Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Job hunting is (currently) finished

Well, the job hunting is finished: I am now a productive, tax paying member of Australian society. I have taken on a contract with "Bullseye" (Bullseye.com.au) to do an ASP.Net + SQL Server website. The contract is initially three months in duration but if things work out there is the possibility that it might be extended to six months, or even a more permanent position.

The job hunting took longer than expected. I had been advised before coming here that I should start applying for jobs on arrival into Sydney, or even before arriving: when the time came, though, I figured I'd just spend some time doing the tourist sights first and so it wasn't until two weeks after arriving into Sydney that I started looking. Even then, I only applied for one or two jobs and was in no particular hurry, which wasted another couple of weeks.

In the end, though, it all came together rather quickly: applied on Wednesday, phone interview Thursday, technical face-to-face interview Friday afternoon and the contracts were signed an hour later.

Naturally, within an hour of signing, the flood of available positions from other recruiters started pouring in and between Friday arvo (see: I'm starting to pick up the local lingo(!)) and on Monday I had to decline half-a-dozen promising positions. It may have been a coincidence, but on the other hand I had a week previously changed my CV to clarify my experience (for the techies: very few people had heard of Sharepoint or the Compact Framework, so a clarification of what they were (ASP.Net and Winforms) was put in).

With regards to the job websites, Seek.com.au and MyCareer.com.au were the most fruitful. I did get the impression that there were more jobs being advertised for than there actually were in reality: multiple recruiters were retained by companies to find candidates and so multiple-similar ads would appear. Also, on applying for a job that had been posted only hours previously, I would sometimes get an email back straight away saying that the position had been filled (already?!) but that they would keep my CV in case anything else came up (indicating that the ad was more of a CV-harvesting exercise).

Still, those harvesting recruiters were fortunately few and far between: the vast majority of the recruiters I dealt with were positive, helpful and enthusiastic.

As for the .Net (its a programming language, for the uninitiated) skill breakdown, the following is how the main skills are ranked in terms of popularity of available positions:
1) ASP.Net. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of positions were for ASP.Net, preferably with SQL Server or (less frequently) Oracle. Having these skills on the CV is a big plus and is one of the factors which attracted me to the Bullseye position.
2) Winforms & Sharepoint. In tied second place are Winforms and Sharepoint (separately). Both appeared with about the same frequency, but due to a shortage of Sharepoint developers, having Sharepoint skills is seen as being a major plus.
3) Compact Framework. Companies looking for this experience are rare but if you have the experience you could find yourself in demand due to a shortage of suitable developers. However, while I was job hunting I did not see any Compact Framework roles.

I did find the job hunting to have a steep learning curve on the regulatory side of things. So, here are the main points:

There are two types, "Holiday" (no work allowed) and "Working Holiday" visa (work allowed, but with restrictions). Could you get away with just a holiday visa and still pick up an IT job? I guess its possible, but the VAST majority of ads state that applicants must how a working related visa, so it would be tough starting with just the holiday visa.
The main restriction with the Working Holiday visa is that you are limited to three months with the same employer. However, if your employer has multiple offices you could work for the Sydney office for the first three months, the Melbourne office (but in the Sydney office) for the next three months, etc. The visa regulations are being changed to allow a straight six months with the same employer (in the same location), but those changes don't come into effect until July 2006 and apparently they are not retrospective so my visa will still be limited to three months.

So, you don't have a working visa, or you have a working visa but want to stay with the same employer for an extended period (upto four years)?, then you will want sponsorship from a company. This takes a couple of weeks to be processed, must be done by an employer and has the unfortunate side effect of canceling your previous visa, meaning that if you leave your sponsorship then you have 28 days to leave the country(!)... Still, its seen as being the way to go. I don't need it (yet) as I am doing a three month contract, which fits in with the standard Working Holiday Visa regulations, but if I want to stay on longer then I may need sponsorship.

Contracting v. Permanent
If you want a permanent job, then you will need to find a company which offers sponsorship and not all do...
The more flexible approach is to get a contracting role as this may allow you to retain your existing visa. So, one approach you could take for example, is that you could get a three month contract to get some money together and then spend the remaining nine months traveling around Oz. Alternatively, you could get rolling-contracts, one after the other.
Being a contractor, you will need to be contracted from some company. For the brave, you could set up your own company and contract yourself out from it, but keep in mind that you will need to arrange your own insurance and sort out the tax yourself. The easier approach is to go with a contract management company (such as Lesters Associates of Sydney) who takes care of everything for you (for a small monthly fee, naturally).
The usual path is to start out as a contractor and if things work out then you could become sponsored and permanent.

Money-wise, the salaries being quoted here are a lot higher than back home. You can also, generally, claim your tax & pension back though there are time-based restrictions (e.g. If you stay for a couple of years, you may not be able to claim back the tax for the initial year(s)).

So, there you have it: the job is sorted out. Next task, find suitable accomodation, which hopefully won't take as long to sort out...