Life As An Expat: Finding A Job In Another Country

Recently I was asked for advice on finding a job in another country.

After all, for many expats or wannabe-expats, that's a pretty big part of the process. Gotta have the money to pay for all of those plane tickets, amIright?

I thought about it and realized that I'd never really shared advice on the topic. Why?

Because I don't know.

Of course that's not entirely true, but it is a little bit true. 

I moved to London from New York almost three years ago. Some of that time was spent working as a freelancer, some it was spent working in UK companies. But even more of that time was spent going on interviews.

Before we go any further I should preface this with the fact my move abroad was done individually and was not guided by an intra-company transfer or anything of the sort. If you're attempting to change your role or location within your company, most of this will not apply.

But if you're looking to move abroad on a visa sponsored by a company, or if you're already an expat who's eager for work, there are a few things to know about finding a job in another country. Here are 7 of them:

 

IT'S GOING TO BE HARDER THAN YOU THINK

Foolishly, I assumed that because I'd been lucky enough to easily and quickly find work that I loved during my time in New York that I would have the same experience in London, and that I would have it as soon as I arrived. 

Not so.

Before I moved to London, I sent a few cold emails to companies that I wanted to work for in the UK. I didn't expect much from them, and I didn't get much from them – which makes sense since I was still living in another country.

Once I arrived in London, I did some hard outreach and set up coffee dates. Some of it was fruitful, some of it was not. The whole "arranging coffee dates and receiving e-mail replies" thing was harder in London than it had ever been in New York. 

I still haven't figured out why that is though it's likely a combination of factors, one of those being that as a job hunter in New York I was in the very early stages of my career – we're talking internships, and first and second jobs. Still, getting a job or even an response in London was much, much harder for me than it was in New York.

This was probably due to the fact that...

 

NETWORKS DON'T ALWAYS TRANSFER

It feels obvious in hindsight. I had spent my entire career – from internships, to two jobs, and multiple freelance gigs – building a network in New York. Since London and New York are similar in so many ways – and because my experience is in a relatively small industry – I assumed that the contacts I built in New York would be enough to see me through my opening days in London. In other words, I thought my network would transfer.

With the exception of the first job I had in London – a job that I got thanks to to help of a lovely friend I had met in my interning days – that assumption was incorrect. I (wrongly) thought that my industry would be aware of the names of the companies I'd worked at in the past – companies I was and still am so proud of working for.

Not always, no. The moral of the story is that you shouldn't make assumptions. Instead, spend that time readying your pitch and firming up that CV. (And yes, depending on where you're going you may need a CV, which is slightly different from a resume. Another topic for another time!)

 

CONSULT OTHER EXPATS

Let's say you want to move to Paris and work in publishing. Sounds pretty neat, right? You might already have experience in publishing, but you want to start fresh at a new publisher in France. Throw caution to the wind, Eat Pray Love, etc.

To start I would recommend contacting HR Departments, looking through LinkedIn, and doing whatever you can to get in touch with the right contacts at the companies you'd most like to work for.

The problem is this: unless you have a spousal or ancestral visa, you're going to need a work visa, and you're going to need that company to assist you with your work visa. This is not an easy or inexpensive thing to ask of a prospective employer. If I were you, and if I was set on working in publishing in Paris but had no connections, I would seek the help of other expats (friends of friends of friends, online forums, Facebook groups) and ask their advice. There is a decent chance that one of them might work at a company that's hiring and is open to sponsoring employees from other countries (like you!).

Now let's say you're in my boat and are moving to another country for reasons outside of work – i.e. a family situation or a relationship. Contact expat groups and friends who are settled in the country in which you plan to move. The expat community is crazy helpful and will prove to be a very valuable resource.

SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

Literally. While we're on our "publisher in Paris" idea, let's make sure that everyone knows that you should absolutely be able to speak French if you're applying for a job in France, etc. Hoping this doesn't need to be said but juust in case.

 

BE READY TO ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS

When it comes to hours, pay, and your general work lifestyle, get ready to be flexible. This sort of stuff varies at every company and every job, but there are certain cultural norms within the workplace that will become immediately obvious to you when you start working in another country. Some will be welcome, some might not be. Either way, keep those expectations at bay and be ready to adjust them.

 

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

If you're still set on moving abroad, require a work visa, and have had no luck with connections, try the Jess-On-Thames route and get creative. Jess is American, lives in London, and spent the last 10 years living and working in Brussels. Woah.

So, how did Jess find a job in another country?

"I only had an internship or two under my belt when I graduated college. It was easier to come over on a Masters student visa and look for employment once here. Then I sent a personalised cover letter and a CV everywhere. To be honest I think I was in the right place at the right time with my first job. "

Which brings me to my next point...

 

KEEP GOING

Remember when I said I was surprised that it was harder to get a job here than I thought it would be?

If I'm honest with you, I probably completed outreach for about 80 jobs in my first two years in London. Maybe went on interviews with about 20 of them, and had phone and detailed email conversations with more. Two of these jobs worked out, and both were for contract/freelance roles that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm grateful to have had those experiences.

To get those jobs, and to get where I am now, there is one thing I do know and that's to never stop. My last role at a UK company was freelance and led me to the path that I'm on now, which I'm very, very happy with and feel lucky to have.

Even if it's discouraging, you just have to keep going. It'll pay off eventually, and trust me when I say that you'll be all the better for it.

 

Good luck!


How To Take A Break From Technology

It's rich for me to write a post on this topic. As I type, it's 6:30 p.m. and I'm sitting on my bed.

My lower back isn't supported, the light in here isn't great, I'm sitting with my legs bent in a weird way, and I'm in the middle of two text conversations as I write.

Self obviously included, taking a break from technology is something we all seem to struggle with and the stream of articles on this topic is never-ending. We're overworked and overwhelmed with all-things tech, and it's ruining our families, our lives, our bodies, and sometimes our creativity. But you knew that already.

It's not a generational thing but a finger is often pointed at millennials for their obsession with all-things tech and their new ways of working. 

And of course, that's a little bit true. When I take a step back and look at my friend set of Generation X and Y-ers, I realize that I know very few people who work a standard job and then leave their work at work.

Most are freelancers and entrepreneurs, or currently have a 9-5 and are aiming to become freelancers or entrepreneurs. Personal projects and side hustles tend to fill their evenings, which I love. The problem is, all of these extra projects take up extra mental space and make it difficult for us to ever completely turn off. 

This has never bothered me even though I'm a freelancer working from home. Between that style of work combined with the addition of my blog, I never really turn off from technology. But I gain energy from this, I enjoy the community aspects, and have made plenty of internet friends. It's great.

But last week, I hit a wall of sorts. I sat down at my laptop in the morning and suddenly just wasn't feeling inspired. After a few days of producing a lot of content (not to mention Mercury in retrograde) it just wasn't happening for me. 

I made a commitment to spend less time online over the weekend. I read a lot, made some necklaces, went on a few walks, and it felt amazing. 

When we move to North Carolina in the coming months, I plan on doing this a lot more. I'll still blog and be glued to the internet in a lot of ways, but I'm looking forward to going on weekend road trips, doing yard work, babysitting my niece, and not being on my computer all weekend and every evening. (Though let's be real – I'll be Instagram-ing along the way.)

To help me along the way, I recently started a new evening routine.

Because I'm helpless and pathetic and for some reason always find myself reading stories about death and listening to podcasts about murder as I fall asleep, I've begun literally handing my phone over to my husband before I enter the bedroom. Now, rather than filling up every quiet moment with some new form of content, I'm going to start giving some of my senses a break. By reading, lying in silence, and that's it. 

Since my version of taking a break from technology requires both an international move and literally handing my phone to someone else, I'm curious how (the hell) you disconnect...from work, from technology, from everything.

Would love to hear your experiences! Share them below, and then get the heck offline.


Working Towards Confidence

After I published a post last week on the importance of asking for what you want, I heard from a lot of you about your own experiences in the workplace. I heard from ladies in London, Paris, Bucharest, and Australia who told me about things that they wanted but didn't know how to ask for, or maybe were afraid to ask for. 

It got me thinking about confidence and how it relates to your professional life. From the post I wrote last week, it might seem like I have a lot of it. Spoiler alert: I don't at all.

When it comes to work, I'm very confident in certain areas. I know when I've written a witty, spot-on line for a fashion mag, and I know when I send a good e-mail. (I give good e-mail, I think.)

But I'm incredibly self-conscious in other areas. One big one thing that I've never really told anyone until I said it outloud to my husband last week is the way that I speak: I'm really self-conscious about it. I don't have an impediment or anything like that, and if you've ever heard me talk before you might be surprised to hear me say this because I try to give off a confident vibe.

KULE Preston Cashmere Sweater | Thrifted Necklace

I'm a jittery type who loves coffee, so my brain moves way faster than my mouth. I'm constantly concerned that I don't speak 'professionally' enough, that my vocabulary isn't big enough, or that I'm too bubbly in professional environments and won't be taken seriously.

This is one of the reasons I like writing, because I know I express myself much more clearly when I write than when I speak. In-person brain storming sessions are a nightmare for me because my mind goes blank. But give me a quiet room, a cup of coffee, and a blank Google Drive page and I'm your girl. 

That's my sore spot professionally. No matter what impression others might have, I can never get over how insecure I feel speaking out loud.

Now, back to you guys: I heard a lot from women looking to take next steps in their career, either in a different industry or just for a job that they've wanted but been afraid to ask for. I spoke to a fellow blogger who had concerns about leaving the startup and freelance world and going back into corporate world – she was afraid that her skills might not transfer from one environment to the other but in the end decided to apply for the job she was right for, not the one that she was overqualified for.

I guess my point is that we all feel this way. You hear the statistics: women only apply for jobs they feel 100% qualified for, while men apply if they feel 60% qualified. While we may never fully get over our insecurities, we need to throw caution to the wind and learn how to at least live our lives with them. It's become obvious that if you don't go after what you want – and quickly – someone else will. 

I've already heard from some of you, but I'd love to hear more. What confidence issues do you face at work? Are you worried that you don't speak professionally enough? Or that you're not doing a good job? Afraid to ask for a raise, or to negotiate? Let me hear it, via e-mail or on social media. Let's talk this out.

Lower photo by D Watterson III


The Power of Outreach

I'm six years into my career and so far I've been pretty lucky about the opportunities that I've had and the places that I've worked.

I'm no Eva Chen (who, by the way, is the nicest and hardest working woman in fashion publishing), but I've worked at Teen Vogue, Refinery29, L.K.Bennett, and DesignGood, interned at Vogue, Women's Wear Daily, Time Out New York, Interview, NYLON, and written for Bustle, Glamour, and a snazzy independent mag in London which sent me to places like Monte Carlo and Budapest.

Yeah, it's been a decent run so far. And I've been lucky to have real help from a lot of great folks – my family, friends, professors at the Savannah College of Art and Design, people I've worked with. You name it, they've helped. So I've definitely been lucky.

But I didn't get to where I am in my career through luck. Sure, it was hard work, determination, etc. etc., but the reason I've gotten inside the offices and onto the pages of every single one of these places is because of one thing:

I asked to be there.

Persistence and dedication are the two key traits that I would point to for any success that I've had. When there's something I want in my career: a job or maybe a company or person I'd like to add to my network, I go after it. And you know what? It almost always works.

I'm not sure what it is, but I don't seem to have much of an e-mail filter. I can be somewhat shyer when it comes to meeting new people in person – I actually dread phone calls with people I don't know because it makes me so uncomfortable – but I am the queen of e-mail outreach.

I realize that sounds kind of stupid. Everyone can e-mail, right? And it's not like my e-mails are so well written or crafted better than yours. But it's the persistence factor – anytime I've seen a company I think I'd like to work with or just know in some capacity, I contact them. And they usually write back.

Simple e-mailing alone has led me to some incredible partnerships. It's actually how I got my main gig right now, with an amazing, inspiring Austin-based organization who designs for and highlights creative businesses who are doing social good. I found the company on Twitter, e-mailed the owner, and now we work together. That's it.

Maybe you're uncomfortable doing that. I understand, but you shouldn't be. You know those general e-mails you see at the bottom of every business's site?

hello@brandyouwanttoworkat.com

info@someoneyouwishyouknew.com

You would be shocked at how few people actually use those e-mail addresses. Of course that's not the case for every brand or company, and definitely not for large corporations, but a lot of the time those e-mails are used for general questions or complaints, not for fan e-mail or inquiries about potential partnerships.

Oh, and freelancers: is there a magazine or web site you want to write for, but you're not sure where to start? Try cold outreach. Didn't hear back? Follow-up. Then follow-up again. Then maybe again. Think about it: you're telling someone how much you want to work for their brand. What's the worst thing that will happen?

Again, I'm not by any means at the top of my career or claim to know more than I do. But what I do know is that outreach and persistence pays off.

So assignment number one, for all of you who hate your jobs or want to increase your network or whatever it might be: contact me. Comment below, reach out through social media, or e-mail me. 

You would be amazed at what can come to those who ask.