(this is a series and a real life experience from one of our readers who wanted to share his journey to work in the US in the hope it would educate and inspire others)
Part 1 – J1 Visa & Early Days
Part 3 – Job Application & Visa Process
I arrived in New York looking for work a year after the recession had hit, so things weren’t looking too great. Nonetheless, I found a retail job on my third day in the city, which I was pretty pleased about. I was pretty shocked to hear that they paid $9 an hour – that’s what I made when I was 16 and worked in a juice bar – but that’s actually a pretty decent rate here, as minimum wage is $7.25.
You must get used to the fact that the retail and hospitality industries pay significantly less than they do back home in Australia. You can make good money waitressing or bartending, but you make that in tips, so it’s dependent on where you work and how busy your shift is. If it’s a slow night, or it’s snowing outside, or if the economy has just crapped itself, you may not make that month’s rent – but you could also make upward of $200 a night if you have some high-tipping customers.
Craigslist is a great place to find jobs, but try looking in some unconventional places as hundreds of people apply for the jobs advertised there. I had a friend find a job in an art gallery/cafe because she looked in the “artists” category on Craigslist and hardly anyone had applied.
Babysitting will be your lifesaver. If you can handle kids, you can make great money, often cash in hand, looking after kids. People are desperate for good, reliable babysitters. You can’t strictly work as an Au-Pair on the J1, but you can get casual babysitting or nannying gigs.
New York is an incredible, dynamic city with wonderful opportunities available. There is so much to see and do it can be overwhelming. It can also be quite isolating, and even when you do make friends, people have difficulty with committment here, so plans that you thought were concrete were actually tentative. Having said that, there are just SO many people here and SO many things to do that you can find friends in the most unusual of places – on the subway, at a show, in a focus group. People are really charmed by the Australian accent, too, so use that to your advantage.