Australia Update: My Life as an Immigrant

I’ve been in Australia for nearly three months now. The way things have gone are very different than the way I imagined how they would go. When I first got here my plan was to hang out in Sydney for a week, then go and visit some friends up north near Newcastle and Coffs Harbor, then head north to the Northern Territory or northern Queensland. I spent Christmas in Singleton and New Years in Coffs Harbor. I had a great time seeing some good mates that I met ten years ago backpacking in Germany. It was great seeing them and other parts of New South Wales.

Plans Change

The time I spent in Sydney before I went up north for the holidays got me thinking. I have met a lot of Aussies in my travels and many of them live in Sydney. I spent time with some of them and their friends when I arrived. Many of them had professional jobs in banking, marketing, IT, etc. They all said I should stay in Sydney and try and get a job where I could get a sponsored visa that would allow me to stay in Australia long term and eventually become a permanent resident. From the minute I arrived I loved Australia. The people, the culture and the lifestyle is very much in line with how I live my life. I decided after my trip up north I would return to Sydney and look for a professional job like I had back home. Before I left I found a room to rent in a part of Sydney called Newtown. That is a whole different story…

One thing I quickly figured out in Sydney is employers rarely advertise positions themselves. Most of them go through recruiting firms. There are something like 3,000 recruiting firms in Sydney! Most jobs posted on sites like Seek are posted through a recruiter, you then contact them and they decide if they want to recommend you to their client. I started looking for a job in IT sales. At first I did not really understand the recruiting thing but eventually caught on. The first recruiter I called about an IT sales position asked me if I would be interested in recruiting. She told me she thought I would be good at it and that recruiting is one of the easiest jobs in Australia to get sponsored. I had helped previous employers find people and also helped a lot of companies in Alaska find people due of my large network. The idea of working in recruiting sounded right up my alley. I love working with people.

(My current visa, 462, allows me to work in Australia for one year but limits employment to 6 months with any employer. I would need to get sponsored by a company under a new visa, 457, to stay longer than 6 months)

The Job Search in Recruiting 

I decided to try and get a job with this company. It was one of the larger recruiting firms in Sydney with offices in over 40 countries. I went through an initial telephone interview with the internal recruiter. She liked me and told me the next step was a virtual interview and a personality test. I had never heard of a virtual interview before. It is kind of Orwellian, you video record yourself asking questions they provide, then answer them. I completed both tasks the following day. She told me things looked good but needed to be reviewed by some other people. I felt good pretty good about it. From something right out of Office Space, I got a call from her at 4:59 on a Friday afternoon. She told me that, unfortunately, the results from my personality test did not match what they were looking for. I was a bit surprised to hear that. I said, “You listen to a computer about who you hire? We have not even met in person.” Clearly I am not meant to work for a company who uses a personality test as a basis for who they hire.

The one positive takeaway from that experience was that I decided I wanted to give recruiting a shot. With so many recruiting firms in Sydney it was just a matter of finding one, or so I thought… I began looking for other recruiting firms that were hiring. Obviously recruiting firms don’t need to use recruiters so it is easier getting a hold of them directly. I came across another large firm that was hiring. I contacted the person and we arranged a time to meet in person. I went to their office and we had a great chat. She was impressed with my background in IT and telecom sales and told me she wanted to advance me to the next stage, a group interview. The initial interview for the following week got moved so it was almost two weeks before the group interview.

There was 8 of us in the room, one Canadian, one Aussie, one Dutchwoman, four people from UK (Scotland, Ireland, England), and me, the American. It was pretty straightforward, we introduced ourselves, had to prepare a two minute speech on a topic we choose and then did some role playing. The role playing consisted of us trying to sell a candidate to a client about a position and the trying to convince a potential client to use us as a recruiter. This was all done in front of everyone. I don’t want to brag but I killed it. In the first part I sold my guy well, overcame objections and secured an interview. The main goal was to secure an interview and I was the only person who did that. The second one was even better. My scenario was cold calling a business where the person I was talking to had a bad experience with this firm in the past. I listened to her complaint, empathized and said I was sorry for the bad experience. I was not getting anywhere so I then said that I had a bad experience with a rep at Telstra (mobile phone provider) when I went into the store. Instead of switching I went to a different store and got the help I needed. That did the trick! At the end of the group interview I was confident I would make it through. The next day I got a call saying I made it to the next step, meeting with the managers of the different teams to find me a spot.

This felt really good. Over the next week I met with different managers of teams ranging from digital marketing, policy and strategy and the executive team. The person I was working with from the beginning made it seem like I had a job, it was just a matter of finding me a spot. After all the interviews I got a call from her. She told me that they really liked me but were concerned about “my ability to work in a corporate environment.” I was surprised to hear this as I had already went so far in their process and this was already discussed. She said there may be a position in Wollongong and that her counterpart in Melbourne wanted to talk to me about opportunities there. I never heard back from them. This was a waste of three weeks. I actually passed up on another job opportunity because I was so confident about this position.

Back to the Basics

I was not having luck in recruiting and I happened to get a call back from a recruiter that I had previously contacted about a job in IT sales and account management. She told me she was going to advance my resume to the firm. Soon after she contacted me and said they wanted to do a Skype interview with me. I had a great chat with the HR manager. She told me they would be in touch. The following week the recruiter told me they wanted to do an in person interview. I went to their office and had an interview with the CIO via video conference as he was in Melbourne. We talked for an hour and a half. He was really cool and someone I could definitely work for. This was literally the perfect job for me because it was almost identical to what I had been doing the previous seven years. He told me he really liked me and that I was perfect for the job. He did mention one thing that concerned me. He said they sponsored a few Americans in the past who did not last more than a year. He asked me if they sponsored me if I would go back home? I said, “Two words, Donald Trump!” He laughed and I went on to tell him if I got a job here my plan is to stay long term.

Met some Red Bull girls heading to a job interview!

A week goes by and I get a call from the recruiter. She tells me it is down to me and an Aussie guy. She said the CIO really wants me but his boss does not want to sponsor anyone else. She said they were going to make a decision by the end of the next day and she would let me know. She also added the CIO was really pushing for me because I was the perfect fit for the job. The next day I got a call from her saying they went with the other guy because he did not need to be sponsored. I was pretty let down, this was the perfect job for me and I was very upfront from the beginning that I would eventually need to get sponsored. There was nothing I could do. Now I knew how all my immigrant friends back home felt when they would talk about very similar challenges finding a job.

Something Different 

When I first got to Sydney I met an American guy who had been working in construction for almost a year. He told me the company he was with. I remembered this and gave them a call. The guy told me I needed to get a white card in order to work construction. A white card is required for anyone in Australia that is working on a construction site. I signed up for a day class to get the card. I had never really worked construction before other than helping friends back home with houses or cabins. Once I got the card I got signed up to work. This company is a labor staffing firm. They provide labor to construction firms so any given day could be different work. Because I don’t have a trade or any real construction experience he told me I would be doing general labor. The pay is $25 AUD an hour (around $19 USD).

I have honestly never worked so hard in my life. I have done jobs ranging from carrying very heavy doors up stairs, prying up wood flooring from a house that was flooded (that shit was never meant to come up) to carrying wood and cinder blocks down a very steep and long driveway. I have really come to appreciate people who do this for a living. It is very hard work. I was earning a lot more money back home working in an office. I often work a suit and tie to work, never sweat and never got home so sore and tired. I can say one thing for sure, Jeff Landfield is definitely a white collar guy!

One More Shot

I was eating risotto at an Italian restaurant a few weeks ago. Two girls sat next to me and cracked open a bottle of champagne! We got to chatting and they offered me a glass. I told them about my situation and mentioned if I don’t get a job soon I am leaving Sydney and heading to the outback. Turns out one of the girls works for a large recruiting firm and they are looking for an IT sales recruiter. I have since met with the girl who leads the team (she is American but has been here for 7 years) and also the managing director. I am not holding my breath based on my previous experiences but I will wait and see. I should know pretty soon if I got the job.

Plan B

Tim and I

I met a fellow Alaskan last month here in Sydney. We have a mutual friend in Alaska and she connected us. Tim was doing farm work up in Queensland for a while and was then traveling around Australia with his lady friend from Alaska for three weeks. They crashed at my place for a few days while they were passing through. She has since left back to Alaska and he is back in Sydney. Tim is crashing with me and I got him a job with the same labor company I am working for. If I don’t get this job we are going walkabout. He has a car and wants to head north. We may go to Darwin or somewhere in northern Queensland. I am heading to a good Alaskan friend’s wedding next week in the Dominican Republic for a week. I can’t wait to see so many of my Alaskan friends I have not seen in three months! If this job does not work out we plan to leave Sydney by the end of March.

Another interesting development occurred yesterday. I called into the Mark Colavecchio show to say hi and give an Australia update. Soon after I received an email from an Aussie guy who lives and works in Alaska. He said he always likes hearing me on the radio and had a proposal for me. He and his wife have a very remote cabin in northern New South Wales. He has not been there for a while and offered for me to stay as long as I like if I do some basic maintenance work. He sent some pictures and it looks awesome. It is super remote. That will definitely be something Tim and I will do if we head out of here together.

I have learned a lot in the three months I have been here:

  1. Getting sponsored is not as easy as I thought. I think it used to be a lot easier. Many friends I have met from UK and other places got sponsored 4 or 5 years ago and are now citizens. They all say it used to be easier.
  2. “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.” – Dwight Eisenhower
  3. Construction is hard, really hard.
  4. It is great meeting a fellow Alaskan and sharing this experience with him.
  5. Sydney is not at all representative of Australia.

I am very excited to see what the next few weeks will bring. Much of the excitement for me is the uncertainty. I love the quote, “It is not the destination, it is the journey.” That is definitely how I feel about things here. We will see what the future holds.







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Bernie Ebbers of AK
Bernie Ebbers of AK

You never sweat in the office before huh?