How to Find a Design Job Abroad: A Step-by-Step Guide

by Gonzalo December 11, 2018

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to get that dream design job abroad? One where you can do what you love, and live where you want, and still be able to pay the bills?

If you think you’re ready to combine your passion for design with living abroad but just don’t know where to begin, we’ve got the answers. So grab a pen and take some notes as we share with you everything you need to know—from where to look all the way to accepting an offer.

Design Job Trends

Before we dive into the details of how to land a design job abroad, let’s take a look at some trends in the market that you might find interesting before you start your search:

Of big brand-name companies with more than 500 employees, 86 percent require their designers to have a college degree in web design, graphic design, or art. Whereas 52 percent of smaller companies (500 or fewer employees), require a college degree. Larger company typically pay their designers about 10 percent more a year.

Of all the software applications on the market, Adobe surpasses the field in demand by far. A sampling of design job postings in 2017 showed that 79 percent of all design job positions require Adobe Photoshop competency, followed closely by Illustrator and InDesign with 74 percent of all job postings making it a requirement.

Surprisingly, HTML is still on the list of top skills, with nearly one-third of design jobs requiring basic skills. Now, you may not need to code a website from scratch, but being able to fix one in a pinch will definitely boost your chances of landing a job.

Trailing the list of must-have skills is UI/UX design. However, according to Business Insider, it holds big promise for the future and currently will earn you, on average, about 14 percent more per year.

The Perks: Smash the comfort zone & break the monotony

Jobs in design have gained serious momentum in recent years. This is especially true for design jobs abroad. But stepping outside of your comfort zone may be nerve-wracking. Don’t worry, a little planning and research can go a long way towards settling the pressure.

    • First, you’ll want to consider where you might like to live. A simple change of scenery can have a huge impact on your perspective, but consider your options wisely and choose a location and climate that truly interests you.
  • Culture need not be a barrier. In fact, living immersed in a different culture can enlighten your life with many things “new.” Be advised: Learning a new language can be difficult, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll want to learn the key words of your trade to keep things running smoothly at the office. Start by adding in the complex terms used in design work, and soon you’ll be conversing with your colleagues with ease.
  • A design job abroad can bring balance to your life. Cross-cultural experiences will stimulate your creative senses and shift your way of thinking. It can reignite old passions and creating new ones along the way.

While moving away from the people and culture you are accustomed to may have its challenges, the rewards are many. You owe it to yourself to consider the positive things. Give yourself permission to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Are You Ready for a Design Job Abroad?

Before you start thinking about flights and securing visas, let’s consider what you need to prepare for your potential new career.

Start by determining if you have the experience and talents necessary. Job postings will state which tools and how much experience are expected. Are you ready?

The takeaway from the 2019 trends say that you are more likely to get a job if you are a great UI/UX designer who codes and understand HTML (and some front-end) and have a college degree (although this is not required).

On top of that, to be competitive for a design job abroad, you will need skills in:

    • Communication, you need to be able to communicate your design decisions to your team
    • Time management
    • User experience and user interface design
    • User testing
    • Expert knowledge of typography, colors and hierarchy
  • Creativity

The skill set of almost any designer will have gaps–the industry is evolving too quickly and the software solutions that are stepping in to fill those gaps are many. Further, it is often difficult to get hiring managers to agree with team managers when it comes to defining what talents an ideal graphic designer must have.

Of all the current tools that you can have at your command, knowledge of these applications can put you at the top of the pile:

    • PhotoShop (Adobe)
    • Illustrator (Adobe)
    • InDesign (Adobe)
    • Adobe Creative Suite
    • Figma
    • Sketch
    • InVision
    • FullStory
    • HTML & CSS
  • Javascript for front-end interactions

Landing a design job in a new country may take some initial preparation. Think of it as a process. If your resume looks thin, consider beefing it up a bit with some classes or vocational courses. If you already have certificates, be sure to include them in your resume and cover letter.

Upskilling

If your resume is lacking content that would otherwise make you a star candidate, consider adding to it with some certifications. There are as many internet sites offering tutorials, classes, and certifications as there are price points. Here is a brief list of some sites worth checking out:

    • CreativeLive offers online courses for designers, including HTML and CSS for designers, introduction to the Adobe suite of design programmes, as well as typography courses. Some classes are free, others are not. Keep your eye on the site for programme discounts and deals.
    • Skilled Up is a website that provides an array of courses, from Customer Experience Strategy Design to a bachelor’s degree in Design with a Major in Communication Design. Most of the certificate and diploma courses have a fee, but they offer a Visual and Graphic Design for free.
  • Alison claims to be a “new world of free certified learning.” Its course lineup includes Visual and Graphic Skills, Design Principles, and Photoshop Essential C6 Tools. Many courses can be completed in as little as 2 to 3 hours and offer test-based certificates upon completion.

As you’re preparing your resume and portfolio, prepare yourself for the transition by joining a couple of online forums. Become a member of at least one forum for designers and at least one aimed at expats in the community where you hope to live.

Forums can provide you with answers from people who already know the realities that await you. You may even meet someone who can provide you with information about the company to which you are applying. The more you know about the company and the location, the easier the transition will be.

Where to Find Jobs in Design Abroad

The obvious first stop when looking for a job is to check job boards. There are many sites devoted to just that.

Also, most companies will post openings on their own site. If you have a company in mind that you want to work for, check their site regularly.

If you’re flexible, or maybe even curious about what’s available, job boards bring together postings from a variety of sources and should be on your hit list. But not all boards are created equal.

Jobbatical

When researching where to find jobs in design abroad, work smarter, not harder. Jobbatical can help you locate available positions in countries around the globe in tech, business, and creative industries. Applications for positions vary and new positions scattered across Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe arrive weekly. Utilize filters to target specific regions or pay a small fee to access targeted results.

Job Boards

Job boards for positions in design are many, but the idea is to find the ones that cater to the design field, and optimally, offer relocation assistance. These should get you started.

Submitting Your Application

You’ve got the experience and the self-confidence to take the leap. You’ve found the perfect positions. Now you’re ready for the next step: submitting your application.

As with any application process, applying for a job in design abroad can be a straightforward process. But to be successful, you must stand out of the crowd and be prepared.

Let’s start at the beginning:

    • Read the job requirements. Collect all the requested documentation. Don’t submit an application package that is not complete. You want to show the company that you can follow instructions and that you are organized.
    • Update your CV (resume) and to reflect the job requirements and highlight your skills for each.
    • If possible, address the cover letter to a specific person. Clearly state why you think you are the best candidate for the position.
    • Video greetings are standard these days. The video should be short— 2 to 3 minutes maximum. Introduce yourself and explain why you think you would be a good fit for the position. If you can afford it, hire a professional for a top-quality presentation.
    • Prepare your portfolio. As a designer, your portfolio is vital.
        • It’s better to have five polished pieces than it is to have a dozen or more “almost” completed works.
        • Show work that is relevant to the job for which you are applying. It’s best to have your online portfolio samples organized by type. If the interviewer asks to see more, you can direct to other samples.
      • You’re a designer, not a website builder. Use a professionally-built site to showcase your work. You don’t want a subpar website distracting from your design work.   

Interviewing

The interview process can be intimidating or exciting. The difference is usually being rehearsed and ready, or just winging it on the fly.

Getting to the interview stage is an accomplishment to be celebrated–opportunities like this are rare. Reaching the interview stage shows that you have done a good job of representing yourself–so far. Now is the time to shine.

    • The interview is likely to be conducted via video software programs such as Skype or Google Meet. Setup an account and be sure to add the interviewer’s contact information to your contact list. Test internet connections and equipment before the scheduled interview to avoid disruption and work out any technical difficulties.
    • Be prepared to answer questions about your work samples:
        • The goals for the project, the challenges you encountered, and your solutions.
        • Your role in the design efforts
        • If you used wireframes for testing and iteration
        • A description of the qualities, characteristics, and aspects of the project
      • Remember to explain the final results of the project by including statistical information, such as “X” percent increase in product sales or click-throughs on a website.
    • If the interviewer starts to critique your work, do not get defensive! Provide a concise explanation of your design thinking, then respectfully acknowledge the critique for what it is. This will demonstrate that you are a good sport and can handle criticism in the workplace.
  • Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions. If you did your homework, you’ll impress with a question or two regarding the company or its recent activities.

Accepting an Offer

Congratulations. An offer has been made and the trajectory of your life has taken an exciting new turn. Now what?

Before accepting any offer, consider the following:

    • Is this the dream design job that you really want? You’ll be giving up a lot, leaving friends and family–your support system–behind. It will take time to settle into your new environment and the new culture. Are you really prepared? Yes? Good, then continue reading.
    • Review your contract before signing. Is there anything in there that doesn’t work for you? You may be able to negotiate some terms before you sign the paperwork, but not after. Read the contract out loud. You’d be surprised what can hide from an excited mind that scans at full speed. Reading aloud will slow down the eye and the mind, and help you catch all the relevant details. You don’t want to arrive half-way around the planet only to spot that one deal-breaking surprise.
  • Paperwork— we all hate it, but it will follow you everywhere. So prepare for the following logistics:
      • Bank accounts: Do you need to open a new one or can you use your existing one in your home country?
      • Payments: In what currency will you be paid? Is it negotiable? Who covers exchange fees (if any)?
    • Visas: Are you responsible for obtaining the appropriate visa, or is this provided by the employer? Who is responsible for the cost? If you’re traveling with family or pets, you’ll need documentation for them as well.

Still with us? Then it sounds like you should… accept it, of course!

The hard part is over, now comes the task of getting yourself abroad. You may have gotten information during the interview and the online forums about the relocation process. But honestly, your work has just begun. Information and organization will help you through the next steps–steps that may be challenging and perhaps a little frightening at times. But as with all great adventures, it all begins with a single step. 

Currently looking for a design job? 

Looking for something new and exciting to get you out of bed every morning? Have a look at a few of our favourite current design openings. Good match? Go ahead and hit the “Apply” button!

Not a designer?

We wrote several guides on getting a marketing, design, software engineering, data science or product job abroad. You can learn how to get a job abroad here.

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