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Ask Amiqus - What are the challenges in finding work abroad and how can they be overcome?

Posted by: Liz Prince

One of the best things about the games industry is that it’s truly global

Professionals working in games therefore have a huge choice of locations to work in, not only within the UK but also overseas. International relocation can be a fantastic adventure, but it takes time and preparation so there’s lots to do. Here are a few things to think about for a smooth transition into working abroad. 

A great place to start is to think about your motivations for leaving the UK in the first place. What are you are hoping to achieve by the move? This could be career advancement, lifestyle change or simply wanting to gain some life experience. Depending on your motivations you might be focussed on moving to a particular country, in which case there may be some compromise on what role you will consider to get there. Alternatively, you may be seeking the next step up in your career and would look at any location in order to secure the right role. For most people the balance is somewhere between the two, so form a tick-list of what you want and don’t want from a move, and set about researching a match. 

A country’s geographical features include language, culture, climate, seasonal light patterns, volcanic activity and distance from your home-country relationships. None of these factors will change. If you move to Japan for example you can expect regular ash clouds, a rainy season and earth tremors as part of normal life. However once in-country many other details will need to be factored in to your choice. These include accommodation options, cost of living, taxation, healthcare, typical working hours, national holidays, flight logistics, food, lifestyle and culture – not forgetting the right employer of course! Wherever you choose, you’ll also need to look in to how you will secure eligibility to work in your location of choice. A good recruiter can help you here, as well as some Googling. Within your country options you’ll also need to have a think about the type of environment where you want to live - country, town, suburb, city or coast. Most people find a studio of interest first and then build up research around the locality organically as they get down the track with a prospective employer, gathering increasingly detailed information as they go through the recruitment process. 

Before you start making solo choices however, it’s a good idea to consider who would be coming with you and begin early discussions with them. This will include people moving with you but your move could also impact those left behind. This is particularly important if it’s your first step away from a home environment since University – will parents support your move? If moving with a partner, is their profession in demand in the country you’re thinking of living in and how quickly could they secure a job? 

Timing is a key consideration and often people feel they have an opportunity to work abroad early in their career before domestic and financial commitments kick in. Others relocate complete with families and this can be a great way to live a fulfilling professional and family life. The more people who will move with you the more preparation you will need to do, particularly if this involves dependants. As well as local schools there are many international establishments across the world running the British GCSE curriculum providing a home-from-home education taught in English. These are usually paid and prices vary greatly from country to country, so you may need to plan in some visits to find a school you like and can afford. If taking the plunge in to a different language, find out the predominant tongue in the studio and consider whether you or any of your party would need some lessons before you go.

Salary is a core need for most but it can be challenging to gather a realistic figure of what you’re going to need to earn in a new location. Not only must this be translated into another currency, but taxation, rent, groceries, nights out, energy costs, health insurance etc. all need to be factored in to see what you need to sustain the lifestyle you want. This is on top of the usual understanding of the market value of your skills and experience, which is a feature of any job move. Skills can have different market values in different countries too so direct comparisons with your current salary can be tricky to benchmark. A good recruitment agency will be able to guide you here so that you don’t put off your target employers but pitching in too high (or low), so be sure to get in touch with people who have knowledge and experience of the international job market. Ask about relocation packages too as this can offset your salary demands to help cover the one-off expense of a move.

Once you’ve got started with applications, studios typically use Skype for a first interview. It’s important to treat voice and video calls with as much preparation  as any other interview, so be sure you have a suitable tech set up with a neutral, professional background for a webcam and can take a call uninterrupted. If you do travel to a face to face interview it’s important to politely establish who will be covering the cost and whether this will be on an expensed basis using receipts that you claim back or paid up front. In our experience most studios pay for travel expenses, however it cannot be assumed and before ‘qualifying’ for this there may be several stages (calls, presentations or tests) prior to a face to face invitation. 

On occasion studios are willing to make offers of employment without meeting in person. There are pros and cons to this approach, and you would need to consider whether you’d be happy to take a job when you’ve never actually been on site. If you’re using a recruiter they will be able to guide you through the recruitment process, but if you are speaking direct then this is something to ask them about at interview stage. 

When visiting the studio, make the most of your visit and plan to fit in some in-situ research to get a good feel for the place. If possible check out the area at different times of day, including the traffic and public transport practicalities. Relocation is a big commitment on both sides, and games studios feel a weight of responsibility, especially if they are working through the visa process for you to join them. 

In our experience the challenges around moving can be overcome armed with the right information and a realistic plan. Some things will inevitably be outside of your control such as awaiting VISA approval, but as long as they are factored in there’s no need for these things to cause stress. Our candidates tell us that one of the biggest challenges is the general ‘unknown’ of living in a new country, this is where a leap of faith is required to make that final decision. There’s always going to be some trepidation but it doesn’t have to be forever and people tend to regret a move they didn’t make, rather than ones they did. The great thing about the games industry is that multiculturalism and an international outlook go hand in hand with this boundary-pushing, creative sector. 

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