How Kirby’s gap year turned into living and working the dream down south

Tourism and Hospitality Careers WA
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“The owner appreciates that I’m very outgoing, active and love to be outdoors. He lets me pick which hours I want to do, so I can still live an outdoors life and be really healthy.”

For most of us, living in Margaret River is only something we fleetingly dream about while on holiday, but for 26-year-old Kirby Diaz, she turned her post-degree down south gap year into everyday life. “I got an opportunity to live with some friends down here, but then I loved it so much that I didn’t want to go back to the city.”

She’s since grabbed her new ‘lifestyle’ career with both hands, now working full time at popular beachside café The White Elephant, as their marketing and events coordinator (that is, when she’s not surfing, trail running, walking her dog along the beach or popping into wineries with pals).

Tourism and Hospitality Careers WA

Kirby’s one of many young West Aussies who’ve chosen a dream career in our state’s tourism and hospitality industry – learn more about Kirby’s story below, and head to our Dream Careers Hub to hear from more people like her, and how you could make this lifestyle a reality.

Table of contents:

How’d you get into this career?

After jumping at the opportunity for a gap year in Margaret River, Kirby originally started working at The White Elephant as a barista, which pretty quickly led into helping out with coordinating events at the scenic venue.

And then a combination of putting herself out there and an open-minded workplace led her to throwing her hat in the ring for a social media and marketing coordinator role the owner was about to advertise.

“I said ‘I’d really love to give this job a go’, and I wrote out what I could bring to the table, like my personality traits, skills and interests,” she recalls over brunch one sunny Margaret River morning. “I gave them a little plan of what the Instagram would look like if I was doing it and wrote down what I could bring to the table, including the vision I had for Instagram, Facebook and social media. And they gave me the opportunity!”

CAREER STEPPING STONES
1.

Sports & Exercise degree at Uni in Perth

2.

Gap year in Margaret River, decided to stay

3.

Started at The White Elephant as barista

4.

Proactively secured the social media role

5.

Created events/marketing role for herself

What’s a typical day look like?

Picture the idyllic Margaret River lifestyle, and we reckon it’ll probably align pretty closely to how things play out for Kirby on a day-to-day basis, starting of course, with a surf check.

“I would always check the weather and surf report first, to see if there’s any waves that are coming in and what time that’ll happen,” she says with a smile. “And then I plan my work day around that – if it’s raining, I’ll plan a whole day at work. If it’s going to be beautiful and sunny, I’ll make sure I get outdoors at some point during the day.”

When she’s at work, a lot of Kirby’s time is spent, you guessed it, creating and managing events at The White Elephant: “I’m doing a lot of things like making calls or writing emails, meeting with clients to plan their upcoming event, or taking new bookings off the back of enquiries we get. I also make time to get online to research the latest trends for events.”

Tourism and Hospitality Careers WA

The marketing side of things also keeps Kirby busy, which is handy for someone that loves making lists and being organised: “I could be shooting content myself on my phone or working with a photographer to plan a shoot, making Instagram reels or queuing social posts for the upcoming week.”

Kirby has a 38-hour week to fulfill, which her boss lets her knock-out during times that best suit her, which really does sound like the dream if you ask us.

“I pretty much clock in and out when I want. I can always smash out a normal day from 9 to 5, or I can break it up by working in the morning from 8 to 10, then go for a surf, and start work again from 12 till 6. Or, if the weather’s really good, I can use my day to enjoy the sun and just work until 10 at night to do my hours. So yeah, I’m pretty lucky with the flexible hours.”

Tourism and Hospitality Careers WA

Who are some of the people she gets to work with?

Kirby says it’s a small community where everyone knows everyone.

“I’ve met a lot of amazing people through work, beautiful individuals that are on a very similar journey to me,” she recalls warmly. ”Working as a barista, I got to know heaps of the locals. They’d come in and chat, they’re all so welcoming, open and like-minded people who love the ocean and nature.”

It also helps when you’re surrounded by an awesome work crew: “I’m so lucky because I’m really good friends with the people that work here,” she beams. “Plus, the lifestyle is very outdoorsy, so I’ve met a lot of people through surfing or taking the dog for a walk or just hitting the beach.”

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Best parts of the job?

Outside of the flexibility and the friendships and the everything we’ve mentioned above, there’s also a tonne of free coffee… And wait, even more?

As someone who takes a lot of pride in her work, the thrill of organising someone’s big event and then making sure it goes off without a hitch is a huge driving force for Kirby.

“With events, you get this adrenaline rush at work because there’s so much going on… It’s someone’s special day and they’re super focused in their own realm… And the best part is that after their event they say, ‘Thank you so much for everything you did. You were so attentive, you made the day amazing, and I didn’t have to worry about anything.’ It’s beautiful.”

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Why should Western Australian youth choose a career in tourism and hospitality? 

If Kirby’s story doesn’t already have you dreaming of a ‘lifestyle’ career like this, she lays it out for us in simple, altruistic terms.

“It’s very fast-paced and you have a lot of freedom to be creative,” she says enthusiastically. “It’s all about making people happy. Seeing them enjoy the wonderful experience that you’ve created for them is just super rewarding and really makes you appreciate your career.”

And her advice for getting into hospitality?

Kirby’s number one piece of advice has been a bit of a running theme across our Dream Careers series, and that is to be adventurous, step outside of the everyday and take a chance on something maybe you wouldn’t normally do.

“I would say put yourself out there! I had no experience,  no degree in what I’m doing but I still put my hand up… If you see an opportunity that you think you could be good at, why not just go for it?”

Tourism and Hospitality Careers WA

Kirby’s also a great example of not approaching hospitality as a casual or part-time thing – there are so many ways to join this exciting Western Australian industry full of passionate people in it for the long haul. “When you stick around in a job for a long time, people pay you better and reward you more because you’re proving that you’re loyal, which means a lot especially in a regional town,” she explains. 

Approach your career with the right attitude, loyalty and belief in yourself to go above and beyond what you’ve done in the past. Or as Kirby would say, “The more you give, the more you’ll get out of it – it’s simple.”

Want to live and work in wondrous places? Head to westernaustralia.jobs/dreamcareer to explore job opportunities, career inspiration, benefits, pathways, perks, possibilities and much more.