Moving and Working Overseas

Having worked overseas, I get a lot of questions from students about how they can work abroad, too. I published pretty much all I know in this free ebook. But my experience is hardly comprehensive.

I recently traded emails with Tripp Jakovich, a creative working in Shanghai. I asked Tripp to share his advice on moving and working overseas. Here’s what he had to say:

 

Back in October I decided to take my chances abroad in hopes of starting a career amongst the heavy hitters of the advertising world. So I set my sights on Shanghai, China. It wasn’t a completely random decision. Having used to live in Beijing and a working knowledge of the Mandarin language, it seemed like a reasonable venture.
Within two weeks, not only did I meet a multitude of inspiring individuals, but I also landed a job as a copywriter at an international agency.
The ad industry flourishes in cities like Shanghai. With more brands establishing themselves in the Chinese market, it only makes sense that agencies are following suit and setting up shop. After months of learning about the opportunities to be had, I compiled a few reasons why and how one might start a career overseas (in advertising or otherwise).
1. The Whys
–       Go out, see the world and challenge yourself. Find out what you are really capable of. If you can make it on your own in a foreign country, you can likely be successful anywhere.
–       Creative curriculum is prominent in Western education. In my experience, it seems artistic minds are in short supply in developing countries. Their more basic needs drive educative focuses, so creative education isn’t really necessary. For cities with growing ad scenes, there is a huge demand for people who have learned to control and communicate the creative process.
–       You will get chances to prove yourself no matter how experienced you are. I have been given responsibilities and opportunities that I never would have had in the US because of my limited amount of time in the advertising field.
2. The Hows
–       As always, do your research. I used both WeChat as well as LinkedIn to search for people who were working at companies in which I was interested. By merely reaching out to them, I was able to get a number of different interviews. Don’t be afraid to ask.
–       Get lost and connect. Go explore the city and meet people along the way. Get lost and find your way back home by asking directions. Stop at a bar, buy someone a drink and pick his or her brain. If that person has any jobs leads or connections, your desire to learn will leave a good impression.
–       Take the plunge. Just go for it, no extensive plan needed. Don’t have a job lined up just yet? Hire a headhunter a few months before you leave.  Set up some interviews for when you arrive. Meet people and find work through new contacts.

–       Have faith that it will work out. It always does in the end, doesn’t it? You will find a way and when you do, your fight to success will make you mentally stronger and more confident in your abilities.
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#The50 Things Every Creative Should Know

If you’re fresh out of portfolio school and looking for work, take the time to read #The50 Things Every Creative Should Know by Jamie Wieck.

The ones I wish I’d known:
#29 Negotiate
#30 Read contracts
#34 Embrace limitations
#36 Boring problems lead to boring solutions

The ones I wish the juniors whose books I see knew:
#9 Curate your work
#11 Make your work easy to see
#13 Time is precious: Get to the point
#39 Justify your decisions

So you really think it would be cool to live in California?

“Why do you love her?”
“Because she lives in my town.” 

This is one of those posts that makes me worry I’m going to come off as some cranky old coot. But I still think it’s good advice.

If you’re interviewing with an agency, and the person asks you what you’re looking for, as in like a job, or what you’re seeking in life, that’s really another way of asking “why do you want to come work at our agency?” So please don’t let your first answer be, “I really want to live in California.”

That may be true. California has its perks. But there are 1400 ad agencies in California. There are 26,000 creative companies. And there are 12.2 million available jobs, not including couch surfing. So answering that you want to move to California, while it’s a fine lifestyle choice, isn’t what your interviewer wants to hear. It’s one step above a shrug and a mumbled “Dunno.”

Maybe say something work related, for starters. You’re looking to go to a place that does amazing creative? You want to learn and grow? You just want to make cool shit? That at least narrows it down a little. It implies something about the why you and the agency you’re talking to are a good match beyond its physical location.

Pitching Yourself: Leah the Lego Intern

There are two schools of thought on presenting yourself to a potential employer.

1. Do something creative so they know you’re creative.
2. Let your work speak for itself.

Normally, I recommend the latter (that’s #2). I think it’s better to spend your time coming up with great ideas you can put in your book than working on clever ways to introduce yourself. I’ve also seen very, very few students successfully pull off the former (that’s #1).

This, however, is someone who got it right. Great idea. And because she’s looking for a gig in account services, it’s even more impressive/necessary. (And it doesn’t hurt that her idea was picked up by Adweek.)

Here’s Why Talented Creatives Are Leaving Your Agency

We don’t often repost articles on this blog. But I thought this one on Digiday was worth sharing. It’s a London-based product designer’s take on why agencies are bleeding young talent while startups are picking them up. The author’s litany of condemnation for big agencies:

1. You won’t stop taking on shit work.
2. You don’t innovate, even though you say you do.
3. You keep hiring dead weight (and do nothing about it).
4. You don’t stop taking on projects that can’t be delivered unless we work 12-hour days.
5. You don’t give staff any credit.
6. You don’t buy us decent equipment.

Not all large agencies fit this dire mold. But I’ve worked at one or two that did. It’s good to recognize the bad  out there so you can avoid it. And it’s go to recognize the good, so you can run towards it. Read the full article here.

"Better Than His Book"

I’ve been looking at a lot of portfolios lately,* and I’ve heard the same phrase about five times this week. Someone has sent me a book on behalf of someone else and commented, “They’re better than their book.”

I don’t know what to do with that. I totally trust the people passing these books on to me, but I can’t help but ask why the person’s book isn’t as good as they supposedly are. “They’re better than their book” is like saying “Our product is better than our ads make it seem.”

Your book represents you. It represents the way you think. So if your book isn’t as good as you are, you’d better get to work on making it better. If you’re not getting the opportunities, do something on the side. Give yourself some fake assignments. You’re competing with people whose books are probably better than they are. That’s the reality of the situation.

If your book isn’t as good as you are, then your book could be better. So why isn’t it?

*We’re hiring all creative levels. Drop me a line or send me your stuff if you’re interested.