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Relocating to work in Australia, or in any other country, can be challenging and exciting. Use your Career Tools to make your move a success and to find the right job.

On Arrival – What do I need to do now that I am in a new location?

You may have already read the first article in this series Pre-Departure – What do I need to do before I leave my old location?and if you have already arrived in Australia, the information in this article will still be useful (so please take some time to read it).

You have managed to leave your previous location and arrive in Australia.  Welcome!  Your life is beginning all over again and during the first three months, you are likely to be in the ‘honeymoon’ stage – where you are finding everything new, interesting and exciting.  You may also be overwhelmed with finding somewhere to live and all of your essential resources to become established (and this means more than making sure all of your boxes are unpacked).  Nowadays, choosing a mobile phone plan, an internet hosting package, an electricity and gas supplier etcetera can be very time consuming as there is so much information to compare to make a considered decision.

In your previous location, many of your daily duties were completed in an unconsciously competent fashion – like being on automatic pilot – you knew where to find things, how to access whatever you needed and deal with everyday challenges.  You also knew something about the local workplace culture.

But now, everything is different.  Every task requires effort.  You are now consciously incompetent – and it will take time to become consciously competent and at least six months to become unconsciously competent once again.  This is why you will feel more tired doing less work and why so many tasks will take longer than usual.

But this article is supposed to be about finding work isn’t it?  Well, yes.  But what I have found is that so many people who have moved to Australia end up wasting too much time setting up all of their new arrangements and not spending enough time on looking for work as soon as they arrive.

Your most effective time to find new work is when you arrive.  At this point, you are considered ‘desirable’ because you have probably just finished your previous role.  However, one of the most common complaints that newcomers to Australia have when they arrive is that every employer asks if they have ‘local experience.’  This is often a polite Australian way of saying you are not suitable for the position.

For various legal and equal opportunity reasons, there are some comments that employers and recruiters cannot say to candidates.  For instance, it cannot be as a consequence of your age, gender, background, ability (or disability), religion, family circumstances etc – but the employer may have a preference for a particular type of person for their organization (I could joke in Melbourne that you need to barrack or not barrack for the Collingwood Football Club!).

As with any challenge in life, you need a strategy.  So what steps can you take to improve your chances?  What can you do, despite the possible barriers to employment that exist (although there are many initiatives currently being implemented to educate employers about the benefits of hiring people with international experience) – your concern is immediate – so what will work best for you?  See which of the following options you can use to your best advantage.

1. What resources must you have ready?

  • An appropriate email address (for instance not (inappropriate) or which makes it look like you are still in the United Kingdom)
  • A mobile telephone number that people can call to contact you
  • A resume in the ‘Australian’ format (see our article on ‘Resume Variables – What styles and features do I need to include in my current resume?)
  • A completed LinkedIn profile with a relevant URL (for instance - not
  • Your qualifications converted to Australian equivalents (visit to find out the governing bodies who can do this.  In Victoria, there is a free service offered by the Victorian Government through the Overseas Qualification Unit – Alternatively, contact the Commonwealth Government's Australian Education International - National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (AEI-NOOSR) – for more information).
  • Appropriate clothing for working in Australia – in business, men usually wear a tie, dark coloured suits, socks and shoes and it is unusual for women to wear traditional clothing from overseas countries (like Indian saris or highly decorative dresses) or to wear clothing that reveals undergarments, is low cut in the bust area or very short skirts.  Some occupations require clothing that complies with Australian Safety Standards (like steel capped boots or fluorescent coloured tops and safety helmets).  For interviews, it is almost always preferable to be dressed in business formal clothing regardless of what clothing is used once you have secured a job.
  • Some occupations also require other resources – like a mobile phone, a laptop computer, a driver’s license, a car that is less than five years old (sales jobs)
  • You need to know how to get to job interviews on time – so you need to know what public transport tickets to purchase, how to get there and allow extra time beforehand to go through any building security procedures (or go to the bathroom beforehand as you may be nervous) so that you will still arrive for the interview on time
  • You need to speak, read and write English well enough so that you can answer and ask questions and complete any forms
  • You need to understand the basics of Australian workplace culture and interview etiquette
  • Original documents (for viewing) and photocopies to be given to recruiters or employers

2. What can you start doing immediately?

The most important technique to begin is networking.  It cannot be stressed enough how important this particular technique is for people who are new to Australia.  In most cases, after someone has met you face to face, they are much more likely to either refer you to someone else or consider you for a position than if they just see your resume in a pile of other resumes submitted for a job application.

But part of the networking process is research.

  • You need to find out more about the industry and the profession (again see the professional bodies via – sourcing information about the individuals and companies that are key influencers in the market in Australia
  • Find the local publications, journals and websites and review these so that you can be ready to discuss what you have learnt in an interview.
  • Join relevant online groups (via LinkedIn, online forums, blogs, Twitter etc) and find out where the companies are located so that if necessary, you can target your home search to areas that give you good access or transport to these possible locations
  • Find out details of free and low cost events, seminars and training that you can attend – and go to them.  Arrive early and leave last and talk to people whilst you are there (at least three people)
  • Find out the names of key influencers you can contact (either online or by direct contact through their personal assistant in the company) and see if you can organize a time to meet them for coffee (approximately 20 minutes) to learn more about the industry (do not insist that they give you a job)
  • Find people that you could ask to be your mentor (most people are flattered by this request) but also indicate the level of commitment you would require – an initial meeting of say one hour, a phone call once a week and no more than two emails per week for approximately three to six months
  • Contact all of the people you already know to tell them the type of work you are looking for and ask them if they have any contacts in the Asia Pacific region that you can contact to find out more information.  Contact those people and then follow up with the referrer thanking them for the referral but also giving them details of the outcome of your contact with the person
  • Find companies that advertise jobs via their websites and register with those websites
  • Find recruitment companies that specialize in jobs in your profession or industry and make direct contact with them and ask if your resume can be kept on their file
  • Consider doing voluntary work in your industry or profession (this will help you gain local experience and new contacts and you can also be job searching at the same time – you can list this experience on your resume and you do not need to indicate that it is voluntary or part time but it is a great way to learn more and be referred to other opportunities)
  • Consider doing short term, contract or temporary work (not just seeking permanent full time work) as this may lead to further work
  • Always thank anyone who has assisted you (or you have met during the job search process, including interviewers) in a meaningful way (a descriptive email, a personal telephone call, a hand written card) even if you were not successful in securing a job.  If you like the company or industry, ask them to keep your details on file in case another position becomes available or encourage them to refer you on to anyone else who may be interested in your skills
  • Apply for jobs advertised online (isn’t it interesting that this is my last recommendation?  It is because the other options have proven to be more successful for new arrivals in Australia – particularly those from Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries)

Do not rely on any one particular technique – have as many of these strategies as possible all running concurrently – and make sure you allocate a minimum of two hours per day, five days per week, to the job search process.

3. What do you need to learn?

There are many cultural norms in the Australian workplace and understanding that every country, every employer and every industry has their own style is important.  You will need to replace your current thinking about what is ‘normal’ and be ready to accept a ‘new normal.’  It may be more appropriate to say, ‘in the past’ rather than ‘in Japan’ which can be viewed as a comparison rather than a sharing of knowledge.  Do not make assumptions about what you see – your current frame of reference may automatically encourage you to make certain assumptions but these may be incorrect.

For instance, many Australians enjoy Friday night drinks after work.  This is not necessarily about consuming alcohol – you can have a non-alcoholic beverage.  It is simply a custom where people can chat more informally in a relaxed way – and if you do not participate, you are missing an important social aspect of working in Australia but you may also feel less accepted on a daily basis as it is a way to share stories and build relationships beyond discussing work all the time.

In some workplaces, Monday morning is spent talking about ‘what you did on the weekend’ or what happened during sporting activities.  Alternatively, you may find yourself being asked if you will join the football tipping competition or the Melbourne Cup Sweepstakes.  These activities can also seem like a waste of time but they are very traditional Australian activities.

Australians, on the whole, are very straight forward and up front about work matters.  If they ask a question – like ‘Can you do this task by 9am tomorrow/’ and you answer ‘yes’ then they assume that you can complete the task by 9am tomorrow.  If you cannot, then please do not say that you can.  If you feel uncomfortable about saying that you cannot do it by 9am and you do not want to say ‘no,’ then you can simply say that you will do your best but cannot guarantee it or that if you need help, can you ask for assistance?  However, if you say yes and then do not deliver, this is very frustrating for an Australian who would rather you be upfront in the first place than say yes and then cancel at the last moment.

It is also important that you be aware of any Occupational Health and Safety requirements so that you can be safe at work.  You need to find out if there are any Induction Processes that you are to go through, if there is any sort of buddy system for new employees, if there is a mentoring program available (mostly for larger organizations) so that you can feel comfortable asking questions when you do not understand something.

It is probably best when you first start work (or at the interview) to only answer what has been requested and not to discuss too many of your significant achievements unless asked to explain them because some Australians can feel threatened by someone with more extensive international experience.  It may have taken the Australian person many years to achieve their current status and it is more polite to be humble and reveal more information over time than to share all of your knowledge immediately and overwhelm the people around you.

Like many other locations around the world, it is important to build trust.  You can do this by doing whatever you say you will do.  Most Australians like friendly people – so smile, be relaxed and participate in the local work life.  Do not share personal information with everyone you meet – this is best shared with close friends outside of work (so make sure you are making new friends outside of work as well).  Some newcomers have found that sharing personal information has been detrimental to their promotional opportunities.

Be punctual and reliable at work.  Arrive ready to start work at the designated time (not flying through the door with another 15 minutes spent unpacking your bag, setting up your workspace etc).  Do not spend all of your idle time surfing the internet or communicating with friends – ask your supervisor if there is some other work you can complete.  Ask if you can take care of personal matters during your scheduled meal breaks or if you need additional time off during work hours, ask for this with as much advance notice as possible.

You also need to have excellent communication skills.  The quality of English used in Australia is generally of a very high standard and professional language is required for all written correspondence (including emails).  It is most inappropriate to denigrate another person in writing and if you have a personal or professional issue with another staff member, please ensure that you handle this correctly speaking to the appropriate supervisor before escalating the matter to senior management.  It is important not to react instantly but to work out the best way to handle the situation.  If necessary, seek external advice or assistance if it is a serious or delicate matter.  Improve your Business English through this free resource ‘The Business of English’ –

Be aware of what your rights are – but also your responsibilities.  As an employee, you may be required to abide by a Code of Conduct and not publicly declare some information – find out what these rules are before you start work.  Have important matters confirmed in writing (like your salary, hours of work, duties etc) so that this is clear and that you can meet your performance requirements.  Find out what performance review processes may be used to make sure that you know how your work will be assessed and so you can do your job to the company’s expectations.

Lastly, I have found everywhere that I have worked (including voluntary community groups), that people enjoy activities that are fun, involve eating food and are free!  You can make many friends by bringing in food to share at work – particularly if it is something a little unusual that they may like to sample.  If you receive an invitation to attend other events, see if you can go and if not, see if you can make arrangements to go some other time.  On some occasions, you will only be asked once and if you refuse, you may not be asked again.

Finally, for the job search process to be successful, you need to realize that it may take around two years to establish yourself at a similar level from your previous location (but this is not always the case).  If you work strategically and methodically, doing the necessary research and working on various strategies at the same time, you will increase your chances of success exponentially.  Your skills are in doing the job, not necessarily finding a job, so if you not getting to the interview stage and need further help, consider paying for some assistance on an hourly basis (probably starting with three hours in the first instance).  Make sure you do some good research before you hire this person to find out exactly what you will be paying for.  Obtain price and service quotes from at least three people before you select someone to help you.

When you have secured work, you need to start planning the next part of your career and how you will achieve that too – it is an ongoing process.

However, as you have just arrived in Australia, even if you do not want to spend money, there are still plenty of places to go to, activities to participate in and events to attend that are either free or low cost.  Find at least two new things to do every week so that you can get out of the house and learn more about your new location – you will have many more anecdotes to share in an interview and hopefully you will also have some fun!

Happy Job Hunting!


Sue's photo

Sue is the Founder and Director, Newcomers Network and the Convenor of Victoria International Human Resources Management Network, Australian Human Resources Institute. Sue is passionate about helping newcomers to Australia make the most of their new work life in their new country.
Sue has published websites, e-books, and articles in various forums worldwide and is also a proactive networker, hosting a variety of events, seminars and workshops and continually participating in innovative projects with multiple stakeholder groups.

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