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The Sydney Opera House and surrounding harbour

Working in Sydney - Culture and Cocktails!

By Jane McLellan

Last updated: 9th September 2011

I could never fully explain the overwhelming sense of excitement and awe I felt when I first drove through Sydney – it was
as if I had a thousand butterflies inside of me. Seeing my first glimpse of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House was incredible and surreal. I had seen so many pictures of these amazing landmarks and had only dreamt that one day I would see them for real. They are extraordinary. In fact, the rest of Sydney, and indeed the whole of Australia are very special. I love Sydney and I was very lucky to live, work and travel there for eight months.

As soon as my friend Kate and I landed on Australian soil the quest to find a job and a place to live was our top priority. We were quickly running out of money and desperately needed to get some cash together in order to finance our further adventures. One of our closest friends from university lived in Manly near Sydney and she kindly agreed to let us stay with her for a while until we found our feet. It didn’t take too long…

First thing I did was to make sure that my CV (resume) was up to date. I signed up with a few recruitment agencies and visited some job offices that specialise in helping travellers. I also hit the streets and handed my resume into bars and cafés. At the time, I was not aware that there were companies in the UK that specialise in helping young people find jobs in Australia so had to learn the hard way, but after about two weeks I started to receive my first interview call-ups.

After buying myself a cheap mobile phone and SIM card, I opened a bank account with Commonwealth Bank and visited the tax office to get my Tax File Number. After that I bought some smart clothes and shoes – believe me, it felt more than a bit weird wearing a suit and high heels again! Initially the thought of working was quite depressing after having had so much fun travelling around. However I knew that by getting some cash I could live the Aussie lifestyle and do a lot more travelling and, in the end, it was fun!

Jane jumping on a Sydney beach

I worked for two companies in Sydney. The first of which was two months spent working as an acting Personal Assistant to the General Manager of a recruitment agency. My role consisted of talking to clients, assessing their recruitment needs and responding to their requirements. I provided administrative support with a variety of duties including diary management and maintaining a database. It was a great experience because I had specialized in Human Resources for my Business degree, so I knew it would look good on my CV. The office was right in the city centre, which was perfect for exploring the area in my lunch hour. The hours were good, Monday to Friday 9am – 5:30pm and I was getting around $20 per hour.

I then had a more unusual second job working within the Aboriginal Child Protection Unit in a Sydney suburb called Redfern. Leaving the bustling inner city, it was an excellent opportunity to experience and understand different cultures. During my time with the unit, I was exposed to some distressing and sometimes shocking cases and frequently had to interact with difficult clients. The job was challenging, moving and often humbling – a great leap away from the previous PA job. In addition to the front desk duties, I chaired meetings and assisted caseworkers with preparing court reports, working alongside some lovely colleagues. I worked there for three months and I really enjoyed it!

My mates and I all agreed that working in Australia is very different to working in the UK. The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed and laid back. Everyone worked hard but they didn’t seem to get stressed out and they had a really good work life balance. On Friday afternoons it was normal to start the weekends early by having a few drinks in the office and I remember the first time this happened. I was on the front desk, and my boss simply handed me a large green cocktail with a little umbrella in it. I soon realized that I wasn’t special, but this was just a normal practice on a Friday. I thought it was a great way to get that ‘Friday feeling’ and wind down for the weekend.

My other housemates did a variety of jobs. Kate worked in a bank, Fishy worked in a bar/restaurant, the two Petes did various administrative jobs and Rob was a street performer! We all earned enough money to pay our rent, living expenses and when we budgeted we actually saved some cash too!

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