How to land a job abroad — Tips from a designer in Berlin.
In this guest post, product designer Vadim Grin shares what he’s learned through his career journey from a small Ukrainian town to one of Europe’s most vibrant tech hubs.
I started my career as a designer in 2008 in an industrial town in the outback of Ukraine. The opportunities for the personal growth are very poor there. Obviously, I had a great desire to move somewhere to find a better life and a chance to build a career and fill my life with some meaning. You know, it’s when you go to the office with the will to work not only because of money, and when you know that you make this world better or maybe some people happier with your work. For 4 years I was discovering the world of design, learning, working on my portfolio and absorbing all the information I could online. At last, in 2012, I got an interesting proposal from a rather famous IT company based in the capital of Ukraine. That was my first real full-time job. I was hired as a web designer and from that point my career started to move into the fast lane.
But this was not the end of my relocations. I wanted to move forward! I was looking for a relocation to granny Europe because it seemed to be the right place to live and work for me. In the middle of 2015, I was hired by a financial company in Montenegro. That was a first step in getting closer to my goal but still not in the bulls-eye. But later, in the beginning of 2016, I joined a startup in Berlin and now I feel that I can share my experience and a few practical tips on finding a job abroad.
1. Awareness is the key
If you’re still considering whether you have what it takes to get a job abroad, that’s okay. Before I moved to Kyiv, I also didn’t imagine why should anyone from abroad hire me. I knew English not so well to convince my potential employer that I’m unique in what I’m doing, not mentioning the lack of necessary experience to prove that.
In fact, the whole path from the moment of realizing that I want to work abroad to actually working in Europe took me eight years. So there’s no other way than to make yourself prepared for a long run and get ready to learn all the skills that might be necessary to achieve your goal.
Now, if you’re absolutely sure you really want that job abroad and ready to do everything that goal may require, you may continue reading my practical tips.
I have always been in love with Europe. I know that for sure because only there I can feel calm and peace. Europe inspires me. I’ve figured it out during my numerous trips to different European countries from France to Poland, from Germany to Balkans.
I made a short-list with Portugal, Spain, South of France, Germany, Italy, and two Balkan countries Croatia and Montenegro. Then I started researching these countries, speaking with people I know and collecting info on how and where I can find a desired job. And of course, I was looking for more detailed information about the opportunities, companies, salaries, and a way of life in these countries. Thus, my short list started to become shorter.
I focused on finding ways how to reach employers in these countries. Back then LinkedIn was my main tool. One day, a company from Montenegro reached me and we had some interviews. Our dialogue turned into the job offer in the end.
But when the same story happened again, when I decided that it’s time for some new challenges in one of the IT world capitals in Berlin, I have found plenty of websites which were more effective than LinkedIn. berlinstartupjobs.com became the most successful communication tool in this case for me. It perfectly fitted me since it was listing jobs at small product teams in Berlin, just like I wanted.
One option is to find a popular employment website for the certain country, such as http://www.pracuj.pl for Poland, or http://www.reed.co.uk for the UK, or you can look for worldwide popular job boards like Authentic Jobs. But anyway, such websites are always focused on one specific country. Authentic Jobs offers employment in the USA and the UK. It is also a good place to look for a remote job.
Some specific communities can be helpful as well. If you are a designer hoping to get a job in the US then Dribbble can be a good platform to reach out great companies there and to help you advertise your services. 80% of all the job offers are from the US, and only 20% are from other countries. The same story is for Behance. It’s useless if your target is not the US.
Jobbatical can be a powerful tool in your search as well. I can say that this is a treasure trove which is full of job opportunities from all over the world. And here is the best part — it is useful not only for the developers or designers but for many kinds of specialists. Marketers, QA testers, even accountants can find their chance on this website.
Don’t forget to prepare your CV and try to make it an outstanding piece of bureaucratic art. It should be strict, very clear and to give all the answers your future employer has to ask you.
You may also have several versions of your resume. For example, an awesome and interactive web page with all the data, and a nice but light PDF file. It is not always possible to provide your CV as a link. Having a light PDF file can be your insurance for such cases.
Your CV is your face. Make it pretty and charming.
My portfolio as a designer is quite good, but I can’t say that I’m a superstar here. My main forte, described in my portfolio and CV, is that I can work in various styles and have vast experience in UX design and UI design as well. I position myself as a full-stack designer with a high level of expertise required for that.
So, here comes another important thing: you need to be noticed by your future employer, which is why you will need to show off your main fortes. Prove them with your portfolio if you are involved into creative kinds of work, or with your CV in other cases. That might be the hardest part of the challenge but “hard” doesn’t mean “impossible”.
A friend of mine makes logotypes. Once he discovered that his best logos are constructed using triangle shapes. All other works were middle-of-the-road.
Another my friend is a copywriter. He once was disturbed looking for his main forte, and eventually he figured out that clients value his ability to easily dive into technical details to extract ‘tasty’ marketing clues.
How to find your own? In order to create something new, you need to learn the existing state of affairs.
- Discover something new in your scope every day. As a designer, I can say that the more tools/styles you know, the more opportunities you have.
- Try to find out which specific field of your work is the most interesting for you and become a pro in it by constantly learning and practicing it.
- Try to combine different styles to get something extraordinary (it is possible not only for designers and illustrators but for copywriters and even managers).
- Trust your instincts. If you want to make something that is against the rules, make it! Rules are created to make the work easier and more common, but this is a chance to distinguish your own style.
Here is my last tip. You’ll be marketing your services and here you should go and refresh the information from the first point. Shut up your self-doubt! Send your CV, start to communicate with HRs directly, ask your friends abroad for help if you can. Use all the ways available. More options mean more chances to take and more options to choose from.
After you get feedback, you will be able to make some changes in your search strategy and the way of correspondence if needed. You might also notice that you can make some other things more effective. As a result, you will definitely start to get some invitations for the interviews and here is the point when another story begins. Once you’ve learned how to find a job, it’s time to ask yourself: “What’s a perfect job for me? Am I able to find it and land it?” For my answers to these questions, check out my previous post. I hope I can help you in making your career dreams come true!
Respond to the author by tagging Vadim Grin in the comments, or join him in Berlin yourself! Startups across the city (and continent…and world…) are looking for tech, creative, and business talent on Jobbatical.