Living abroad is a dream for many, however, many sacrifice their career in the process – it seems far easier to be a shitkicker in an industry you couldn’t care less about than to try and get a gig that thousands of other people – including yourself – want.
For that reason, we spoke to two badass women who are living the dream – both working media jobs in England and Switzerland – about how the heck they managed that.
GET SOLID EXPERIENCE ON YOUR OWN TURF FIRST
Mel Evans, Senior Entertainment Reporter at Metro.co.uk, did as all good mag people do and interned at a crazy amount of publications during her Bachelor of Journalism Degree at The University Of Canberra – Dolly, Cleo, Famous and Rolling Stone. (Editors note: too many RIPs to count right thurr.)
She then worked her way up from Features Assistant to Senior Features Writer at Sunday Magazine (which became Sunday Style, which is now Stellar), jumped ship to Cosmopolitan as News and Entertainment Editor for two years, and only THEN did she try her luck overseas.
It’s not just a resume thing. It’s a confidence thing, too. “I feel by building my career up in Aus first it allowed me to make the jump knowing my shit and being confident in what I had to offer,” she explains to PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“I’m sure you can make the jump without doing all of that, but it saved a lot less stress to already know how the local market worked at a senior level – it’s not too dissimilar to the UK…just turned up to 11.”
Sarah Widera has been working as FIFA‘s Corporate Communications Manager in none other than Zurich, Switzerland for the last four years. She also recommends getting “as much experience on home soil as you can.”
She explains, “I can’t tell you how many hours of free work I did across various football clubs, TV stations and newsrooms in Australia before landing my full-time gig at Fox Sports in Sydney.”
HAVE THAT EXTRA EDGE
On top of epic experience to boot, you need to be able to stand out from the crowd – even moreso when you’re abroad. Sarah was accepted to be part of a fancy schmancy post-graduate International Master in Sports Management programme at Switzerland’s International Centre For Sports Studies, after she had finished her Bachelor of Sports Media at University of Canberra. It was tough as hell to get into, meaning yep, it’s widely recognised as a gold star on the CV.
“It has developed to become a top graduate programme developing all-round managers who can cope with the increasingly complex world of sport,” Sarah explains.
“I was thrilled to be selected into a class made up of 28 people from 23 different countries. After a fascinating 10-month programme, which saw us live and study in Leicester in the UK, Milan (Italy) and finally Neuchatel, Switzerland, I was offered one of three traineeships exclusively on offer to our class from FIFA.”
The takeaway? Find out what kind of traineeships, studies and experiences are looked upon favourably in your dream job, and move forward from there.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Now, it’s not just about obtaining employment overseas – you need to actually be able to live and work there, legally. Mel is currently on the two-year Youth Mobility Visa and just eight months in.
“After that, in order to stay, I’ll have to apply for the Tier 2 visa. Here’s hoping the government loves hard working journalists when that time comes,” she explains. “Sponsorship really only seems to go to those in senior and above positions, from what I have seen so far.”
Sarah’s one of the lucky ones – as they say – because she’s a dual British / Australian citizen. She currently has a 5-year residence permit that she’s able to extend so long as she’s fully employed. She did note that FIFA are able to sponsor and apply for permits for people from all countries, but your dream employer mightn’t be so giving. You need to check that kinda thing out before you pack up shop, and whether or not you’re willing to take that kind of risk.
“But none of this should ever deter anyone. Because if you want it badly enough and you’re willing to work every day at making the dream a reality, you’ll get there eventually. It’s by no means been smooth sailing for me during my 5 and-a- half years abroad, but this is the path I chose and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Cue the collective eye roll, but networking is a must for in-demand industries.
Sarah says, “I’m pleased to say I’ve mentored a handful of Australian and non-Australian’s through the FIFA Master programme and beyond. You’re only as strong as your network, so make valuable and genuine connections with people, but treat their time with respect.”
“There is no shame in emailing anyone and everyone and taking all the meetings and hassling all the people for intros and coffees and ‘just a moment of their times’. I shamelessly hit up everyone I’d ever talked to and anyone they’d ever talked to for contacts.
By chatting to the media circles, you’ll also be exposed to things like certain Facebook groups that advertise gigs, so at least you can get started with more temporary positions while you get your bearings.”
SET SHIT UP BEFORE BAILING
Alright, only crazy people just jump on a plane and hope for a job. I know – I was one of them. You know what I did for six months? Served Snakebites to seedy old men, not sorry.
Sarah had wiser plans. She explains:
“I’d set up meetings with editors before I landed to get my name out there. My role at Metro was advertised, though – I was just plum lucky my legend editor Claire Rutter (*sorry, let me pick up that name*), spotted my name in the pile. I did find no one even rejected me when I applied for UK jobs before I left Aus – I was just plain ignored.”
If you want to score your own great gig abroad, start with a quick career health check to get the ball rolling.
It ain’t easy my friends, but damn-well worth it. Come at us, world.Image: Getty Images / PeopleImages