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HOW TO FIND A JOB IN FRANCE

One of the first things to note is that unless you speak fluent French your chances of getting any job position are minimal. France has a high rate of unemployment (currently around 12%), especially amongst the young, and therefore there are lots of well-qualified, well-educated French job seekers who will provide tough competition for you.

But do not despair - "our own way of approaching things, which is often more pragmatic than that of our French counterparts, can stand us in good stead", says Sheila Burgess of Sheila Burgess International Recruitment Consultancy. "Being willing and prepared to take a slightly less-than-ideal job, to get you off your feet, as long as it fulfils at least some of your criteria, is an enriching experience and can well lead on to better things down the line". Dorothy Danahy SAS Recruitment Specialists also advise the job-hunter to keep a realistic and flexible open-mindedness about them in their search and to "(be) prepared to start lower down the ladder and work your way up".
Be optimistic! Anglo-phones are more likely to succeed in getting a job in an international environment (rather than one which is wholly French) and therefore being of English mother tongue and a 'willing to get stuck in' attitude are excellent selling points. As Sheila Burgess says, "Sometimes being different can be an advantage in crossing barriers provided you appreciate the cultural differences and go with the flow rather than against it". Therefore, fluent French and cultural awareness of the employment system are the first steps to opening many doors for you.

If you are an EU national (or are married to one), you do not need an actual work permit but once you have located a job and a place to live you will need to acquire a carte de residence, a residence permit which, although a somewhat tedious bureaucratic process, is necessary if you intend to stay and work in France for more than three months. However, for non-EU nationals, it is almost impossible to get a job (quite simply because of the work permit situation) - job, entry visa and work permit should be obtained before entering France. Non-EU nationals can enquire about procedures and requirements for temporary visas at the Office des Migrations Internationales (OMI). For all foreign nationals it is hard to rent a house without a job (usually proof of employment is required by the landlord), and it is hard to look for a job without permanent accommodation. To complete this "Catch-22" situation, it is very difficult to get a residence permit without having proof of having found accommodation and a job! As a start, however, having at least a contact address or temporary lodgings is better than none. Be warned that most recruitment companies dealing with non-management positions do not accept applications from non-EU citizens as they know that it is impossible for their clients to acquire work papers for such positions.

So how do you go about job hunting? First of all, start looking from your home country before you even move. Decide upon a target job - evaluate your skills and experience to date so that you will be able to tell prospective employers about something unique to you that will be of real value to their organisation. Obviously your English language communication skills are very marketable, although as mentioned above so is the need for you to be able to converse confidently in French (so start taking the language classes now). If you have professional qualifications gained in an EU state, check if these are accepted in France, and if your professional qualification has an equivalent here. Get listings of international companies situated in your chosen location, as these companies are more likely to be in need of bilingual skills, or even operate an English speaking work place.
You may want to make use of your English language skills by teaching English. Many people choose to become English teachers in France, particularly in the business sector. The most widely recognised qualification is TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and FUSAC carries lots of advertisements from language schools recruiting teachers. You could take a TEFL course in your home country or WICE in Paris offers accelerated four-week courses (running throughout September to June). Be prepared, however, that a teaching job may involve you being sent to many different locations in and around Paris and that your timetable may be "somewhat irregular". Non-EU nationals will again need working papers to be able to get a job teaching in a language school.

Job adverts for positions in France are advertised in the international press (for management positions look in The Financial Times and The International Herald Tribune, and for bilingual secretarial positions, The Times Crème de la Crème section and The Guardian). So reading these papers may give you some idea of what kind of experience is in demand. Once living in France, it is a good idea to start reading the French newspapers (e.g. the weekly L'Express, and Carrières et Emplois published on Wednesdays which carries the week's job offers from France Soir and Le Figaro.) Job adverts more specifically aimed at ex-pats are published in the bi-weekly English language publication FUSAC and to a lesser extent in the bi-monthly Paris Voice. You could always place an employment-wanted advert in these latter publications to draw the attention of potential employers.
Job searching through the Internet is nowadays very common, and many web-sites also give practical career advice. Sites such as StepStone carry job adverts for a multitude of industries and others such as Emailjob allow you to subscribe to a service that will e-mail you details of suitable job vacancies. You can also consult the job ads, or post one for free in the Classified Ads.

It is not imperative to have your CV/resume translated into French but an accompanying hand-written letter (or alternatively, an on-spec application) detailing why you are suitable for a particular job must be written in French (and checked by an educated French person). Letters of application are always very formally written in France, and so it may be a good idea to get a general one (which you can adapt) done professionally unless you are fluent in business French. It is also customary to send a photo with your application, and, "while this may go against the grain," says Sheila Burgess, "a smiling face can help your application to no end". So if it is requested, do it! Having once applied, it is also a good idea to follow up your application and check what stage things are at, as, unfortunately, not all companies will acknowledge receipt. Make sure that you are available for interviews at short notice. It is worth noting that in France, job applications are meant to be insistent. Be prepared to ring several times to get a reply, even though this would be considered rude in the UK or the USA.
You can also register with a recruitment consultancy. There are many consultancies handling bilingual positions at an administrative or executive level (for a detailed list see The Yellow Pages at and although it is possible to register by e-mail, it is likely that the consultancy will want to have an initial interview with you to discuss your work experience and aspirations and to test your level of French. Sheila Burgess International, established since 1989 in Paris in the field of bilingual secretarial/PA recruitment often needs to counsel both job-seekers and international companies alike of what to expect of each other because "job-hunting in a foreign country will definitely be a harder experience than on your home-ground; you need to be fully prepared but also appreciate the different work cultures and ethics". Make sure, also, that you are selective in the consultancy you choose by matching one to your particular strengths/skills/interests. Be aware that successful applicants to recruitment consultancies such as Sheila Burgess International and Dorothy Danahy SAS Recruitment Specialists will usually be university graduates with an advanced - fluent level of French and good office skills. An ability to touch-type is very useful.
One final word of advice: potential employers will want to know that you are serious in your approach to looking for a job and will examine your motivations for that in the interview. You may be asked some -what you may think- invasive questions. French employment legislation is especially protective of employees and is known to give employers a hard time if and when they decide to part with a permanent employee. This is certainly one reason why the interview process may seem heavier than elsewhere.

The quest for a job in France can be a very hard one. Establish the reasons why you want to be in France (you may have no choice if your partner's job is the reason for your move) and what kind of job you want. This thinking will probably determine how willing and patient you are prepared to be in your quest. You will need to be determined, disciplined, creative and innovative, and be able to remain optimistic no matter what obstacles (or unpleasantness) you encounter.

However, if you do find yourself professionally restricted by the language barrier or bureaucracy, there are still lots of things you can do to enhance your career whilst living in France even if you do not have a job. You may choose to do voluntary work, do an MBA or gain other educational qualifications. Or you can even take a course that will enable you to change your career when you return to your home country, e.g. Le Grand Diplôme at the Cordon Bleu cookery school, or a Masters in wine science. Consider your skills - can you free-lance using your home computer in any way? Can you write articles about your French lifestyle for your local newspaper in your home-town? Do any of your home-town local enterprises require a French representative? Alternatively, target an organisation that you would like to work for and offer your skills without payment for a fixed period of time - it's good experience and you can ask for a letter of recommendation at the end of the period (you never know, it may turn into paid employment). Keep a portable portfolio of all your qualifications, a recent CV/resume, your volunteer activities and any letters of recommendation you receive so that you don't forget what you have achieved in your time abroad.

Above all, no matter what you do, keep networking. Don't underestimate the importance of having connections in France - you never know from where a job opportunity will arise…
Bonne chance!

For the latest job offers take a look at The Classified ads and paste one up for yourself. It's simple and it's free.


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