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Short-Term Paid Work Programs for Students and Recent Graduates

Work in Sydney, Australia
One place students may find jobs after college is in Australia via the working holiday program, made easier with the help of agencies and programs.

The bad news about working abroad is that you can’t just take a plane to a foreign country and start looking for a paid job. This would be illegal without a work permit, which cannot be acquired without a job offer, and—classic Catch-22—very few employers will offer you a job without your already having a work permit.

The good news is that there are a number of organizations which can help you cut the red tape and acquire a legal work permit or place you in a job. Despite weak economies in many countries, job prospects remain good for those participating in short-term work programs—from a few months up to 23 months or a bit more.

Alternatives to Short-Term Jobs

Alternatives also include teaching English abroad, internships abroad, or volunteering programs with private sending organizations, government organizations such as the Peace Corps, or NGOs. If you want an internship for academic credit, consider a study abroad program with an internship or volunteer component (see "Key Resources for Working Abroad"). If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to experience total cultural immersion, or to simply earn your way through an adventure abroad, here’s a good place to start.

Short-Term Work Exchange Organizations

The two main program types for short-term work abroad are

  • Work Abroad exchange, which helps students to get a work permit in locations such as Australia and New Zealand, then look for a job on site with assistance from their overseas offices. Organizations such as BUNAC are a popular way to do get a short-term job.
  • Overseas job placement programs, offered by a number of U.S.-based work exchange organizations such as Interexchange and Geovisions.

The emphasis in both cases is on exchange, since your participation in most of these programs enables someone from abroad to have the equivalent experience in the U.S.

Work Permit Programs for Students

Thousands of U.S. students and recent graduates work abroad each year in programs administered by BUNAC, a popular option for working abroad and one of the few which does not require applying far in advance. You can get a work permit without a job offer, you can work at any job you find, and the application process is non-competitive.

BUNAC for Australia and New Zealand can get you a work permit—otherwise difficult for Americans to obtain—any time of the year for Australia and New Zealand. They can also get you work permits for Ireland. Volunteer projects are available in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania. Without a work permit, you could only work illegally, seriously limiting your options.

BUNAC, while offering mush support, is largely a do-it-yourself program—you find your own job and apartment using listings provided by the overseas program office. The average time for finding jobs is depends upon the country. The initial investment includes the program fee, roundtrip airfare, and enough money to tide you over until you get the first pay check (often $5000 is recommended just as a safety net). Most students report that they can cover their expenses and save money, although this is not easily done in Australia and New Zealand due to cost of living and high airfares.

The typical BUNAC job is in restaurant, hotel, clerical, or sales work—but even these ordinary jobs provide a total immersion experience in the daily life of another culture, resulting in cross-cultural insights, friendships, and personal growth. Some participants have managed some quite creative jobs. Some participants arrange interviews in advance, but a firm job offer in advance is rare.

Come prepared. Bring your resume and references from previous employers or professors and a suit for interviews.

Accommodations. Take advantage of optional room reservation services offered by most of these programs. Otherwise, reserve a youth hostel in advance. Visit the Hostelling International website to find make reservations. It’s advisable to find your apartment after you get your job to minimize commuting time. Some jobs include housing.

Insurance. Most programs require you to have your own health insurance. The International Student Identification Card (ISIC) cards provides travel discounts. We recommend that everyone have one. More comprehensive coverage is available from special agencies such as World Nomads, essential if you have no other health insurance.

Study and work. If you are going on a study abroad program, you may be able to combine it with a BUNAC permit, allowing work before, during, or sometimes after studying. However, don’t expect to finance your studies this way.

Getting a work permit overseas. This is nearly impossible unless you already have a job offer. Get the work permit before you leave, or use a job placement program such as BUNAC and InterExchange which arrange for work permits in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Interexchange also arranges for au pair and teaching jobs in Asia, internship, and volunteer programs worldwide.

William Nolting is an Assistant Director at the International Center of the University of Michigan and former Work Abroad and International Educational Editor for Transitions Abroad.

 
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