Moving Abroad. Part 1: Tips for job-hunting.
— I did my best to keep it fluff-free. Most of the tips are applicable for all job-hunts, not just for a product designer role abroad.
• On looking for a job abroad
• On applying for the jobs
• On interviewing
• After the interview
• On picking the job
📝 This is a resource I have personally tried and tested.
🙈 This is a hard truth.
On looking for a job
👁 Be on a continuous look-out.
Are you waiting to update your portfolio? Or practice Leet code? Or awaiting a much-deserved promotion - before you can start that job hunt?
Don’t wait. The best time to look for a job is when you don’t need one. If you are lucky enough to not need a job immediately, use this extra time to research companies and their cultures, visa sponsorships, and openings.
Even if you know your portfolio is going to take another 5678 years, keep an active eye on the job market and make a wish list. Work on getting the balance between your preparation and market timing right.
📝 How to think about your career by Julie Zhou
📝Adding it up: the math behind designing your career by Kylie Poppen
💰 Special focus on visa sponsorships
🙈 Because of how our world works, not all companies can sponsor visas, and if they do it is often limited to senior roles.
Some job descriptions mention this, some don’t. Keep an active list of intel you get from folks, or simply through that trending job update on Twitter/LinkedIn. That worked for me.
💬 Reach out to people who have made the move
Always helpful to learn from people who have made the move but take everything they say with a pinch of salt — chances are, their experience of moving abroad and yours will be completely different.
🙈 Some folks also gatekeep, so just use your judgment here, please.
📝 Ivy’s blog on moving to Canada, she’s been a sounding board for me
📝 List of folks I know who’ve made the move abroad [WIP, will share soonish]
📅 Prepare for alternate timelines. Have a Plan B.
Apart from the length of interviews — visa processing can also be unimaginably long at times. Do not put your life on hold or, leave your current job till you have that one-way ticket booked.
If you are a fresh grad, I would suggest you apply for a mix of companies both where you currently are, and abroad.
🔑 Consistency is key
It might take some time, but it can be done. Please know this process is not a true reflection of your skillset, or how good your portfolio is.
Be sure of your intent, and treat it as an important side-project in your life during this phase.
📝 I am a big believer in Darshan Gajara’s Consistency Outplays Talent mantra. He had a roller-coaster journey of moving abroad, do read.
On Applying for the Jobs
🔨 Break templates
Heads up! The resume and cold emails you used back in college might not work now. While you may not have a Spotify or a Bumble-themed resume, a scannable and relevant resume along with a well-worded genuine message goes a long way.
I know a lot of us have lost trust in company portals, but I did get a few responses through them. Take time to intentionally fill forms. I know sometimes they are super long with super bad UX, but still do it.
📝 Creating your design resume, Femke’s YouTube video
☄️Show your over-preparedness when applying.
Make it easier for others to help you — be it recruiters scanning your resumes or people referring you. A few just check LinkedIn during their lunch break!! Surely they do not plan to review your portfolio, fix your spelling mistakes, and find an opening for you.
🌸 Genuine, polite messages for referrals only.
Other folks may differ on this but I am more than happy to refer folks who reach out either because I have worked with them, or know them through a mutual connection. I do make sure that their profile matches the job requirements, and they are genuinely interested in applying.
I found people are mostly happy to help you out, you just have to show up with the right intentions.
Most companies have a referral bonus too. So, if you do want to apply through a referral, don’t apply through the portal.
Getting that interview is half the battle won because from now you are no longer a well-edited piece of paper with auto-layout. You get to bring your personality, your work, and your voice to the table. Leverage this to the fullest!
🖍 Prepare a tailored presentation
Learned this later in the game, but your website is for everyone. Your presentation should cater to a very specific audience — your future team. Showcase your personality.
It’s also a good litmus test. Were you comfortable presenting your whole self, or did you have to alter pieces of your personality to fit in? Give it a think, because you might end up working 40 hours a week with them.
📝 Amazing thread by Michael Wang. This is the one I used.
📝 Equally amazing thread on how to bring your personality
😬 Know, it is just a meeting slot for someone
🙈 For most interviewers, it is one meeting between several other meetings.
If you have a higher stake involved in this, prepare and over-prepare, and be ready to take hold of the narrative.
📝 Take notes
Chances are, you are interviewing in multiple places and talking to multiple people. That red flag you found? You probably won’t remember it when you have to make a decision 6 weeks later between multiple offers. (I hope you get more than 1 offer!💪).
💛 Have a SOS kit handy
I started treating interviews as conversations, and (free!!) learning sessions from some of the amazing designers. It upped my game a bit.
I lowered the stakes for myself and started treating it as just a job, not my entire life story. It changed my game.
After the Interview
In my head, I like closure. I did everything I could do in the interview and thanked them for their time after. So sending a follow-up note could be a thing you do.
Also, if hearing back from a recruiter/company could alter my life path, I make sure I follow-up.
🏛 Consolidate your notes
After every interview, set up a 10 minutes debrief session for yourself and note down the keywords you heard.
Did they keep saying they want someone good with “design systems”? Did they say “new team, so more responsibilities”?
All these are key keywords to not only focus on for remaining interviews, but also during salary negotiations later.
🚀 Manage parallel interviewing timelines well
Self-explanatory, but you do not want to miss out on your dream job just because you applied to it later, or the recruiter took 2 extra weeks to get back.
On Picking the Job
💎 It’s a privilege
To be able to choose where you work, and who you work with is a big privilege. Add on top, being able to move countries without thinking about visa is an unimaginable privilege for me.
Make an educated decision on moving abroad, and not just because you find it cool. More on this in later parts!
🤞 Take your time to consider the offer
Please. After the tiring process, it is super tempting to just be done with it. Like a feature release, getting the offer is only the beginning.
If the company has made an offer, they have already filtered 100s of profiles to reach you. They will be okay taking a few days off to think about it.
📝 My current manager, Lara Mendonça wrote this thread while I was considering the offer. I am ever so grateful it exists.
💛 Choose people, over everything else
If you are divided between two offers, or between staying or moving, I would say pick people. Be it people who you can learn from, or who make you feel more comfortable in being yourself. Pick people.
I would have never survived the pandemic in a new city where I don’t speak the language — if I didn’t have the people on my team. More on this in the next part.
I hope this was not all generic, and you found a few useful nuggets.💛
If you would rather like to see a video at 2x with a little more details, here is a talk I gave at my alma mater recently.
I am already writing the next part. Stick around, we will have fun!
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