Saturday, 27 May, 2017
Prior to arriving in Australia, I was pretty confident that I could walk into a hospitality or retail job in any city I entered – perhaps a little presumptions and cocky, but I’ve just never previously had trouble finding work in the industries I would be targeting.
I had worked in clothes shops, coffee shops, bars, and call centres all before I could even grow I beard. I’m now older, more experienced, and occasional need to shave off a bit of stubble – how could I not be confident in my chances?
Since then I’ve filled buckets with tomatoes for one day, expertly made cocktails for one day, picked apples for seven days, and worked in a coffee shop for two days – that’s a total of 11 days of work from a possible 147 so far in 2017. I know bald men that have been to the barbers on more days than that this year.
The days of coffee shop work came this week. I got the job due to walking in with a CV moments after a member of staff called in sick – it seemed like my luck was in. However, once the sick member of staff stopped coughing, the owner decided that there was no longer room for me on the rota and I was back to square one.
I felt like borrowed toothpaste. I had been used up and spat out before I’d even finished doing the loop on the Y in my signature for the tax forms.
‘So, why have you not been working, are you being lazy?’
Firstly, how dare you accuse me of being lazy! What do you think this is just a holiday to me? Do you know how many times I’ve been sitting on a beach with a beer, and thought, this is awful, I really wish I was mopping a stain-filled floor right now.
Ok, so the 136 days off this year have definitely had their perks, but money doesn’t grow on trees – at least not on any of the trees I’ve picked fruit from anyway! Therefore, I really do need to work at some point.
And, I really have tried, more so than I probably have in any other period in my life. I’ve attempted applying for jobs in four major cities across the country – from checking for internet adds every day to handing CVs into anywhere that would take it. Including three different ‘adult cinemas’ – that’s right, I was at one point so desperate for money that I was willing to go around picking up lonely old men’s used tissues after an afternoon of watching ‘Ass Ventura: Crack Detective’.
And yet, I managed to sink even lower than that in my quest to find work. I stooped as low as I morally could. Dealing drugs to infants? Lower. Setting up a cock fighting ring and taking bets as I watch chickens fight to the death? Lower. Prostituting for old men that watch Ass Ventura? Lower. So, what could possibly be so damn low?
I applied to, and got rejected three times, by McDonald’s.
It made me question everything. Again, call me arrogant, but I definitely felt like I have enough in my locker to land a job at McDonald’s. I frantically ran through all my steps in my head as I read through the rejection letters one more time. What did I do wrong? Was my skin too clear and the spots not vivid enough on my face? Was the grease in my hair not as noticeable as it could have been? What could I possibly be lacking? Was I too old? I believe the last one is actually partly the reason.
To apply for a job at McDonald’s you get a series of multiple choice based questions, which seem to have been written for a person younger than myself. I may be wrong, I’ll let you decide – this was a genuine question I had to answer in order to apply for the fast-food chain:
“Your auntie has asked you to babysit on Saturday, and you agreed. However, you later realise that your friend’s birthday party is on the same night. What would you do?”
I depressingly went through about thirty questions in that realm. I haven’t babysat in fifteen years, and my friends’ are too old to have birthday parties – so, I’d probably just be pretty surprised if that dilemma landed on my lap, rather than alert about what to do.
I was being asked about how I would prepare for my maths test and how I’d feel if my best friend made a negative comment about my new shoes. One thing I did realise while I was taking this test, is that the staff photo was going to look weird with me in it. I was either going to look like the kid at school that got held back by ten years or the father of a really big family of spotty kids.
Ok, my ego won’t allow me to accept that I just did not have good enough attributes for a job at McDonald’s – so, let’s explore the reasons as to why I’ve found it so difficult to find and hold down a job in Australia.
As I mentioned previously, age is a factor – not the biggest hindrance, but being old enough to grow hair under your armpits can automatically rule you out of many jobs.
A lot of companies like to only hire juniors – children aged 15-16. As, well, simply put, by law they can pay them a lot less. It’s pretty common that you’ll be served by a kid in a fast-food restaurant whose wages go on marshmallows and whose most troubling thought is whether they should help Aunt Pam babysit Ava or go play laser quest and watch Tommy blow out his fifteen candles.
While I just simply can’t compete with little Tommy’s mate, my biggest battle is not against the fifteen year old children. It’s convincing people that somebody on a working holiday visa is worth hiring. Most people take one look at your CV, see that you’re not Australian, and throw it in the bin.
They assume people on a working holiday visa are not committed and only looking to work for the short term (which to be fair, is usually pretty accurate). So, we’re left with the bottom of the barrel jobs. Unless, you count McDonald’s as bottom of the barrel, in which case, we are under the barrel.
It’s not impossible to find a job – it’s just very difficult.
There are always commission based sales jobs (which are a lot of work, for very little pay) available. This line of work basically requires you to chase people down the street begging them to sign up to a ‘tour deal’ (you only get paid if they sign, and believe it or not, very few people can be convinced to pay 400 dollars for a snorkelling trip there and then).
Or there is farm work, which I’m obviously boss at, but, yeah, the novelty has kind of worn off after my 8 days of hard graft in that line of work.
There are other jobs that pop up from time to time – but, you’re competing with a hell of a lot of people in most cases. So, if you apply for a job online and you’re on a working holiday visa, your CV automatically gets pushed to the bottom of the pile.
I guess it’s just always important to have a Plan B. I’m now on Plan N (Plan M was McDonald’s), tomorrow I will take to the street and give busking a go. Although, I can’t sing or afford a guitar – so, let’s see how the good people of Cairns feel about a man with an air guitar and the voice of a strangled cat. Wish me luck!
Plan O is standing outside McDonald’s with a balaclava and taking Tommy’s mate’s marshmallow money, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and the busking proves a success.