A world of opportunity

19 Apr 2015
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After three years working in online marketing in Brisbane, UQ Business School graduate Melissa Milgate wanted to broaden her horizons. London – with its large Australian community and a growing IT industry - seemed an attractive prospect.

“I had some friends who had recommended living in London for a bit,” says Melissa. “The digital marketing industry was way ahead and I thought I'd give it a go. I decided to move to the UK for a year.”

Ten years later she is still there and now holds a senior position with Google, managing what is effectively the largest advertising agency in the UK.

"It's great fun and the industry is moving so quickly it means I'm learning something new every day. London is very multicultural and I've really enjoyed working with people from all over the world,” says Melissa, who managed to complete a part-time MBA at UQ Business School several years ago while maintaining her work commitments in the UK.

Melissa is one of thousands of graduates who leave Australia each year in search of opportunities or adventures overseas. At any one time there are around a million Australians living and working overseas, according to government figures.

Although in recent years the ‘brain drain’ appears to have gone into reverse, with more returning home, there can still be career advantages in working abroad.

Brant Lowe, Career Services Manager at UQ Business School, says: “Graduates go overseas for different reasons. Some go for a sense of adventure or for a personal challenge. Often people have family ties or a relationship with someone in another country.

“However many go with their career in mind – they may want to have international experience on their CV, to work in a bigger market which may be perceived as a more demanding environment, to gain exposure to a growth market such as Asia, or to seek opportunities in a location recognised as a global hub for their industry - for example Silicon Valley or a major financial centre like London.”

According to Cartus Corporation, a global relocation specialist which produces an annual list of the best places to work overseas, the US - which has the world’s largest economy – remains in the number one spot. The UK, a key centre for foreign investment, is second, followed by China although the difference in culture, laws and the poor air quality can be a shock for foreigners.

Germany, in fourth position, has one of the strongest economies on the globe, while Switzerland, at number five, is popular with multinationals because of its business-friendly regulations and its emerging R&D sector. Other top 10 locations are Singapore, Canada, India, France and Hong Kong.

Sally Dominguez, designer, inventor and a former judge on ABC TV’s New Investors, considered various countries when she decided to move abroad with her husband and young children but chose the US because it was ‘do-able’. She now runs workshops at Stanford University but has maintained professional interests in Australia and spends time working on both continents – an experience which she finds invigorating.

“I have access to innovators, designers and seminal events that have really broadened my design thinking perspective,” she says of her new home in California. “I bring a different perspective that is generally welcomed over here. Or maybe it’s just the accent….Teaching at Stanford is something I would never have thought possible from Australia. I wanted to really challenge myself, to be a small design fish in a big creative pond, and my hard slog is paying off. The US has really taught me to think big.”

Greg Blackburn left Australia for his wife’s homeland, Germany, earlier this year. The former UQ Business School MBA student found a job with a multinational technology company. “I've gained a broader perspective of the business world, especially how it operates in a different culture,” he says.

Brant Lowe recommends that graduates research the job market in the country they are interested in and the application process including things like their CV or resume which may follow a different format. They should also learn the language and be aware of cultural differences.

Anyone planning a move will need to consider visa requirements. Australia has reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries which allow Australians to work while on holiday there. Be aware that some countries insist you have enough money in the bank to look after yourself before they admit you.

Greg Blackburn recommends that job seekers try to build contacts before they leave and warns that the first few months may be tough. “You are unlikely to land a good job from abroad, as there are many good local candidates,” says Greg, who found his job by applying directly to the company.

“Try and build a network before you leave, but don't ask people for a job, it's off putting. When you get there, network, check out the local companies - don't just focus on the globally recognised names. I found my job advertised on the company's website, it wasn't on any other job board. Most of all, enjoy the journey and get ready for an exciting overseas career!”

The view from here -

ENGLAND: Melissa Milgate, Media Platforms Account Lead at Google

What does your job entail?

I work at Google in the media platforms division. I manage the largest advertising agency in the UK and their technology platform needs.

What benefits have you gained by working overseas?

I’ve really enjoyed working with people from all over the world. My role has also offered me opportunities to travel within the EU and the US, which I enjoy.

What about the culture difference?

There have surprisingly been many differences to get used to. I remember starting my first job here, arriving at 8:30 and wondering where everyone was. I watched as people started to arrive between 9:30 and 10, learning that things start a little later here in London! I think the Australian work ethic is very much appreciated here, and sometimes we Aussies can come across as quite direct. I work for an American company and am surrounded by Americans who are quite similar in their communication style, but you’ve always got to be open minded and aware of other cultural styles. Similar to Australia, I work in a very open plan environment where even the Google UK MD doesn't have an office.

What advice would you give to others?

Go ahead and do it! You'll make new and interesting friends and it will expand your mind and also the international experience will certainly help your career when you return to Australia. As a friend wisely told me, if it's not right for you, you can always move back home.

GERMANY: Greg Blackburn, Senior Business Consultant with IMC AG

What does your job entail?

IMC AG specialises in technologies for learning management, talent management, workforce performance and new media. My role involves consulting to clients globally. I identify their requirements, configure and test a system installation, then do training with them on site.

What benefits have you gained by working overseas?

The experience of working and living in a different culture, new contacts and frequent business trips across Europe. I've also gained a broader perspective of the business world, especially how it operates in a different culture.

What about the culture difference?

German business etiquette is quite different - Germans are precise but they still have fun. Germans sit down to a hot lunch with colleagues – it’s their main meal of the day. German business people can appear blunt, they get straight to the point with a directness that can make you feel uncomfortable. They address each other very formally. I am lucky - at IMC AG we greet each other informally, even senior management.

What advice would you give to others?

Believe in yourself - the first few months will not be easy. Recruiters will be happy to link in with you, then check out their network and try to grow yours. Check out the local companies - many have excellent market positions and are experiencing huge growth. Focus on where you can add value, your English is a particularly good skill that many employers will value. Have a list of target firms and get to know them. Get ready for an interview, you never know when one will be offered.