Career has hit a brick wall + Struggling to relocate due to visa barrier = Please help!


#1

Hi UXMastery community,

I’m struggling to relocate to the city I want to live in (Melbourne) due to visa barriers (I’m a US Citizen who either needs employer sponsorship or a skilled occupation visa) and feel like my career has hit a brick wall. I’ve been applying to UX jobs for the past 2 years and haven’t had a single in-person interview; though I have had several phone calls and at times think I was only rejected either for not residing in San Francisco where the job was or because there was a more experienced candidate.

I have 4 years of experience as a UX/UI designer and an additional year of professional experience on top of that. I’m currently employed but not growing in my career at all and my compensation doesn’t match my expectations either. You can view my portfolio at LeoVogel.com

Below are the details of my current state and goal state. Things I currently do: read design books, attend UX MeetUps, read design blogs, listen to design podcasts, take UX courses on Interaction-Design.org and Lynda.com, and attend an annual UX conference. For financial and time reasons, taking a General Assembly course is not something I’m currently able to undertake.

My current conclusion is that I should move to San Francisco despite the increased cost of living to try to open up more job opportunities. I’m looking for input from the community.

Thoughts?

-Leo

CURRENT SITUATION
Location: San Diego, California, United States
Job: mix of UI design, Interaction design, front-end HTML+CSS+very light JavaScript with much Googling, and trying to apply UX/HCD principles and methodologies with very little support/buy-in from management
Employer: small company that operates much like a startup
Office: Remote from a co-working space
Number of UX designers: just me
Feeling: isolated and stuck

GOAL
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Job: working in a designer role
Employer: agency
Office: Melbourne
Number of UX designers: several/many
Feeling: happy as a puppy and growing as fast as a puppy too


#2

Hey Leo, thats a real tough one.

Have you considered looking for freelance UX work, based in San Diego in the short term, but building experience and new contacts in the meantime? You might start things on the side while at your current job for income security, or jump in wholeheartedly and dedicate to making freelance work. Are they realistic options?

The things you currently do look great for learning. Are there meetups and other ways to do professional networking near you? That’s the one gap I see in what you’ve listed.

Stick in there. :slight_smile:


#3

Hey Leo, I’ve thought of someone that may be able to help.

Get in touch with Michael Boyd (@boydie) on our Slack channel. He is a Melbourne based UX recruiter who may have some good advice for you.


#4

Full time, I don’t think freelance work will give me the opportunity to learn from senior designers though and I also think that would be harder to use as a reference on a visa application.

Perhaps after moving to San Francisco I could do some part-time freelance work. I was already thinking about reaching out to agencies there and asking if there were any projects I could help work on.

I do attend UX Meetups. I don’t think they’re going to help me find a job in SF or Melbourne but perhaps I should just try to find a job here in San Diego to at least advance my career :confused:


#5

Hi Leo,

It sounds like there are a lot of uncontrollable factors that are blocking your move to Melbourne… do not dash that goal or dream you have to move to Aus, but perhaps its time to put that focus and energy you have into an area where you have more control over the outcomes. San Francisco may be an expensive place to live, (hey, Melbourne aint cheap either!) but it would definitely be a huge step in the right direction towards your goal of living in Melbourne. SF is the tech capitol of the world so having +1 year of experience with a decent company there would catch A LOT of eyes with prospective employers over here and get you further down the line in the interview process.

Sometimes we need to score a few points back in the win column to feel the momentum and create that energy that keeps us inspired and motivated and it sounds like there are some easier shots to hit where you are right now. Don’t exhaust yourself going for the Hail Mary, I’ve had friends who have almost sent themselves broke and emotionally exhausted trying to get a green card to work in America, yet they ended up there a few years later by working for an American organisation in Australia and playing the shots that were in front of them, while never losing site of their long range goal. There are a number of Australian companies that have offices in SF and a number of American companies that have offices in Melbourne.
As Luke said, your doing all the right things in terms of your current moves. Perhaps doing those in a more connected and influential city will get you where you want to be.

Keep us updated on how you go with everything and all the best with it!


#6

Hi my fellow Leo!

I had a quick look at your portfolio and i think it’s surprising that you haven’t even had an interview? It has enough meat to at least warrant a chat in my opinion. Are you only applying to jobs in Melbourne or are you not having luck locally either?

How are you applying to UX jobs? Have you used recruitment agencies? The recruiters will have good feedback and suggestions for you. Are you applying for lead positions? In your portfolio you market yourself as the lead ux guy. If you have 4 years experience for just the one company this probably isn’t enough to call yourself a lead. What level of roles are you going for?

the UX market seems strong in Aus, so if you want to be considered ahead of candidates from the local market, then you will have to bring something extra to the plate. Is that coming across at the moment?


#7

Leo,

I have had several phone interviews but haven’t gotten to an in-person interview stage.

I’ve applied directly and also spoken to recruiters.

I’m applying to junior-mid level positions.

In my site I’m trying to communicate that I’m the person solely responsible for UI and UX at my current employer. It’s just me. Is there a better way to phrase that on my site bio?

I’m primarily applying to positions in San Diego and San Francisco as I don’t expect to get sponsored. Because as you say, I’d need to bring something extra to the table and I can’t think of anything extra. Unless it was a ticketing company which I’d bring several years of industry experience to. But I’ve had people contact me about positions at ticketing companies and as soon as they hear I need sponsorship they’re no longer interested.

I’m stuck.

-Leo


#8

It’s good that recruiters have seen enough on your portfolio to call you, but not so good that these phone calls aren’t converting to interviews.

I think first thing to do is put a location on your intro blurb. This will help recruiters pinpoint where you want to work and also weed out the non-relevant jobs.

What’s the feedback from recent recruiters for jobs in your local market i.e. stuff not to do with sponsorship? Anything you can work on?


#9

Are you getting specific feedback from people who have interviewed you? It really helps as it may be that your not communicating the same aims that they want you to have. If you are applying for jobs in SF for example, don’t mention any desire to move to Melbourne.


#10

There is a location in my intro blurb. And it’s dynamic. So if you view it from Australia you’ll see Melbourne and if you view it from US you’ll see California.

I’m trying not to restrict myself too much while still making it clear where I want to work.

I haven’t had any recent specific feedback from recruiters or people I’ve interviewed with. I also haven’t spoken with recruiters recently. I ask for specific feedback when I get rejected by employers but haven’t heard back recently with anything actionable.

@rachelreveley, this also addresses your questions.

Am I just unemployable?


#11

You seem so discouraged, but please never think that!


#12

Well, I’m employed so I know it’s not entirely true. But after 2 years of looking for a new career opportunity while working at a company that doesn’t value me or UX—I have indeed grown very discouraged.


#13

Hi Leo,

I’m in the UK and your dynamic location displays nothing for me. Perhaps a bug that needs fixing?

I wouldn’t say being specific is restricting yourself. It is focusing 100% on a specific goal. Maybe by leaving your fate in the hands of others, this could be contributing to your discouragement?

What timeline have you given yourself to be in Melbourne? If you can wait a couple years, you could perhaps try fill your UX gaps with a better UX job in San Diego? This will give you better focus and probably make you feel a bit better

Just had a quick Google, and there seem to be a good supply of UX jobs in San Diego.


#14

I was in the same place until 2 weeks ago. I had been looking for a year, I’d had a couple of interviews I thought I had nailed, the feedback or one was they were confused about what my aims were, and two of them I was pipped to the post by another candidate, of one of those apparently the other candidate seemed really keen (annoying as that used to be my amo) I thought I had that job as the interviewer said he’d have hired me based on an article I wrote.

I’m glad I didn’t get that one though because while I was on holiday I got a call from a recruitment agent, he put me forward for a job the next morning, the company said yes we’d like to interview an hour later and I did a Skype interview from my hotel lounge in Finland that afternoon wearing a scruffy t-shirt and no shoes (I could have put shoes on but thought it would be fun to have a job interview with no shoes on). Within half an hour they said yes they want me.

My point is, get all the feedback you can, make sure your message in interviews is clear and what the employer wants, be keen and be patient, it will come if you keep working towards it.

Your portfolio looks really professional, far more than mine.


#15

@leo0, I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling discouraged. I’m not a designer so I’m not familiar with how recruitment works in that area.

I bought Deniz Sasal’s Landing Interviews guaranteed course but then realised that perhaps I needed more training before I followed his method. I am not really interested in what I’m currently qualified to do. Currently, I really can’t be a personal advocate for his methods since I didn’t follow them because I’d end up with a job that I don’t want. However, he won me over with this video about fake job adverts and interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKuMFe0iCLw

A lot of his advice is tailored to consulting as I believe he used to work for PwC. Do you think a consulting firm or a place like IBM would be something that you would consider?

Perhaps, the best course of action is what @Rich1 suggested - Aussie company with offices in America or an American company with Aussie offices.

I just noticed something on your portfolio page that you might want to rework. However, take what I say with a huge grain of salt because I’m not a designer, recruiter etc. You’ve got:

Currently, I am looking for new career opportunities in .

I think you might have wanted to put something there e.g. UX research, VR, AR

Below that you list past, present and up next so it kind of reads that you’re looking for opportunities in past, present and up next.

I hope that helps.