecasting is anyone's guess and people get paid big money to do this, but, with a simple amount of reading for a few weeks ahead of time and a general feel for the country's economy and what affects it, you can make a much more informed decision.  OR...google "AUD forecast" (or whichever country you're visiting) and just read whichever blog you feel is best for a few weeks and then decide when to take the plunge (transfer your currency to the other country's currency).  For example, Australia's currency changes considerably with respect to the dollar.  e.g. 2% within the last day and 7% within this last year.  For reference:

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