What No-One Will Tell You About Career Building (Abroad And Anywhere)

nikki espartinez
7 min readJul 15, 2022

Part of my most recent talk held at Eugenio Lopez Jr. Center for Media Arts Senior High School in Manila, Philippines. About 30+ students listened to an hour’s worth of User Experience talk and Q&A afterwards. Sharing a piece of it here, I hope you enjoy! First published on my newsletter, working title on substack. Check out the original post here!

The NEW OFWs cover art
Cover art for the presentation

OFW*: Overseas Filipino Workers

01 / 07: Learn by Doing

There’s no substitute for real world experiences and one of the best ways to get them is to be interested in people’s problems. Think about the things you would do on your free time. The things you naturally gravitate towards. Maybe it’s writing, maybe it’s creating motion graphics, maybe it’s through service. Whatever that is, ask yourself: “which companies around me are trying to solve that problem I am mostly interested in?” and try your hardest to get involve with them through internships, part time work or simply just connection.

02 / 07: When it comes to building your network, forget who you know. Find who you’d like to become instead.

Even when I was new here, I had my doubts about this ultra-popular strategy for job-hunting among many Filipino immigrants: ask for job leads from immediate friends / family in the area who’ll most likely tell you to go and apply to this job which usually does not have a very strictly defined jd, has no room for salary negotiations and most importantly, it’s what “anyone can do” or “can be qualified for”. All you need is a recommendation.

There is nothing wrong with accepting those odd jobs, most especially when necessity calls for it. I understand why it exists and I understand why it’s available, especially for short-term goals: e.g get foot in the door, pay initial rent, avoid hunger and other common situations a lot of immigrants are susceptible to.

I’m saying: it doesn’t always have to be like this. (I’ve repeated this multiple times throughout the talk). There are ways to get out of this unforgiving cycle. There are alternative paths. Unfortunately, it rarely comes from people you already know.

It’ll mostly likely come from people you don’t know. How do you find them? See next point.

03 / 07: Work and share your ideas publicly by leveraging the internet wisely.

I started this newsletter precisely for this reason: I wanted to publicly create and ship ideas through my writing. This is not the only way to do this, there are a dozen other options, mediums to go with. No matter what that is though, the goal, and perhaps, the outcome is still the same: find people like you, start conversations and increase the probability of making things happen together.

At the minimum, what you’ll get in the end is a collection of work and ideas that might prove to be useful in the future. For that reason alone, it is totally worth it to start something. Anything.

04 / 07: Just do the work. Get better, and document it. Your portfolio is your biggest and most valuable investment*.

If you want something, don’t wait for someone to hand it over to you in a pretty package. It’s not gonna happen. If you want something, do the little BUT hard things now and eventually something will come out of that, even if it doesn’t feel like it, even if no-one is looking, and you feel like you are the only one in the world who cares about what you’re doing. It’s not always fun to do the work that needs to be done but if you do it right and you do it often, it can and it will open doors for you. You just have to start.

What could be a better, more resilient investment than in your own work? Your life’s work.

05 / 07: Treat your career as an endless experiment. Never stop being playful and creative. It’s the future of work, yes including those that OFWs can thrive on.

Work isn’t what it used to be, and it most certainly isn’t limited to what we’ve been taught growing up. Things are different now, depending on how you look at it. I’m no expert but this is how I see it:

What was common then
How we’ve always done things
It doesn’t have to be like this gif
Then vs Now
Where it’s going
Present and future

06 / 07: If you want to become a higher quality professional, act as if you already are now, people will hire you for your brain and your potential.

Ever heard of that mantra, ‘Dress up for the job you want.’ or something like that. I think, for me, the better version would be: ‘Act as if you already have that dream job.’ Learn everything that you can about the people who already are in that position: their work ethics, principles, mindsets, skills.

Study the patterns meticulously, watch what they do constantly and design the path that’s going to get you closer to where they are. Knowing these things is a superpower. Using that wisdom and picking which ones to embody and which ones to ignore is an underrated life skill.

Do this enough for a long time and it might just work.

07 / 07: The best careers are online, and are constantly transforming. They’re borderless.

One thing I’ve learned since stepping foot in America 6–7 years ago that I’m mostly surprised about is this: The promised land is the internet. The best opportunities are still out there, geographically. There’s still a ton of advantages in being abroad.

But you don’t have to wait for a visa to start making BIG moves for yourself. One of the best inventions of the 21st century is making this happen and it’s going to get better from here. You can start carving your dreams, your identities, the person you want to be… through the internet.

Through your skills, your talents and your hunger for success, you can make things happen. I’m not saying this will be easy. I’m not even saying you’re guaranteed success or that you can get what you want. I’m saying curiosity pays off, and it pays off BIG TIME if you know how to leverage the world wide web.

Don’t waste your time waiting. Start now. Start where you are.

Ending Note:

You should chase your highest potential as a global talent, especially in technology — where the world is heading extremely clearly towards.

You have all the potential in the world to be a global talent, if you choose to. You just have to do the world, there is no shortcut. Guess what, this is such a new thing that it’s practically impossible to inherit this wisdom from our parents. This new world calls for a shift in mindset, an openness to breaking barriers, a demand to be more creative and resourceful.

More quotes from the talk:

Because more people today — not only designers — now need to be fluent in communicating around design. How one builds something is no longer enough; you have to design it well, too. And it cannot be an afterthought. — Peter Levine of A16Z from the essay “The Decade of Design

A lot of what we do now are bets for what we will become in the future. — Myself to the kids on decision making and the future

Special thanks and a huge shoutout:

✨ Thank you to the Department of Education Philippines, Jonelle Pinlac-Gupit (@mrs._barber), Eugenio M. Lopez Jr. Center for Media Arts Senior High School & of course participating students for the massive honor.

I’m never more convinced that this is one of the best ways I can help — paying it forward with what I’ve learned so far as a Designer in tech abroad through public speaking, writing, among many other things.

The future of OFW work is one I’m intensely interested in exploring further. This is just the beginning & im looking forward to doing more of this type of work & service back to my fellow Filipinos.

To doing the work that matters.

📧 Interested in working with me on this? nikkiespartinez@gmail.com

speaker’s profile
Speaker’s profile

About the author

Nikki is a Sr. UX Designer working for a data company in New Jersey. In the last 2 years, she has helped design & build a holographic platform, contracted for a research team inside Fidelity Investments, worked in the Design Operations side of an e-commerce company, mentored brilliant design students/career-changers, advocated for UX best practices at RookieUp, have co-taught UX courses at General Assembly and have also contributed directly to the growth of the Mentorship program on UXPA-New York. Designing for a better world is her life. She also runs her own newsletter, working title, about her thoughts on the future and more.

About Working Title

Working Title art
Working Title on Substack [nikkiespartinez.substack.com]

Working Title is a design-focused newsletter born in the quarantine-era (Summer 2020). I explore the themes of user experience, design methodologies, business and philosophy for each of the entry. I value breadth, above all. Inconsistent releases. Much like real-life conversations, I’ll make every entry worth your time.

If you don’t know where to start, I would suggest to read these:



nikki espartinez

I write about Design, Technology and everything in between. Subscribe to my newsletter: https://nikkiespartinez.substack.com/