Hawaii Living: Finding Employment

Hawaii Living: Finding Employment
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It may be a paradise but working for a living is in the cards for most of us in Hawaii. Get the low down on Hawaii jobs.

• General: Educational

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If you’re living in Hawaii, or planning to move to Hawaii, a job is a likely requirement. Even if you’re moving here for retirement there’s a chance you’ll need extra money. Why? Because the cost of living in Hawaii can be really expensive as we talked about Hawaii Living: The Paradise Tax.

What sort of jobs are available? Will one job be enough to cover your living costs? Where do you even begin a job hunt in Hawaii? These are just some of the questions we see being asked over and over again by those who are moving to and living in Hawaii.

Applying Out Of State

This is probably the biggest topic when it comes to finding a job in Hawaii by those who don’t yet live here. They all want to find a job before they actually move to Hawaii. Well, that’s actually a common wish for anyone moving across state lines.

On the mainland, living out of the state where you want to gain employment can be a bit of an issue. For Hawaii, it’s pretty much a show stopper. Start browsing employment opportunity postings and you’ll quickly see a common thread that says you need to already be in Hawaii to even apply. Sure, not every job is like this but the majority certainly are. In some cases, if you apply from out of state your application may simply be ignored.

Why is that? Simple, employers deal with a certain type of applicant all too often. You know the one. The one who comes to Hawaii on vacation, heads back home to their snow covered state, and then dreams about moving to Hawaii. They all figure things the same way, “If I could just get a job then I could move and live in Hawaii.” Unfortunately, even after getting a job most can’t afford to move and reality sets in. Next thing you know, they aren’t moving and the employer starts their process all over to find a worker. Years of that means that most employer won’t talk to you if you don’t live here already. Besides, with so many applicants to choose from locally why would an employer want to trouble themselves with the hassle of a non-local?

The exception? Certain jobs that require some type of “specialist”. For example, if an island employer needs somebody with a certain skill or trade that isn’t overly popular among locals then they may look outside the state. Other scenarios might include a mainland chain or franchise that is opening their first location on an island may want one of their existing mainlanders to move here and open the store, restaurant, etc. Though, these types of opportunities are usually limited to those already at that company on the mainland.

I’m not suggesting you completely give up in finding a job before you move. Not at all! I highly suggest you start your job search long before you move. Even if you don’t find anyone willing to talk to you now, you’ll be that much further along when you get here. You’ll also get a good idea of the type of work that is available as well as what type of salary to expect.

Move First, Get Employed Later

Most people just assume that to make their dream of living in Hawaii a reality, they’ll simply move to Hawaii and find a job. Well, that likely is how it will have to work for you but finding that job may not be so easy.

The first thing you’ll need to do is save up plenty of money to make your move. You’ll also need to figure out where you plan to live (see Hawaii Living: Where To Live for that). But you’ll also need to make sure any place you rent doesn’t require proof of employment. Having a 3-6 months of living expenses saved up along with first and last month’s rent is a good start. Also, be sure to pare down (as we explained in Hawaii Living: Moving To Hawaii) so you’re not shipping a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and may not have room for here).

So how do you find a job? You look and see who’s hiring just like anywhere else. If you have some sort of specialty you’ll want to find something that fits for you. For example, if you’re a nurse then you’ll want to look at hospitals, clinics, and so on. Search the job classifieds, including online sites such as…


Get interviews setup and make sure your resume is current and polished. There’s no better way to make a bad impression then handing over an outdated resume or one with spelling or grammar errors. No matter job you’re going for, dress appropriately. This may be the land of swim suits and slippers but that’s not acceptable for a job interview.

The same goes for timeliness. Sure, we all know about the slow paced island life, or island time as it’s known, but being late for your interview is just as bad as it is on the mainland. Plan ahead for bad traffic and delays and be on time.

Swallow Your Pride

Depending on your situation, you may not find the perfect job that uses your skills or pays what you want. You may think you’re better than starting as the low person on the totem pole again. But remember, you may be lucky to find any type of work at all and need to be prepared to swallow your pride.

This might include taking on job that you’d normally not be interested in. While there are plenty of jobs outside of the tourism industry, that is a driving force on most of the islands. With that in mind, working at a restaurant, hotel, or tour company should remain options. Again, assuming you can even get a job like that.

Even if you saved up 6 months of living expenses you’ll be surprised at how quickly that time goes by. It’s better to take a job that isn’t perfect for you now while you continue your search rather than passing it up completely. Bottom line, there’s no shame in asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

Multiple Jobs

You’ve probably heard how some people have to work two or three jobs to live in Hawaii. Well, it’s true. And if you work in entry level or minimum wage positions you may need a couple of jobs just to pay the bills. You might land a relatively decent 9 to 5 job during the week but may need to take on part time working during the weekends.

This is why scouring those classifieds before you move is so important. Even if you can’t apply for a job before being here, you need to have a thorough understanding of the jobs that are available along with what they pay. Do your homework to see what sort of income you can earn and compare that to what sort of cost of living you’ll be in for.


As you can see, finding employment in Hawaii isn’t always an easy thing. Applying from outside of the islands is often not an option. When you are here it may be difficult to find work in your field and most people overestimate how quickly and easily it will be to get employment. You need to be flexible on what type of work you’re willing to do as well as the type of pay you’re willing to accept. You may have worked for a mainland company for many years but moving to Hawaii may mean starting all over at the bottom of the company ladder.

Doing your due diligence is important so make sure you’re actively watching Hawaii job postings long before you move here. Keep an eye on what’s available and what various jobs pay and make sure you can actually afford to live in paradise before making the plunge.