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Work in Australia

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.

How to apply for a job in Australia from overseas

I am always excited when I hear that people are planning their job search BEFORE they arrive in Australia.  This is one of the most critical steps to early job hunting success – because you will have already completed some of the initial preparatory work.  If you haven’t read it already, please see the article I have written on ‘Pre-Departure – What do I need to do before I leave my old location?’

This article will summarise some of the practical steps you can complete to start applying for work before you arrive in Australia.


It is essential for you to personally research the industry and profession where you would like to work in Australia.  You need to know the major organizations in the industry, the associations representing professionals in that profession, the various online and printed publications available and key individuals in both the industry and the profession.  Source some of this generic information through and

Australia is blessed with a lot of quality resources, written in English and produced by government, private and non government organizations.  Whilst you may be familiar with your industry and profession in your current location, you need to learn how it is regulated in Australia, what qualifications are required and where you can go to source new mentors and professional development opportunities.

You will also need to understand how the market is different in Australia, what the typical workplace culture is like and how people manage their careers.  This information is not automatically available, so finding at least three people to talk to before you arrive in Australia will give you some good clues before you start applying for jobs.

Many professionals now have a profile on LinkedIn.  Visiting these people’s profiles will help you learn more about how to present your information and you may be able to contact them and personally ask them for their input and advice.  Make sure you have your own LinkedIn profile with a nice photo where you are smiling and dressed in suitable attire (if in doubt, use a business professional suit).

The job hunting process may also be different to your past experience.  Most new arrivals in Australia find their first job through networking (not applying for jobs via websites or through recruitment agencies).  So for this reason, you need to make sure that your resume is in a ‘typical Australian’ format for your industry and profession.  You do not need to include an overseas address, but you do need to have a generic email address (not a country specific one, something like and perhaps a Skype address and LinkedIn Public Profile URL (something like


You will find that most jobs that are advertised require you to have a valid visa for working in Australia so it is virtually a pre-condition that you have this before you apply for the position.  If you are applying for work from overseas and are also seeking sponsorship from an employer, you will need to do even more preparatory work.  For instance, if you are in an occupation that regularly employs expatriates or skilled migrants from overseas, they may be very familiar with the additional regulatory requirements of sponsoring an applicant from overseas.  Other employers may not be familiar with these requirements, so it may be necessary to provide them with information that you collect from either the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website or from a registered migration agent or lawyer who is helping you secure an appropriate visa for work in Australia.

Certain qualifications will need to be assessed and a document that states the Australian equivalent will need to be obtained.  Some state governments provide this service free of charge and in other cases, you will need to pay to have this completed.  Some professions have specific regulatory or licensing requirements that may include police checks, additional examinations, bridging courses or a minimum period of Australian experience.  Do you have any contacts in Australia?  If so, make every effort to make a connection and ask these people for their opinion and advice.

You also need to change your current mindset.  Life in Australia is different to other countries.  So although you may be very familiar with how things work in your current location, there is every chance, even if English is your first language and you are from another western country, that there will be many differences – both significant and subtle.  It is normal for people to apply their past experience to their current situation and make certain assumptions.  However, it is important to be open to new ways of doing things, to constantly learn new rules, regulations and processes, to be proactive at managing your career and continually strive to improve your abilities and career opportunities past your initial transition period.

Action steps

Whilst you will be very busy before leaving your previous location, there are many action steps you can take before you arrive in Australia.  The more work you do before you arrive, the more likely you will be successful sooner after your arrival although previous government research has shown that most new arrivals take around two years to be in an equivalent level position after their arrival in Australia.  You need to have as many appointments as possible confirmed soon after your arrival in Australia (allow around a week to recover from jet lag and unpack your bags but start immediately – fit your sight seeing in and around your appointments).

Ideally, you will aim to secure some type of work in your industry or profession before you arrive in Australia.  If it is paid work, that is fantastic, but another excellent way to start is through unpaid voluntary work.  This way, you will secure Australian experience, be able to establish a working routine and meet people who can refer you on to other positions.  You do not need to state that the work you have been completing was unpaid on your resume, you simply need to gain Australian experience as soon as possible and it is generally easier to go from a job to a new job than from no job into a new job.  Try and run this job search strategy in parallel to your paid work strategy. 

Visit these websites for some ideas:

Go Volunteer

Volunteering Australia (also links to state based volunteer organizations)

Seek Volunteer

Good Company

Pro Bono Volunteer Match

So, assuming you have a profile on LinkedIn (which includes a range of recommendations for your current role and as many past roles as possible), a good Australian style resume, some new contacts in Australia or the Asia Pacific region, then you can start making some direct contacts.

If you are seeking people to connect with via LinkedIn, source industry and professional contacts that have previously lived and worked in your current location (either now or in the past).  Source people who may have studied at the same university, worked in the same multinational company or share similar experience or professional or LinkedIn group memberships.

When you contact these people, keep a record and then give them regular updates as to how you are moving forward.  Thank them for any suggestions they provide (in writing) and if they refer you to someone else, provide them with a summary of what happened and again, thank them for their contribution in writing or with a follow up personal call.

See if you can find a job hunting mentor – someone in your industry or profession who is willing to have an initial discussion with you (over the telephone or Skype) and then be in email contact no more than three times per week with the occasional follow up call for around three months or until you get your first job and for the first month or so afterwards so they can also give you on the job advice.  Most people in Australia are happy to be invited to be a mentor, but if they are too busy, thank them for their time so far and move on.  Each time you make a new connection, see if you can add them to your connections on LinkedIn.

If you have a particular professional skill set, see if you can have some material published on Australian websites so that when someone searches the internet for your name, they find credible and reputable references to you and your background (it is time to stop posting party photos on Facebook if you use the same name there).  Many employers and recruitment consultants check the internet for personal background information before making a recruitment decision.

If you are starting to apply for positions before you have the relevant visa, make sure you mention this in your cover letter.  Make sure that you complete answers to key selection criteria with your job application and ensure that your resume is written for the job you are applying for (not the same cover letter and resume for every job).  Try, if possible, to speak to someone over the telephone when you apply for a position, don’t rely on doing everything online – a personal call will make your application stand out.

Include a Skype address, email address and an international number to call to contact you.  If you already have an Australian address or telephone number that you can list, please ensure that the person who answers the telephone can take an accurate message and contact you immediately so that you can return the call.  If possible, see if you can source some Australian based referees as soon as possible (not relatives or friends).

Being persistent

Whilst it may be your dream to start a new life in Australia, you will probably be arriving without the support of close family and friends and you will need extra resilience to cope with the disappointments and challenges of finding work.  A great deal of our personal identity is sourced through our career but it is unrealistic to expect our workmates to replace our friends and family.  You will need to create new friendship networks and hobbies and interests so that your social life outside of work is also satisfying.  Be patient as it can be a time consuming process.  Aim to spend at least two hours per day, five days per week on your job search process as soon as you arrive…leaving it until after you are settled in a new home is not a good strategy and leaves you with a bigger time gap on your resume.

Remember that you have many transferable skills, but you will also need to learn many new skills.  Be ready and willing to learn, grow and meet new people either in person, via the internet or through referrals.  Also consider that if your skills are not immediately transferable, it may also be an opportunity to set up a contract, consulting or portfolio career where you work on a short term or part time basis for a variety of companies.  Finally, remember to enjoy all of the new experiences in Australia and best wishes with your job search.

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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