Getting a design job in a new country

Changing where you live is a huge undertaking, but thankfully finding a new design job can be relatively easy if you know what to do. I’ve moved to three different cities in three different countries over the past few years and while I was initially quite freaked out at the prospect of being without work. I've found some planning and forward thinking can hugely help you find a job before you land in the country you're moving to.

1. Update your portfolio as soon as possible

This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s amazing how many CV’s I’ve had come across my desk with either an outdated portfolio, or none at all. If you know you’re going to change countries or city, chances are you’re going to know a few months before you actually move. With this in mind you should update your portfolio, resumé and create a cover letter template so when you do apply for jobs you don’t have to waste months sorting all that boring adminsitration stuff out. Hiring managers don’t want to hear how you plan on updating your portfolio - if anything, this tells them that you are lazy and you’re procrastinating.

2. Add recruiters from the area you’re moving to on Linkedin

Linkedin is a godsend for finding jobs. When I moved to Vancouver and Berlin I had jobs waiting for me as soon as I landed and both times it was because of the Linkedin/recruiter combination. If you don’t know how to find recruiters, just google ‘creative recruitment + where you’re moving to” and you should get a list of companies. Then search for people who work there on Linkedin. You can usually just search for a company and see who works there. Once you’ve done that, just reach out and tell them you’re moving to the area in a few months and you’re just connecting to see what opportunities are available.

I’ve found recruiters generally have the best jobs. The best companies don’t want to waste their time posting ads on job boards so they usually use a recruiter, either internally or externally to find candidates for them. Cut out the middle man (the job board) and go straight to the source (the recruiter). This can often prevent the recruiter from having to pay fees to the job board so they’ll like you even more, because once they get you a job, you both get paid.

3. Learn the language of the place you’re moving to

I’ve found that memorising a few key phrases can really help potential employers that you’re genuinely interested in the place you’re moving to. It shows that you’re committed to spending time in this new place and that you’re not just moving around the world. This is important because companies spend a lot of time and money hiring new staff, so any indication that you might not be staying long in the country can look quite bad to a HR - Mitigate this by learning the language and by commenting on how exited you are to get to the new country you’re moving to.

4. Find local salary expectations

You’re not going to get a job if you’re asking for 20% more than the competition. Do some hunting on Google to find out what the local pay is like. I was shocked when I moved from London to Berlin to learn that I’d be making about 40% less in Berlin and I’m sure this cost me a job or two, when in an interview, I asked for a London salary in a city that would never pay that.

5. Get your documents together

You need to be able to show the recruiter, HR and anyone else that you have a clear timeline of when you’ll be in the country, how long it will take you to get a visa and how and where you’re going to live when you get there. Most companies won’t want to hire someone that can’t work for another 8 months because their visa is still processing. On a more human side, a lot of HR staff will want you to be comfortable and have a nice place to live when you get there so you can do a great job at work when you finally do arrive.

Once you’ve done this, you’ve got a much higher chance of landing a job when you move to a new country. It’s not an easy process, but if you can get a job in a city before you get there, you’ll be much less stressed, you’ll find it easier to get accomodation when you do get there and you’ll have some fundamentally life changing experiences.