Every year thousands of young Canadians take advantage of the chance to work and live abroad. The desire to learn about another culture and discover one’s self within the context of the world is easily appreciated. Working holidays offer people the chance to explore an exciting country while gaining international work experience and earning an income.
Many career-oriented young people are intrigued by the idea of a working holiday, but decide that they do not have the time to take off from school and work. In reality, working abroad for a year or two can add value to education and professional qualifications. Résumés with international work experience stand out. Employers appreciate the independence, personal resourcefulness and problem-solving skills necessary to work abroad.
Young Canadians are privileged in being eligible for working holiday visas from several countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Japan, and South Africa. Working holiday visas for these countries are only issued once in a lifetime, and have strict age restrictions. It’s essential to go while still within the age limitations, and before becoming locked into mature responsibilities.
Many people on work programs pursue more career-related positions, while others quickly find casual work in the service and hospitality industries. Most find work within the first two-weeks but it can take a little longer to find a specifically field-relevant professional job. “We recommend that people who are looking for a more career-type job be open to taking a casual work while searching for a job more relevant to their field of interest,” says Libby Law, Director of SWAP Working Holidays. There are plenty of jobs available to Canadians working abroad in fields such as graphic design, production, English tutoring, bartending, and secretarial, just to name a few. Working holiday visa holders are free to pursue any type of employment.
Some programs do not place participants in jobs, but rather provide all of the resources needed to find work and accommodation in the destination country, and applies for the working holiday visa on applicants’ behalf. An important part of working and living abroad involves pursing the type of job, accommodation, friends and lifestyle that each individual is most interested in.
One of the most rewarding components of working abroad comes from gaining opportunities independently. One participant currently working in Ireland, Melissa Strange, loved how her work program gave her the support she needed, while she maintained her freedom. Melissa says, “I like how the program is designed to assist you in creating your own adventure rather than planning one out for you. If SWAP lined you up with a job rather than providing you with the resources to find your own, the entire experience would not be as beneficial.” Melissa loves the working holiday-maker lifestyle and plans on going on a working holiday in Australia after her Irish visa expires.
Support services save time, money, and frustration upon arrival in the chosen host country. When participants arrive in their destination country they attend an orientation at the overseas partner’s hosting centre. The support staff members go over how to find work and accommodation, employment and tax laws, and what format resumes should be in. They offer assistance in opening a bank account, obtaining a tax file number, and much more. Up-to-date job postings, as well as computers, Internet, fax machines, printers, and phones are also provided. Social events are also hosted so that travellers can make new friends from all over the world.
Working holidays are truly life-changing and incredibly rewarding experiences for Canadians. People who go on a working holiday find more opportunities available to them, and increased confidence when they return to Canada. It is the sort of adventure that will build character and self-reliance that will be relied upon in future professional settings. Work holidays are rarely regretted, though many people do regret not taking advantage of the chance to live abroad.
Marketing Coordinator, SWAP Working Holidays