How Australians find work in America

The fact is that finding work in some of the most competitive cities on the planet is going to be a challenge for most Australians.  Landing in a US city with a promise of an E-3 visa is only a ticket to the big league. Without a well planned strategy, you will burn through time and your resources.

Members of the Australian Community have access to resources inside our Private Social Network to assist in the job hunt. They include our Employment and Networking Communities, where they can make professional connections, access job resources, and learn from the experience of other Australians.

Further, our fast-growing LinkedIn E3 Employment Group is a unique resource that connects Australian Employers, Recruiters, Job Seekers, and Advocates.

Before we speak to the best practices of finding work, we need to cover some of the legalities of searching for work in the United States.

Immigrant Intent 

We touched on this concept in an earlier chapter. A U.S. Border Protection Agent (BPA) is the first Agent you speak with before entering America. If they suspect you have immigrant intent, you will be detained and sent back to your original destination. Making a false declaration about why you are entering the U.S. can also have you detained and sent packing.

If you tell a Border Protection Agent that you are entering the U.S. to seek work, in their mind, you are saying you are here to seek employment AND work illegally. Trying to explain that you are here to find work, leave the country, and then apply for a work visa will also fall on deaf ears. In addition, finding an Immigration Attorney’s business card on your person could also have you deported.

Further, if a BPA suspects you have Immigrant Intent, they may insist that you open your Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media apps on your phone to check if you have posted that you are looking for work.

You must always answer questions truthfully when asked by a BPA as to the reason for your visit. When you have no immigrant intent, volunteering information that may be construed as Immigrant Intent is where most Australians find themselves on the next flight out of Dodge.

The role of the BPA is (in part) to prevent anyone from entering the U.S. who intends to work illegally. More detail is covered in the video on this page. However, no law prevents someone on a tourist visa from having a conversation about employment.

Understand the Risks

It is always best to shine a light on the negatives early. Finding a job in the U.S., especially in a major city like New York, is no easy task. You are not only competing against the best and brightest in the U.S. but every ex-pat from every other Nation on the planet who sees the U.S. as the land of opportunity.

If you are applying for a job, you not only need to be better qualified and have more experience than an American, but you also have to overcome the perceived cultural risk of employing a non-US citizen. In some situations, you may well be the first Aussie to apply for a position at that company.

Do Your Homework

Before you decide to move to the U.S., you need to do your homework. In the first chapter, we covered Budget/Expenses, and now we will explore your potential earnings.

Looking at the significant Job Boards and employment sites, you will understand what positions are available to someone with your skillset. Unfortunately, salaries are generally not included with the Job Description (this is changing in New York and other cities). Still, you will get a feel for the qualifications and experience necessary for finding work in America.

If you only have a bachelor’s degree, and the role states post-grad qualifications are a plus, then chances are the employer or recruiter will go with a candidate holding an MBA.

If you have a Sports or Political background, it will be tough to break into a field where it is 80% of who you know. In a nutshell, unless there is a strong demand for your skillset, finding work is going to take longer than you think.

Even if you do find work, is it enough to sustain an equivalent or better lifestyle than you currently have in Australia? 

Indeed, you may be prepared to take a slight haircut on salary in exchange for adding International experience to your Resume. However, if your lifestyle is based on the crumbs in your pocket after paying your living expenses, perhaps you need to reassess your move.

The Recruiter

The Recruiter comes in two flavors, Internal and External. Typically large organizations have their internal recruiters, and smaller organizations use a third-party recruiting firm. In addition, small businesses typically use job sites or LinkedIn to post positions.

When you approach a Recruiter on LinkedIn, you need to make an excellent first impression. Simply sending a generic “I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn” message will not make much of a first impression. It will hurt you.

You need to have a concise message that communicates your value proposition and that you are in the U.S. or your landing date. The latter should not be more than fourteen days. If it is three weeks or more, the Recruiter will not feel any urgency to act.

Finding “Australian Friendly” recruiters in your city is relatively easy – if you know how. 

First, log in to your LinkedIn profile, click inside the Search field at the top of the page, and type in “Staffing and Recruiting”.

Then select the “All Filters” at the next screen, and you will see a form appear where you can narrow your search.

Scroll down to Location and select the City/Region you are looking for recruiters.

Then scroll down to School and then click “+ Add a School”. Type in Australian Universities. You are limited to 10 at a time, so it will be an iterative process.

When you click “Show Results” you will see (1st,) 2nd, and 3rd connections, in your area, who work in Staffing and Recruiting, and attended an Australian University.

There is a 90-95% chance that they are an Australian, and the other 5-10% will be someone who spent a semester abroad! In any case, they are most likely “Australian Friendly” and open to a chat.

If you find second connections, reach out to the contact you both have in common, and ask for a warm introduction. If there are no common connections, you will have to pick up the phone and cold call the recruiter via the company’s main switch.

Are You Employer Friendly?

Before you pick up the phone to call a recruiter or apply for a job, you need to ask yourself, “Am I Employer Friendly?”

Later in this chapter, we discuss essentials such as a U.S. formatted resume and a strong understanding of the U.S. job market. Without these essentials, you may not be ready to apply for positions, let alone meet with a recruiter.

One sure way to burn a relationship with a recruiter is to be unprepared. The recruiter may have a position that you are more than qualified for, but they will not put you in front of a client if you are unprepared. For example, is your LinkedIn profile in lockstep with your Resume?

Reaching out to a Recruiter

You have to sell yourself to a recruiter before they can sell you to an employer. The best practice is to prepare a list of your strengths to impress the recruiter on the call. Therefore they will be more willing to meet you or review your Resume.

If you get a voice message, leave your name and number, but tell them that you will call them back at 9:35 AM or 10:20 AM tomorrow – some odd time of the day. Then at that exact time, call. Even if you leave another message, it will impress the recruiter that you followed up and did exactly what you said you would do. Fail to follow up, and you will burn a bridge.

The Interview Process

To help Australians better understand the nuances of finding work in the U.S., below are our top tips to help you navigate a very different job market.

The Salary Discussion comes last!

One concept that many Australian job seekers have difficulty understanding is that the money discussion comes last. Logically, why would you interview for a position if you do not know how you will be compensated?

The answer is in another question: How do I know how much to pay this person if I do not know what they are worth?

After you have aced the interview process and impressed the half dozen or more interviewers, then comes the offer. This is often a negotiation. Typically the offer will be on the low end as the manager has a degree of discretion in salaries.

It is your job to understand what the high end is. It may be the same, but asking this question may be the most important in your interview process. You have already proved that you are the most qualified candidate, but are you as good a negotiator?

Expect Multiple interviewers.

Everyone is risk-averse in the U.S., and hiring a candidate is no exception. So expect to be interviewed by peers, managers, H.R., your boss, and one management level above them.

The logic is that not everyone will get it wrong, and a consensus will decide the best candidate. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the peer interview is not as important as a manager’s.

There is a reason that each person has been selected to interview you; your mission is to understand what is essential in their criteria for selecting a successful candidate.

It does not apply in every situation or industry, but asking your variation of the question “Is there anything that we have discussed (or not discussed) that would prevent me from being the successful candidate for the position?” will shake out any objections and enable you to deal with them before they report their feedback on your interview.

Understand How to Read the Room.

If you are fortunate enough to be on an interview, here, the first few minutes are traditionally taken as a preamble to questions. As we discussed in the previous chapter, Australians have a very different Language of Friendship to Americans, and understanding the differences can assist in building a friendly rapport with your Interviewer.

While your Interviewer is telling you that they have always wanted to visit Australia and that it is so far away, take a few minutes to look around their office. Visual clues such as photographs, degrees, trophies, or a bag of golf clubs in the corner are gems when it comes to conversation starters!

If a photo is of their family and or dog, ask their names and ages. How long have you been married? Where do they go to school? Any personal item that the Interviewer feels is important enough to display in their office should be important to you as well.

One or two minutes spent finding ten pieces of personal information will set the platform for a great interview.

Learn the Local Language.

Every industry has its own language, and yours may be one of them. Technical terms, acronyms, and jargon can be very specific to your industry as well as the U.S. For example, is a BDM a Business Decision Maker or a Business Development Manager? Is an SME a Subject Matter Expert or a Small to Medium Enterprise?

Part of your challenge in an interview is sounding authoritative in the local language, even though you have a foreign accent.

When speaking in an interview, be sure that people are listening to what you say and not how you mispronounce words. Then, again, it gets back to reassuring a prospective interviewer that hiring a non-US citizen will not create unnecessary risk within the organization.

Whether you agree with the local pronunciation of Mazda as Mars-da is irrelevant; either way, it can be pronounced with an Australian accent, but the latter (along with learning other local languages) can be the difference between creating or retiring risk in the mind of your prospective employer.

Erase the word “Sponsorship” from your vocabulary!

Anyone looking to hire a non-US citizen will be as nervous as a nudist through a barbed wire fence when it comes to the topic of work authorization.

Thousands of Australians have successfully explained the E-3 visa to a potential employer, and you can be quite confident they never used the word “sponsorship” in the same sentence as “visa.”

A simple explanation is to ask the Interviewer if they heard of the Canadian TN work visa? Most have, so you state that the E-3 is the same, but Australians have never reached the 10,500 limit, so they are available all year.

No matter how you explain the E-3 and why it is not the same as an H-1B, you need to be very confident in your explanation. Any hesitation or legal miscommunication around the topic of work authorization during the interview process will kill your chances of employment.

This video explains in detail the difference between an E-3 and an H1-B.

If you successfully receive a job offer, congratulations! Now you need to find a U.S. Consulate that is processing E-3 visas in a reasonable time.

.au can say that you are not committed.

If you are committed to moving to the U.S., then commit virtually as well. Firstly, set up a personal U.S. email account through Outlook or Gmail and include this on your Resume.

If you are setting up a new email, keep it professional! For example, the alias “LozieTheAussie” @ any email address will not make a professional impression.

Variations of your first, middle, and last names with periods or dashes should yield a unique professional email alias. It will also keep any job-related communications separate from your personal .au emails.

Think about a local cell phone number as well, as no employer or recruiter is likely to call a number commencing with a +61 for an interview.

Also, change your LinkedIn profile to your U.S. region. Recruiters and employers will search your social media, and LinkedIn is usually the first stop. If LinkedIn lists your location as Australia, it can either demonstrate a lack of commitment or you do not possess attention to detail.

Note: Be truthful in your LinkedIn profile and do not post anything on social media that will come back to haunt you later.

Understand that not only Employers and Recruiters but U.S. Border Protection can review the social media of anyone entering the U.S., including Facebook and LinkedIn (even if your social media page is not public). 


Make your Resume RELEVANT!

There is the story of two Australians seeking work in New York. One had held a senior role in Sydney and the other a less senior position in the same company’s Melbourne office.

One worked on accounts such as Gucci, Prada, and Burberry and the other David Jones, Meyer, and Coles. Who appears to be the better choice from an American perspective? Are years of experience more relevant than brand recognition in a resume?

Logic would dictate that the candidate who held the senior role and possessed more experience would get the job, but that is not always the case here in the U.S. Often, you have to translate your Resume into concepts that Americans can understand.

Stating that you worked for a company with annual revenue of AU$450 million is not the same as stating that the company was larger by revenue than the combined revenue of its three nearest competitors!

Always think about how relevant both you and your Resume are to an American employer and recruiter.

A Resume is only ONE Page!

If you can tweet your innermost feelings in less than 140 characters, you can produce a one-page resume.

Recruiters and employers often see a resume as nothing more than a checklist for the qualities and qualifications of a candidate for a specific role, an admission ticket to an interview.

Rule of thumb:  Less is more!

Be sure that your Resume highlights your qualities, achievements, and education and does not list irrelevant sporting and personal interests. Our members have access to The Perfect Resume, a resume template designed to summarize your work history, qualifications, and achievements on one page. It is in Word, it is formatted for U.S. Letter, and it can be optimized for machine-reading.

If you are looking for inspiration, look at other resumes posted on job boards and use a similar format.

It’s a Resume, NOT a CV!

Graduating Magna Cum Laude may be an advantage in an interview, but using the title Curriculum Vitae in lieu of Resume can kill your chances of finding work.

Creating obstacles such as highlighting a language or formatting differences through the title of your Resume will do you no favors. Spelling errors are bad enough, but an incorrect title can make a bad first impression.

How we pronounce certain words can be endearing in an interview, but spelling gaffes such as colour are going to have your Resume sent to the bottom of the pile faster than you can say Alumimnium.

While you are switching your spell checker settings in Word to “U.S. English,” make sure you switch your page size from A4 to Letter as well!

Many people with whom you are interviewing have never hired a non-U.S. citizen. Therefore, not only do you have to prove that you are the best candidate, but you also have to overcome a cultural barrier.

An Australian accent makes us endearing, but remember to never argue over the correct pronunciation of a word, even if the Periodic Table spells it that way!

You do not choose New York; New York chooses you!

If you are among the vast majority of Australians whose dream is to live and work in New York, the reality is that it is not for everyone, and assumptions often lead to disappointment. There is a persistent misperception that U.S. employers are lining up to hire Australians: This is simply not true.

One of the most challenging obstacles to finding work in America is that the process can take three to six months to complete. Unfortunately, the reality is that many Australians return home within a few months after failing to find work.

An abundance of E-3 visas does not correlate with an abundance of jobs for Australians. Here is a link to an article where three Australians share their New York experiences finding work.

New York is the deepest, darkest end of the pool, and you are also going to have to learn to get out of your comfort zone if you are going to swim with the Men in Grey Suits.

Our organization can assist with accessing credit cards, but be prepared to battle to achieve basic needs in NYC, such as finding an apartment. Any sense of entitlement or expectations you bring to New York can often lead to frustration and disappointment.

The reality that many Australians soon realize is that finding work in a country where you are competing against the best and brightest from other countries and Americans with strong alumni connections is not an easy task.

Many American employers have never hired a non-US citizen, so simply being the smartest or most qualified is no guarantee to finding work in New York.

An x-factor often makes the difference between success and failure in finding work, and it cannot always be explained in rational terms.

Understanding that New York may not choose you allows you to be open to all the excitement and culture New York has to offer, not spending your time simply looking for work.

Click here to read “Moving to the U.S. for Aussies” from the beginning.

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About The Australian Community

Based in New York City and now in our tenth year, our 501(c)(3) organization was formed specifically to connect professional Australians in America. Over the past decade, The Australian Community has assisted tens of thousands of Australians in New York and across America.

In addition to our public social media, our members connect through a private Enterprise Social Network. Our network facilitates 1:1 connections. Most importantly, it contains the largest private Australian knowledge base in North America.

Therefore, whether you are an Australian in New York or another U.S. city, our non-profit services can connect you with other professional Australians to help you achieve your business goals.

If you are an Australian living in or moving to America, you can join The Australian Community.

Make a Tax-Deductible Donation

Our organization relies on the generosity of its members and supporters to continue our good work, assisting Australians living in the United States.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our 501(c)(3) public charity.

All contributions are fully tax-deductible under Section 170 of the IRS Code. In addition, the Australian Community is qualified to receive tax-deductible bequests, devises, transfers, or gifts under sections 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Code.