Tips for Finding work in France
Finding work can be a lengthy (and slightly soul-destroying) process no matter where you’re searching, but there are several ways that expats can improve their employability in France.
Some are fairly obvious, and some will require a bit of effort, but if you end up securing the job you’ve been looking for it’ll be worth it.
Learn the Language!
Too often people assume that not being able to speak the native tongue won’t be that much of an obstacle to finding employment in European nations as ‘everyone speaks English anyway’.
However, whist French school children do learn English as a second language, not being able to understand at least basic French will severely limit your options.
It may not be impossible to get work without any grasp of the language, but you certainly won’t be as attractive an applicant as someone who has shown they’re willing to put the effort in.
There are many ways to get started with learning French, from traditional classes and courses to Apps and online forums. It might take you a while to feel confident speaking French, but locals are likely to appreciate your trying!
As well as helping you progress in the employment sector, being able to speak French will greatly improve your social and cultural experience of living in France.
Flexibility is key
If you’re trying to learn French and struggling with it then don’t give up, just change the focus of your job search. Applications for positions in cafes and bars from people with limited language skills are often considered, and by working in a bustling environment you’re bound to pick up some French as you go – improving your career prospects further down the line.
Similarly, you may have held a certain position or commanded a high-level wage in your country of origin, but you shouldn’t look for work in France expecting to get exactly the same. You may need to take a pay cut or start at a lower ranking and work your way up. It might be frustrating, but you’ll get there in the end and if you plan on returning home in the future having international experience will be really beneficial.
Format your CV for the French job market
In France CV’s are generally fairly concise, so stick to a limited number of pages (2 maximum) and be clear and distinct when listing your experience, skills and attributes.
Some French companies will also expect you to include a photo, so make sure you pick one which looks professional and presents you in the best possible light.
Look for work in the right places
No matter how prepared or organised you are, your chances of securing employment will be significantly reduced if you don’t look for work in the right places.
When looking for a position in the service industry the personal touch can go a long way. Rather than sending out a bunch of CVs in the post or via email, get out there and hand around your CVs personally. Smart clothes, a polite attitude and a smile could be the difference between you getting an interview/trial shift or not.
If you’re looking for a sector specific role recruitment agencies are useful, but it also pays to look in local newspapers, ask local people and make enquires in expat communities.
To increase your connections, enhance your online presence and introduce yourself to potential employers join Facebook groups and promote yourself through LinkedIn.
Maintain a Professional Distance
In France potential employers will expect you to display a professional, respectful attitude during an interview.
Always use the formal ‘vous’ rather than ‘tu’ when addressing the interviewer, don’t plough in for a cheek kiss and don’t try to diffuse the tension with jokes. The humorous element of many jokes can become lost in translation, and they might think you’re just a bit of a nutter!
When entering a foreign labour sector you will need to adapt to different laws and a different tax system.
This can be a bit of a shock to the system and take some organisation/getting used to, so make sure to do your homework first.
Also ensure that all your paperwork is up-to-date, in order and easily accessible so you’re ready for any interviews which come along.
Before you begin your job search you may also want to spend some time saving up so that you have enough to support yourself while you find employment. If you’re distressed for funds it will make the experience even more stressful and you may end up taking a job out of necessity and losing out on a much better opportunity.
Finally, relax! Job hunts might not be easy, and they might be frustrating at times, but if you’re intent on living and working in France keep your chin up and carry on trying – you’ll get there in the end!
Do you work in France? Have you got any top tips for helping other expats find employment? Get in touch on Twitter/Facebook or start a discussion in the Expat Hub Forum.