Preparing yourself for a move to work in the United States is an exciting prospect. Some people jump in, get on their flight, and sort things out Stateside. Winging it requires a high tolerance for uncertainty as well as an advanced sense of adventure. For many, having a game plan, some careful preparation and a head start on networking in the US can make for a less stressful experience.
The first step in preparing yourself for the job hunt is to see if there is any chance of getting a transfer from your current employers, should they have an American presence. Or, as a longer-term plan, moving jobs within Australia to a firm that has US offices. This is by far the easiest way to work in your field in the States.
The second step is to do some preliminary research about your career of choice in the US. Subscribe to some industry publications and track articles about hiring and recruitment. For example, within advertising agencies, skilled Digital Media Buyers/Planners are quite scarce, and people with these skills, especially on the junior end (3-5 years) are very difficult to find. If there are LinkedIn groups that address your career focus, join them and post questions about what sort of positions members’ firms are hiring for. Look at sites such as Monster, E-Financial Careers and DICE to get an idea of common positions.
LinkedIn is also a good resource to find ex-pats currently working in the US, who are often happy to help a fellow Aussie by answering questions. Just make sure your queries are specific and targeted. For example, ”How can I work in New York?” is too broad. “Does Ernst and Young hire tax professionals from Australia on a consulting basis?” is much easier to address.
I have seen a number of candidates have success in searching for work while having their E3 visas held by a third party firm based in Australia, which then makes landing work much easier, as the hiring company doesn’t have to deal with the paperwork.
The third step is to research your visa options carefully and to realize that, with the US job market being quite soft, employers are not keen to get embroiled in visa paperwork. E3s are pretty simple, but not well understood by employers, so the easier a candidate makes it, the better.
The fourth step is to be able to tell your story very clearly and concisely. I have worked with many Aussies who basically say “I will do anything for work–am not fussy”, which tends to make people with whom they could network go completely blank. Plus, on further analysis, it turns out that they are really looking to bolster their existing experience, not “just do anything”. Far more effective is a narrative like: “I have 4 years of experience working in PR for pharmaceutical firms, and am looking to continue that work here in the United States”. Then the person can make connections with who they might know in pharma, or PR.
A good fifth step is to have a fall back plan if you cannot find work in your field. In large cities, particularly by tapping available ex-pat networks (meetup.com is great for this) Aussies can find part time work like babysitting, editing, bar tending, book keeping etc to bring in some cash while looking for full time roles. However, there are increasingly strict regulations about hiring only documented visa and green card holders, so it is not always easy. If you have skills, such as programming or design that can be done freelance remotely through an Australian employer, this can work out well as an interim step. Having savings and a sense of adventure can be a big help too.
The difference between an American resume and an Australian CV is substantial. US resumes are far more concise, and very focused on work experience as opposed to details of education, hobbies etc. They also tend to be quite a bit shorter than CVs, with a single page being standard, 2 pages only for people with complex functions and/or 10+ years of experience.
A sixth step is to make sure that your resume is US-friendly, and not risk leads or contacts throwing it out because of an unfamiliar format.
Finally, Aussies are, on the whole, far more reserved and formal in their interviews and overly-accurate in their resume than Americans, or at least the New Yorkers with whom I work. I often have to coach them through the cringe factor of upselling and the hyperbole around their experience. A final step to consider is to start channeling your inner Texan!
Maggie Chandler is a resume writer and career coach with 12 years of experience in human resources and recruitment on Wall Street and extensive experience working to help ex-pats with resumes appropriate for the US market. Originally from Melbourne, she has lived in the States for 15 years. Find out more at Chandlersearchcoaching.com