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  • Writer's pictureAffy Bhatti

Navigating the Australian Job Market for Migrants: A Guide

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Australian job market for migrants

There are few better places to work in the world than Australia. Not only is it a nation of fair labour laws and good opportunities for advancement, but at the end of the day you can relax and enjoy Australia’s iconic lifestyle. And, because incomes in Australia are one of the highest in the world, once you are working here, you’ll be able to save some money and send money transfers back home.

However, that’s not to say there aren’t challenges. For migrants, navigating Australia’s job market, finding the right job and making the most of it can seem like a maze at times. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to find support.

So what are the challenges faced by migrants?

Every country in the world has its own set of employment laws. These can range from the number of hours that a person can be asked to commit to a job, the minimum pay that they’re entitled to in exchange for their labour, and the laws they must abide by while in the workforce.

There are many examples of migrants – particularly new migrants – being exploited by employers that anticipate their unfamiliarity with the laws in Australia. It’s unfortunate that it happens, and it’s important that every migrant does two things: firstly, they should study up on how employment works in Australia so they know their rights. And secondly, if anything about a job concerns them, they should check with the Fair Work Ombudsman that their employer is meeting the obligations of a business in Australia.

There are also softer “social” challenges. Language barriers and cultural differences can all make it either difficult to find the right job, or a lonely experience in trying to fit in.

In Australia, English proficiency is essential for most jobs. There are a tiny few opportunities where you’ll be using your native language a lot of the time (if not most of the time), but the competition for those jobs tends to be very intense.

Furthermore, while Australia is an English-speaking nation, the Australian accent and colloquialisms can be perplexing for those new to the country. Many migrants come here with a perfect textbook understanding of English, only to struggle to understand what Australians are trying to say to them!

Once you’ve worked out what Australian slang is, understanding Australian workplace culture, norms, and etiquette is vital. Australians value a relaxed yet professional work environment. You’ll want to be on time and deliver your work by the deadline, but you’ll also need to have a sense of humour about it.

Understanding the Australian Job Market

Before you even start to look for a job the first thing you need to understand is what your qualifications mean in Australia. Many employment fields require qualification, and don’t necessarily recognise degrees from overseas universities and other institutions.

If you find out that this is the case for you, don’t panic! In many cases, there are pathways to having your qualifications recognised locally, and there are organisations that can assist in assessing your overseas qualifications to see whether they can apply to Australian requirements. If so, you’re not going to need to complete new study for that. Do some research and talk to relevant industry bodies. Australia has a long history of embracing migrants, so most sectors will be more than helpful and have plenty of information and resources to share.

It’s also useful to know where the jobs are. Australia’s economy is built on a complex blend of resources and knowledge industries. The key sectors include mining, agriculture, tourism, healthcare, education, and information technology.

Australia’s also a nation where jobs are very concentrated. Most migrants end up working in Sydney and Melbourne, where the bulk of demand for high-skill jobs are. The smaller cities tend to have fewer opportunities, and finding work in regional Australia (outside of fruit picking and other such labour-intensive jobs) can be very difficult.

How to find a job in Australia

Most people in Australia find work in one of two ways – either online, or via networking.

1. Online platforms

The three platforms you will find the best opportunities on are Seek, LinkedIn, and Indeed. There are other job platforms out there, but they tend to have fewer listings, and lack the quality control mechanisms of these three.

Using these platforms is easy. Once you find a job that you like the sound of, you submit your resume and cover letter to the employer through it. If the employer likes your submission, they will call you in for an interview.

Most jobs in Australia involve multiple interviews – as many as six or seven. It’s important that you are available for them, and make sure that you are on time and dressed professionally for them.

There are plenty of resources available to help you build a resume and present yourself effectively for job interviews. Check below for some useful links to get you started.

2. Networking

Once you’ve built large enough professional networks, you’ll find you may not even need to apply for jobs any longer. People will start approaching you to offer you work, when they think your expertise would be a good fit for them.

Building networks is the best pathway to really good jobs in Australia. Employers don’t tend to put job listings on Seek or LinkedIn for senior executive hires, for example.

For this reason, it’s important to attend industry events, make sure that you’re a prominent member of your company when you have the opportunity to, and make sure you’re always friendly and helpful for those around you. You never know when that might result in a contact that gives you a good job ten years down the track.

Resources to help you get started

Here are a range of useful resources and links to get you started:

  • Department of Employment and Workplace Relations: This page provides information about hiring overseas workers or migrants. It includes details about in-demand skills for migrants and how to fill seasonal jobs.

  • Refugee Council of Australia: If you’re passionate about working with refugees and people seeking asylum, this page lists jobs working with refugees in Australia. Many migrants gain valuable work by acting as translators or cultural advisors.

  • Skilled Migration Occupation Lists: This page provides the Skilled Migration Occupation lists which can help you understand what migrant skills are needed in Australia.

  • Migrant Skills Incentives: This page talks about the incentives offered to migrants such as free, fast-tracked skills assessments, free employability assessments, career advice and subsidised training.

  • Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA): FECCA advocates for multiculturalism in Australia, including in the workplace.

  • Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network: MYAN works with young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, providing resources and advocacy.

  • Glassdoor: Glassdoor allows people to review the places that they’ve worked for. This is a really useful resource for making sure that the employer is ethical, and that you’ll enjoy working for them.

  • This website will help you prepare a resume that fits with what Australian employers like to see, making it more likely that they’ll want to interview you.

  • Hays’ Complete Interview Guide: This guide provides all the advice you need to ensure a successful job interview, whether it’s taking place in-person, over video or on a phone call.

  • Crescent Institute: The Crescent Institute provides inclusive professional learning, networking and engagement opportunities with Australia’s political, business, and cultural leaders on topics of national importance - for migrants, it’s an excellent source for connection on all facets of Australian life.

Don’t give up!

Remember that every journey begins with a single step, and while job hunting can be stressful and demoralising, it’ll all be worth it in the end. As a migrant, your skills are a blessing to Australia, and when you do secure a job that lets you apply those talents, you’ll gain full satisfaction from living in such a blessed country in return. Before you know it, you’ll be able to make that first money transfer and start sending your blessings from Australia back home.


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