A Job and Love Quest in Sydney

I’m a front-end designer from France working in Australia, but last year I was trying my hardest to immigrate for the sake of my future, but also to be with my (super) girlfriend.

Here is my story which I hope, will be useful to those who are struggling to reach similar goals.

A Love Story

Important choices are done for good reasons. It could be the need to breathe fresh air, to see something different, but in my case I wanted to decrease the amount of kilometers between the person I love and I.

My girlfriend came to visit me in France at the beginning of 2016. At this stage, we decided that the best option to stay together would be for me to get a visa and move to Australia.
Since I already did a Working Holiday Visa in Sydney before, my best option was to obtain a sponsorship.

Therefore, while I was experiencing long distance (with 8 to 10 hours difference…) I had to make some improvements to my resume, portfolio, and many other things to help me reaching Sydney for good.

But seriously, it was NOT an easy task, and here is my experience feedback and some advice.

My girlfriend and I, illustrated for one of my EDM.

Preparation for the (job) hunt

In order to attract employers and to show my skills, I decided to create a website. This would work as an online resume, explaining my motivation.

I used Bootstrap and jQuery to put some smooth animation.
The website is still available here: www.backtosydney.com

As my portfolio was in French, I used this chance to revamp it (and write it in English). I had to be persuasive, so I chose to explain each project I’ve done.

It was important to be up to date everywhere, so I also worked on my LinkedIn and resume.

Last thing before starting sending emails, was to obtain a good TOEFL score.

Yeah, for non-English speaking countries, when you apply for a sponsorship, you need to pass an English test. I had to practice a little bit, and having an Australian girlfriend was very useful.
I stressed a little bit before (my latest test was 6 years ago) but everything went good!

www.backtosydney.com if you are curious.

Looking for a job in Sydney

I went for one month at the end of June, since this was the time my girlfriend was on holidays.

Before my departure, I researched companies on Google, and started applying through Seek and LinkedIn.

I tried to get as many interviews as possible but from the few responses I got, no one was available once in Sydney.

At least, I was super happy to see my lovely girlfriend again after 4 months of a virtual long distance relationship.

Well, let’s go back to work. I was still sending emails, applying on websites everyday, but I also decided to walk down the road and get in touch with recruiters.

Let’s be frank, all the recruiters I saw during this time just snobbed me.
My guess is that they didn’t give me any attention because I was looking for a sponsorship.

Some of them gave me an interview, but no one really helped me, so I started ringing offices directly.

I also went to a designer meet-up to network, and to attend a useful seminar about user experience.

Back to France

Even if I was disappointed, I kept applying and ringing offices through my hometown (by staying awake late in the night).

Surprisingly, I started having more replies from companies, mostly through LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I was already back in France and Skype wasn’t their favorite option.

To shine among other local applicants, I chose to carefully build a database of companies in Sydney and to send them a HTML email (like a newsletter).

I used Mailchimp for that, and after days of testing, I sent my EDM.

I got a lot of feedback. But not a single one allowed me to go back to Sydney. Most of them were super interested until I said I needed a sponsorship to work. Being a paperless applicant gave them wings (for some of them) to skip courtesy or to skip replying.

I put a lot of hopes in this email and it still wasn’t enough. 
So, what did I do after that?
I kept applying.

After all of this, I got a few interviews but most importantly, someone gave me a “chance” to obtain a sponsorship.

The CEO of this company asked me to work on a project, and if everything was fine, they would sponsor me.
To keep this story short, he was just trying to get some work for free, and he declared that I was not up to his standards when I proposed screenshots rather than my source files (Apparently, he wanted my .sketch files to see if my layers were tidy).

I was SO CLOSE (in my heart) to finally get my sponsorship, and this experience was awful.

But what to do when something like this ruins all your hope after months of struggle?
You keep applying.
There was no way I could waste all my efforts after an incident like this.

A friend of mine, Craig (who I can’t thank enough), heard about my sad story, and decided to introduce me to a recruitment agency : Lookahead.

I got an interview with Fiona, who was super attentive to my situation (unlike previous recruiters) and she introduced me to one of her colleagues, John-Paul who was on the hunt for a designer.

Luck, finally!

I had a 2 week trial from overseas, obviously paid this time, and after all those long months I finally got hired as a front-end designer by the company I work for: Healthshare.

And then I got the feeling working there would be great.

Analysis

After this long journey of job hunting, I have accumulated some thoughts which would, I hope, help some of you.

Firstly, networking is essential in Australia. Trying to get a job without coming to the country is almost impossible. And when you come to visit, be sure to attend a lot of meet-ups and events related to your business.

Also, salary is seen differently. In France, it is bad courtesy to talk about wages at the start and to request “too much”, whereas in Australia, it’s a sign that you know how much you’re worth.

By not asking enough compared to the market, I was underestimating myself.

I know the feeling, you could think “oh, I’m a foreigner, it’s already good enough if they hire me, as I’m not a citizen I should expect less than Aussies”.
Well, that’s foolish, and for having felt that, trust me, you should value your skills more.

Don’t be shy, you’re good at something and you should put all your efforts into increasing or highlighting what makes you different.

Talking about being different, I always claimed that being from a different culture, my vision will be a great asset to any company. I still agree and believe that diversity matters.

To conclude

I would like to summarize what I did so far as maybe it could give you some hints.

Even tho, I got my job due to the recruitment agency Lookahead (and thanks to Craig!), I am proud of all I have done to reach that goal over those 6 months.

This includes:

  • Revamping my portfolio from a basic display of work to a full English website with explanations about the process and goals for each project.
  • A “resume” website which explained why I would be a good value for a company and my motives. (www.backtosydney.com)
  • An Australian resume (yes, it’s different here compared to France).
  • Networking on LinkedIn.
  • Coming to the country, visiting many agencies and recruitment companies, calling them, going to meet-ups.
  • Sending 3 campaigns of EDM / newsletters with freebies to download.
  • Doing the DailyUI challenge to strenghten my design skills and keep creating to show my motivation.
  • And finally never giving up.

I had the chance to have a lot of support (and help) from my girlfriend, and keeping in mind the idea of finally having a normal relationship with her was the key to keep trying to get a job here.

And I can enjoy street photography in Sydney!

And today?

It’s a sunny day, I’m happy living with my love, I feel good at my work and I have nice colleagues.

Now, my girlfriend and I need to find an apartment, but after those past months I think finding a place to live will be piece of cake (or maybe not in Sydney).

All of this has been a really exciting moment of my life. Difficult, but the reward was huge as I gained a lot of confidence, and I am aware that I can achieve a lot of things with enough effort.

Thank you for reading such a long story, I hope you enjoy and please feel free to share your own experiences below!