Handshakes To High Fives: A UK Ex-Pat’s Journey To The US


The following post is a guest blog post from a friend and former colleague - Sue Dickinson. In the post below, she shares her journey as a UK ex-pat transitioning to the US, and what she learned along the way. ________________________________________________________________

“HEADQUARTERED IN WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA.” These words flashed in front of my eyes, in letters the size of the Hollywood sign. I knew as soon as I saw the job description for the role of HR Advisor with Ticketmaster UK, that not only did I need to get this job, I also had to find a way to make my lifelong dream of living in the United States of America come true.

After a nerve-wracking interview I accomplished part one of my plan, I got the job. Over the next four years I worked hard to build a successful Human Resources team at Ticketmaster’s Contact Center in Manchester, England. I raised my profile internationally by volunteering for global projects, gained credibility, built relationships with key leaders, and four years later was given the opportunity I dreamed about – a new role as Senior Manager of Human Resources with the corporate HR team in Los Angeles. I couldn’t have been more excited, and was ready to pack up and leave rainy Manchester for sunny California to start this new chapter in my life.

California was as amazing as I had imagined it to be. The sun, the diversity, the pace, the excitement, did I mention the sun?  I gained much experience leading various HR functions at Ticketmaster’s corporate office in West Hollywood over the next three years. I was fortunate to receive my Green Card in 2010, and with that freedom, decided I was ready for a change. As I entered the job marketing in the US, I quickly realized that international applicants were at a disadvantage when it came to applying for openings online, and that finding a new job would not be an easy task.

Applicant Tracking Systems & Job Applications

Applicant tracking systems are necessary tools for recruiters to manage high volume hiring, and often times weed out applicants that don’t meet the required criteria for the role. Unfortunately, when organizations implement them they don’t always consider the nuances of international applicants. I came across many fields that were not relevant, such as required fields for GPA (we don’t have a GPA in the U.K.) and dropdowns for universities without an ‘other’ option. This forces candidates to provide inaccurate information which may lead to them getting accused of lying, as I came to find out the hard way.

I must admit, if I’m applying for a role and see required fields that don’t apply to me I will likely close out the browser and continue my search for other opportunities.

Professional degrees and qualifications are popular in Europe but unfortunately are not always recognized in the United States. I don’t have a universally recognized bachelor’s degree so my applications were being blocked at the initial screening stage. I knew I needed an alternative way to put my resume, and myself, in front of the companies I was interested in working for.

Adventures in Networking

I had applied for a position at a local software company using their applicant tracking system, and was disappointed when I didn’t hear anything from them. A few weeks later, while working at a university recruiting event, I passed this software company’s booth, and lined up with the students to speak with the Director of Talent Acquisition in person. He confirmed that I had not met the criteria for the role based on my lack of a recognized degree, and that he hadn’t seen my resume. I’ve come to realize that networking is extremely important.

The Director and I talked for a while and, lo and behold, the very same day I received a phone call from a recruiter and was invited to attend an interview for the role I hadn’t been shortlisted for. This raised a couple of interesting questions: are organizations filtering out international talent with the very tools that are designed to help them hire the best people for the job? With 15 years of proven Human Resources experience, is a BS degree really necessary?  

Like many Brits, I was initially uncomfortable with the idea of networking. Talking to complete strangers and searching for similar points of view felt very unnatural, but with practice my confidence has grown and I have realized how crucial it is to build one’s network.

I am absolutely certain that the opportunities I have been blessed with here in the US would not have been possible without endorsements and referrals from my professional network.

Today, I lead a support team at a Talent Management Software Company where my future looks bright. My goal is to broaden my knowledge, continue to develop my skills, and progress my career within the Talent Management space.

As I reflect on my journey from Manchester to Los Angeles, the keys to my success have been tenacity, determination, sheer hard work, and most importantly building and nurturing relationships. I love the energy here in California and, yes, the rumors are true:

Sometimes I throw away my English reserve and partake in the occasional high five and fist bump!

Sue DickinsonSue Dickinson is a global talent management Leader within 15 years’ experience within the Human Resources profession spanning the entire employee life cycle. Sue gained her Human Resources experience in manufacturing, retail, contact center and corporate environments She specializes in talent management systems, performance management, employee engagement and client relationship management. You can follow her on Twitter at @SueJDickinson or connect on LinkedIn.