Living abroad long term is the goal of numerous adventure seekers. If only it was as uncomplicated as choosing a destination and grabbing the tickets. But logistically, there are usually some teeny weeny details to figure out like lodging, visa requirements and unless you’ve got an unlimited supply of Benjamin Franklin’s from some wealthy great aunt you never knew, a source of income.
I was on the struggle bus for a couple of years when I was job hunting in France. Ask my parents, I’m sure they haven’t forgotten the overly dramatic calls about my lack of social life due to low funds. “Cocktails in Paris are 15 euros mom!” “Ummm… then order a beer instead?” They were mostly from the team, “if you’re managing to eat, work, pay rent, and have warm clothes for winter, you’re doing well. Carry on my spawn.” I didn’t always appreciate this rational way of seeing things, but if their goal was to make a scrappy, independent woman out of me, it worked. I became a job hustler.
So get ready to deep dive into the depths of my hustler brain while I pull out all my top tips for finding a job in France. If you’re more into videos than reading, check out the video below instead. If you’re more of an intellect, go for the article. Or if you support me as much as my mother, check out both, leave some comments and like everything before anyone else. You’ll have to move quick to beat her, but I believe you can do it.
If your goal is to move to France, don’t also make your short term goals to land your dream job, meet a Prince Charming and live in a 100 m2 apartment over-looking the seine. This can be a long term goal, but prioritise for the short term. Give yourself a year or two to find any job that pays, any apartment that’s not infested with rats and go on a couple of dates with any guy who has a moped. (Mopeds are so cliche in France that it’s necessary). Once you can successfully say, I live and work in France. You can start strategising about how to land that dream job.
UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE
Listen up francophiles. Learning French will always be a plus for your job search even when you’re looking in Paris where lots of English speaking jobs exist. It doesn’t have to be expensive to learn. Download an app and get serious, hit up those the meet up cafes where you spend half the time speaking English and the other half French and turn your Netflix language to French and start binge watching series. If you are able to put in 10 hours a day to learn a language, then basic fluency in easy languages should take 48 days. You don’t need a ton of money to start learning a language, you need a ton of motivation.
I’m not from the camp, “you need to speak French fluently to get a job.” Sure it helps, but it’s not necessary. When you start learning a language, you can read and understand way faster than you can speak and this will be huge positive for a recruiter even if you don’t interview in French. It means you’ll integrate quicker into the company, you’ll understand when your team switches to French because they can’t be bothered finishing the team meeting in English, and those random emails in French won’t fluster you even if you respond back in English. Start getting your ear used to the language asap.
BACK TO SCHOOL
College was great right? Do it again. A lot of French college’s split their masters into year 1 and year 2. You don’t necessarily need to complete year 1 to apply for year 2. If you have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, apply for a year 2 program. This is only 6 months of classes and then they give you a fancy contract that allows you to apply for all the 6 month paid internships in France. France really has a strong culture of gaining internship experience before getting a full time job. So don’t try to beat their system, just join ‘em. You’ll have a good chance of getting hired in the company after your internship.
I’m a huge fan of internships in any capacity. I spent 1.5 years working as intern in two different companies before getting hired for my first full time job in France. A lot of people I talk to are in their late 20’s/early 30’s and feel too old for internships especially knowing that the average age in France is 24. I understand the frustration of starting over and making ridiculous money when you’ve already started your career somewhere else. You feel like your transversal skills are being undervalued and you’re treated as if you’re fresh out of college again. My advice is to get over your ego. Once you start an internship in France, your team will realise what a senior rockstar you are and you’ll get hired full time afterwards. Living abroad isn’t always a comfortable ride in the park and in my opinion, this is one of the things you should compromise on.
It sounds really cool to say you work for Chanel. And your salary is probably higher working at Chanel than some unknown agency. Plus you’ve got more of chance in a big company to find English speaking roles. BUT there are tons of small companies with great benefits that you’ve never heard of. Don’t be snooty about them. There is a great startup scene in Paris and you get ridiculously amazing experience working in startups because you have to do everything yourself. Remember global health care and a minimum of 25 vacation days? You’re not giving up a thing starting in a smaller unknown company in France. By keeping your options open, you’re just giving yourself more opportunities to nail that goal of working in France.
If you can’t or don’t want to go back to school/complete a training and you’re desperate to move to France, find a French company with headquarters in the US. There is not one single state in the US that doesn’t have a French company within its borders. You’ve got to have long term motivation since you’ll probably need to spend 3-5 years in the US offices before getting transferred to France, but by that time, you’ll have improved your ear to French and you’ll bring the added benefit of already understanding the company. Plus expat contract anyone? It’s pretty cushy from what I’ve heard.
” It’s not what you know it’s who you know.” This phrase could totally apply to the US as well, but if you’re settled in France, you know how welcoming French people can be to newcomers. It takes time to make real French friends and you should keep this in mind for a job too. Every single job I’ve ever gotten in France, after my first internship, was thanks to a contact that I knew who recommended me to someone. Recommendations aren’t taken lightly in France, so if you get one, you’re close to at least guaranteeing a quick call with the HR.
It’s vital for your mental health to keep in mind that the French recruitment process is way slower to what we are used to in the states. Especially if you’re applying for any full time position and you didn’t previously intern with the company. On average the French take 7 months of job searching with around 4 to 5 interviews during the recruitment before you get the job offer. And then you have a trial period of up to 7 months where the company can let you go quite easily if it’s not the right fit. But on the positive side, once you’re past your trial period, it’s quasi-impossible to fire you in France without paying a pretty penny. Unless you do something like embezzle money or right hook your boss, in which case you’re on your own.
Ok guys, I’ve armed you with my best tips for getting a job in La France. Below I’ve put some of the links that could help you find a jobs. Job searching can be really personal and everyone has their own story, so if you have specific questions I didn’t cover, hit me up in the comments below. Keep your chin up. I don’t know anyone who was determined to work in France and it didn’t make it happen somehow. You just have to be more determined than all those Frenchies telling you “c’est pas possible.” It IS possible. I believe in you if you really want it and having one cheerleader is already enough support to make it happen. Go get ‘em tiger.