Singaporean Digital Nomad’s Tips on How to Land a Job Abroad

by Dea Martinjonis June 21, 2018

Go for it! Try!,” Nicole urges people who want to apply for jobs abroad. “If you don’t try, the answer is always no. If you try, there’s a chance it might be yes. I applied to at least 5–6 jobs on Jobbatical before I got this one. You have to keep trying. One day, something will happen. The universe will give you what you’re supposed to get.”

Nicole, or Nikki as everybody calls her, has great hacks for researching the country you might want to relocate to:

  • Use Google Maps to take a closer look at the city and neighborhood you’re moving to on the street view.
  • Talk to people who’ve traveled there or if you can afford it — take a holiday there. But when you’re on holiday, don’t just go to the touristy places; talk to locals and try to go to a bar or restaurant away from the city center to get a feel for locals’ everyday life.

Travel Light, Travel Smart

Nikki was already set on the digital nomad lifestyle — traveling and working in a few different places — when she applied for marketing jobs on Jobbatical. A couple of the jobs were in Estonia, a country she’d never visited. And it didn’t take long before the region’s most renowned tech conference, Latitude59, made her an offer to join their team as their Marketing Manager.

The process itself was fairly quick — it took three and a half months from the job interview to the time Nikki was packing her bags. Or rather, one big bag — because living on the road has taught Nikki to travel light and travel smart.

Travel essentials for digital nomads.
Nikki’s travel essential — her Lush shampoo bar. Photo credit: Nicole Tan (NT).

Jobbatical really helped me when I moved here, with my visa and all the paperwork. It was so easy, I barely had to lift a finger. I felt so spoiled,” Nikki says. She also has nothing but praise for the “Moving to Estonia” guide Jobbatical sends to all of the people hired through the platform. “It helped me a lot!”

Average temperatures in January in Estonia
January in Estonia is only for the strongest.

Nikki arrived in the capital of the Baltic country of Estonia at the end of January when temperatures can drop to -20°C (and they sure did, too!). No wonder she remembers her first month here as really cold. “It was freezing and snowy. There wasn’t a lot of daylight either, only around six hours per day, so adjusting to the darkness and the cold took a while. Other than that, it was hard to meet friends at first but I found my way around,” Nikki says.

She’d also heard before relocating to Estonia that the people are a bit introverted. “Especially in the winter,” I add.

After four and a half months with boots on the ground, Nikki has more insights about being a foreigner in Estonia: “Outside of the startup circle, people can admittedly seem a bit colder. Inside the circle, people know networking is key, maybe sometimes to the point where they force themselves to be more open. Whereas outside, they can be turned off already by the fact that I don’t speak any Estonian and they have to make an effort to speak English to me.”

A digital nomad in Tallinn, Estonia.
Estonia has proportioned Nikki with opportunities to try her hand at DJ-ing. Photo credit: NT.

What also surprised big city girl Nikki was how few people live in Estonia — a country that is 65 times bigger than her native Singapore but has 5 million FEWER people (1.3 million vs. 6 million). “You go to some places and there is nobody there! Also, I don’t usually have to make a reservation to get a table at the hottest restaurants.”

Jobbaticler Nicole Tan cooking Asian food.
Nikki is quite a chef and cooks whenever she has the time. Photo credit: NT.

She does, however, have a word or two to say about the Asian restaurants here. “They need to change a bit. You can’t serve two different types of Asian food from two different parts of Asia and be good at both; it doesn’t work like that.”

Nikki, being an amateur chef herself, doesn’t travel anywhere without her belacan chili sauce. “It’s a must-have when I’m living in a new place.”

The Best Job Of Her Life

Nikki’s working experience was sprinkled with the dust of cool due to the fact that Latitude59’s team works at Lift99, one of Tallinn’s most vibrant co-working spaces. The space is filled with multinational startup teams, expat one-man-shows, and tech meetups.

Lift99 - the co-working hub in Tallinn, Estonia.
Nikki getting a lift at the Lift99 co-working space in Tallinn. Photo credit: NT.

Talking about work gets Nikki praising the work culture she encountered. “It was amazing to see so much trust in the employees and how everyone is given a chance to speak about their ideas. I had the freedom to come up with as many out-of-the-box ideas as I wanted and set my own goals. I was trusted to do my work without being micro-managed and the team was always open to discussions and ideas. It was really easy and amazing to work with them.”

In fact, Nikki goes as far as saying that working as a marketer for this Estonian tech conference has been the best job of her life. “Seriously, I’ve never ever enjoyed a job this much,” she admits.

Working in international teams teaches employees how people from different cultures work. “To me, nationality doesn’t entirely matter; it matters who you are as a person, and what your work and personal ethics are. This is more important than nationality, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion” says Nikki. “I value working in an open-minded team more than an international team — because you can be all international but if you’re all close-minded, then the whole point is lost. An open-minded team is more important than anything else — you share things, you’re respectful to each other, you’re open to each other’s ideas, you help each other out and you work on a linear level without any hierarchy.”

Singaporean digital marketer in NYC
Nikki at the Central Perk cafe — the iconic coffee shop from the TV-show “Friends”. Photo credit: NT.

Nikki feels that her 4-month jobbatical gave her a lot. “I learned more about myself, about what I can do and what I could potentially gain… and also practical stuff about life like how to live alone and fix the little things that go wrong in the house — like my light bulb! Also, now that I’m familiar with the startup scene here, I just might be back. Or go on another jobbatical somewhere.” She is not ready to settle just yet. If she was, her email signature wouldn’t say “The Travelling Digital Marketer.”

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