14 months ago I decided I wanted to move overseas to work on a global sports brand. 2 months ago, I started working at the lead agency for Adidas Running, in Amsterdam.
Whilst this may sound like a good outcome, let’s focus on the 12 months in between the above 2x milestones.
There was a lot of failure. 12 months of it, to be precise. Do you know how long 12 months is? Well, turns out it’s a year: a long time to not achieve something.
When you try something for a year and don’t get anywhere for the 11 months of that, you try a lot of different tactics and learn some things in the process.
The below are the 5 things that I would have focussed on immediately if I’d do it all over again. If you’re thinking of doing something similar with your career / life, maybe something below could help ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Before I start the list: do all the normal things
Start by doing all the things you’d do if you were looking for a new job locally. Develop a killer CV and LinkedIn profile, research the job market and industry ‘health’ in the place you’re looking to move, lean on every contact you know in that market for introductions, be prepared to get rejections, reach out to all the recruiters you can, add people on LinkedIn who might help you, etc.
Or alternatively to the list, just skip to point 5 (“Go There”) and you’ll figure things out quicker as you have a great motivator - avoiding unemployment.
1. Make yourself ‘according to the internet’ legit
When looking for a new gig overseas, the chances increase exponentially that you will have never met the people who work at the companies that your really want to work at. So you need to work twice as hard to make them realise that you’re a real human being who is capable fulfilling a role they require and gives a damn about the industry you’re in.
Where are the people going to look who hear of you? The internet. So do the things that will put you a step ahead behind that screen, namely:
- Build your own website. It’s not hard at all. Compare the cost of it (prob $100/year) to the salary you’re going to ask for - it’s worth it. You don’t have to be a creative or artist to look impressive. You just need to show you care about the industry you’re in. You could just write 2 or 3 articles that highlight your opinions, and put some links to work that you love. This is such a powerful tool in creating an impression, showing you’re for real, and giving the person preparing to interview you an insight into who you are that will separate you from all those same-same CV’s and LinkedIn profile templates.
- Use the website domain to create your personalised email. It’s a small thing, but it creates the perception of professionalism. How many of your competitors will be @gmail, or god forbid @hotmail (yeah right!)? These are the little things that make you stand out.
- Get something of yours into the local industry press. Maybe an article, and opinion piece, a piece of work you might need to PR harder than usual. Yes, not many people locally will care about it, but it will sit against your name when people google you as being active in your local market, a go-getter, all that cliché stuff that new employers look for when taking a gamble on someone from the other side of the world.
2. Your new job: researcher
Research everything about the industry of the city you want to work in, everything about the agencies you want to work for, everything about the brands you want to work on (assuming you’re in ad land - otherwise find the equivalents).
For this I don’t just mean the normal stuff that’s easy to find - like cool campaigns, who the major clients of an agency are, their website, company vision etc. Everyone will do that. Get under the skin, and find facts that the people interviewing you won’t even know - remember you’re supposed to add value, not just be another person they could easily find locally.
When I met with people agency side for adidas or adidas itself, I made sure I knew the company’s stock price, how it was trending over the past 10 years, the same info for Nike, Under Armour, Puma, Asics. How many factories they had creating their shoes and apparel (814) across how many countries (55), which countries were most profitable (Bangladesh), and its profit margin (7.5% with a goal of 11% by end of 2019).
I’m not saying the above to try and impress you, it’s really easy information to find, but how many people currently making ads for adidas would know that off the top of their heads? And how many would find it useful info to be told when interviewing someone?
3. Rehearse phone & Skype interviewing
It’s such an awkward thing to do, getting Skype interviewed by your mate/partner/mum/whoever, screen recording it, and watching it back - but it’s SO helpful.
Yes, it is physically painful to watch. Physically. But you realise that being impressive in that context comes naturally to no one, and training it can literally be the difference between getting a job or not.
4. Call CEOs
Start at the top.
Whether it’s (in order from most to least impressive) a phone call, a letter, an email, or a LinkedIn request, the CEO or MD is removed enough from day-to-day hiring that if they like the sound of you, they’re not going to ignore you if there “aren’t any roles open that match your experience right now” - as the talent department often will.
But if they do like you, they’ll ensure someone (usually not them) speaks with you. And that person they tell to contact you won’t be able to say no to them.
5. Go there
Sounds simple, can be expensive, but if you’re serious - is worth it. After a few months of Skype interviews that may have gone well, you will be forgotten if you don’t turn up and make an impression.
This is what ended up getting me the job over here. After a lot of talking over a long period of time I got on a plane and told 8 companies that I was “in town for a few meetings” of which I really had zero meetings lined up. In the space of a 4 day trip, I’d progressed to meeting with 7 agencies, one recruiter, and 3 weeks later had 2 job offers.
In my case, I don’t think this would have happened if I’d just remained a bodiless face from the Internet they’d chatted with a couple of times.