“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain (RT will lerner)
A few people have asked me recently how I was able to find a job in India while living in New York. I’ll share my experiences and give some tips which will hopefully be relevant for anyone looking for a job.
One day I woke up and decided I wanted to move to abroad. It didn’t really matter where, on a whim I picked India because it sounded cool and Hong Kong since my parents had lived there and I had some contacts. The first thing I did was the traditional job board seek and apply.
Lesson #1: It’s tough to evaluate and seriously consider a candidate from half a world away: The response rates I got from the job boards sucked. I probably applied to 100 jobs and maybe heard back from 1. Not very encouraging. I realized that this wasn’t going to work, I either needed connections or to pack up my bags and move and try to apply for jobs locally. I wasn’t quite ready for drastic measures quite yet (but I was getting close).
Lesson #2: Use your network, but don’t force it: Next I started reaching out to trusted people in my network (family and friends) and asked if they had any recommendations. I was put in touch with some interesting people, but nothing was a great fit. 50% of the people I spoke with seemed like they were doing me (or my connect) a favor by talking to me, and the other 50% I felt like I was talking to just because I had no other alternative (and didn’t want to offend my hook-up). The best conditions for getting a job is when you have an “in” and you are suitably qualified and passionate about the job. In my case I only had two out of the three. I spent a few days thinking about it and decided on another approach.
Lesson #3: Forget a job profile, find a great company: Rather then looking for a particular job, I started trying to figure out which companies I would love to work for. I did some research and came up with a list that included interactive agencies (based on my most recent work experience), web startups (including a local search company and an advertising network), VCs and various agile software companies. I came across Deloitte’s list of Fastest 500 growing companies divided into region and investigated every company. Finally I contacted the owners of special interest groups (like The Agile Softare Community of India run by Naresh Jain), asking for any advice.
Lesson #4: Go straight to the top: I did as much research about these companies as possible put together a list of the top 50 companies I wanted to work for, and rather then apply for jobs through the traditional channels, I found the name of their CEO and emailed them directly. Emailing a CEO is a good idea: first off it shows some “chutzpa,” second if you are good, they can create a job for you, third when a CEO emails a hiring manager and says check out this candidate, they listen. Luckily, CEO’s of companies are usually pretty easy to find, though their email addresses aren’t always. The old “guess the email address” trick usually did the job. Either find contact info for someone at the company and copy their email address format (first.last@company, first.last initial@company, etc…), or just guess a popular format. I was able to hit the CEO for pretty much every company I found. Response rates (especially for smaller companies) jumped dramatically.
Lesson #5: Land one interview: This is the hardest step. In my case I got lucky, an agile software consultancy who I really admired (let’s call them ThoughSmirks), had offices in NY and were hiring in India. Wow’d ‘em in NYC and they agreed to setup an interview with me in India. Boom, just like that I had one concrete, legitimate interview lined up with a company I liked. I setup a tentative itinerary and bought some plane tickets (on my own dime). Now with travel dates in hand it was a easy to lock up other interviews. Through the people I was in talks with and the CEO’s of companies I was emailing, I had a bunch of phone interviews and setup 7 in-person interviews for a 9 day trip to Mumbai, Goa and Bangalore. The companies varied in terms of size, culture, vertical and location, and just like college I had some “safeties” and some “long-shots.”
Lesson #6: Get the offer – think later: When I got here and started talking to people my views totally changed. The company I was most excited about ended up being a little boring, something didn’t resonate well. During the interview I started questioning if this was the right move for me. The interview is not the place to think about this stuff: you’re an actor – smile, laugh, be smart, get the offer – do whatever it takes. You’ll have plenty of time to think about this later.
Lesson #7: Money isn’t the most important thing: I was lucky and was able to get multiple offers. This really allowed me to evaluate what was important. Despite liking one company in Bangalore, I hated the city (you’re tellin’ me bars close at 11 and there’s no live music?). Goa was awesome and the advertising agency I got an offer from was cool, but as my Dad said, even in Darfur they pay you more (Money isn’t everything but hey a man’s gotta eat). In the end I really liked Mumbai and was really impressed by all the people I met at Directi although my role wasn’t exactly defined at the time of joining, 7 months later I’m extremely happy with my decision.
Lesson #8: Enjoy: In the end moving abroad has been a really great experience for me. I’ve been challenged professionally and personally and feel like I have grown tremendously as a result. I have many friends who have taken the plunge (from teaching english in China, Vietnam, Peru, South Korea to selling ice cream in Thaland to peace corps in West Africa), and not a single person I know regrets it. It isn’t for everyone, but those of you feeling pangs of restlessness, what are you waiting for, the time is now…