Shauna Scanlon is a 25-year-old English teacher from Ballybofey who has recently emigrated to Australia. Here, Shauna shares her experiences of her search for work and the unexpected role she found in the construction sector.

One of the main attractions of moving to Australia was the opportunity to do something completely different and take a break from my career. I loved teaching, a satisfying and rewarding job, but also found myself stressed and burned out.

Part of me craved a post where work didn’t follow me home, even just for a while.

As an unemployed backpacker in Sydney, I was open minded but didn’t have many options. My degrees and experience meant nothing now, the Working Holiday Visa determining that only temp jobs were available to my friends and I.

Our first week of job searching was filled with enthusiasm. Call centres and sales jobs offered tempting wages, often promising commission and bonuses.

Our keenness soon faded as we experienced the interview process; standing in front of 18-year-olds who were straight out of school, telling ‘fun facts’ about ourselves and pretending to hassle people on the phone left us feeling deflated.

We decided to go in a different direction and had heard reports of good pay and easy work in traffic controlling.

After two days completing courses, I was ready to start work immediately. I woke at half 4 on the morning of my first day and travelled 2 hours to get to site, something I wouldn’t think of doing at home.

Dressed in my high vis clothing, steel-toe boots and hard-hat, I arrived to a construction site with another Irish girl.

As I sat listening to the pre-start from the foreman, I struggled to comprehend how I had ended up on a building site when only a few weeks previously I had been standing at the top of a classroom. Instead of teaching poetry and pros, I now had to stand on a road with a stop/slow bat, stopping traffic if a truck was entering the site.

‘This is easy,’ I thought, a perfect way to escape the responsibility and stress of teaching while making a few dollars.

As the weeks went on I settled in well to my new job. I was lucky to work on the same site every day, a picturesque location in the Northern Beaches. Each morning brought the chance to drive over Harbour Bridge as the sun rose over Sydney, something I never tired of seeing.

I became friends with co-workers, most of them having similarly left their jobs at home in Ireland for something new.


Traffic control also brought easy money. I earned more standing around a building site, occasionally stopping traffic than I did as a qualified secondary school teacher. This angered me as it opened my eyes to the amount of extra work we do as teachers that is unpaid.  Although the price of living is Sydney is high, I still had more disposable income than I ever did at home.

I might have been making easy money and had the luxury of leaving work at work but the novelty soon wore off. As a casual worker, I was not guaranteed work every day and my hours became less frequent after Christmas. My plump pay-cheque halved in size and it became difficult to sustain the lifestyle I had become accustomed to. The uncertainty of work meant it was impossible to budget or plan trips.

Above all of this, the boredom of the job began to affect me. Some days I could be standing on a road, on my own, with no music or anyone to talk to for 8-10 hours. As someone who is used to being busy and in a routine, I found it extremely difficult having nothing to do.

All I had to keep me busy were my thoughts. I started to overthink things, dissect comments people made towards me and became annoyed and worried over trivial things. I lacked a sense of purpose and my confidence suffered.

Of course I have considered other jobs, spent my days off scouring Gumtree for vacancies and researched teaching in Australia. However, the lure of money, readily available work and the ability to take days off meant I became stuck in the traffic control loop.

I will most likely stay in this job during my time here as I know it is only for a short while but I look forward to stepping into a classroom again.

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