Expat tales

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Expat tales

  1. 1. First the international degree,now the jobWilliam C. Holmberg, a former exchange student atthe HEC School of Management in Paris, explains hispersonal strategy for turning his international degreeinto an actual salary in France.Expat Tales are real-life stories on making the move to France and learning to thrivehere. We hope these stories will provide tips and help make connections among ourreaders.In an age when governments, non-profits and businesses need to hire future leaderswith truly global experience, education and perspectives, why is it still so very hardfor foreign students to get jobs directly after earning an advanced degree outsidetheir home country?Stories of ambitious and accomplished students trying –- and failing -- for six totwelve months trying to get hired in foreign markets are common.Success requires an understanding of the primary obstacles plus a personalizedstrategy to get hired locally after graduation.After finishing my coursework at the HEC School of Management, I did become oneof the lucky few and here is the strategy I followed to make it happen.The three big obstaclesBased on the observations of my fellow students, as well as my own, I believe thereare three main barriers to getting hired locally after finishing part or all of anadvanced degree abroad.While having a work visa and language proficiency may seem obvious, they arent asstraightforward as they seem: the way you speak, dress, eat and shake hands can allWilliam C. Holmberg
  2. 2. kill your chances.OBSTACLE #1While the requirements for a work visa vary by country, in most cases it takes a lotof time, money and patience anywhere in the world to get one.Being married to a local national solves, or accelerates, the process. Regardless ofpolitical clout or truly outstanding credentials, if a Paris bank knows their annual visaquota is almost used up, they will simply choose a local candidate. If you need awork visa to stay in the country of your degree program, consider includingimmigration law as part of your studies and start the process early.OBSTACLE #2Congratulations on your new work visa! Dont forget to take note of all thelimitations. If you did not become fluent in the local language while completingcomplex forms and interviews with state officials, youll need to skip moresightseeing trips to work on grammar, pronunciation and your accent for jobinterviewing.OBSTACLE #3Well done on your practice interviews! Youre ready for the real thing, or at leastsending out cover letters en masse in the local language. Dont forget to get a nativeFrench speaker to proof-read everything and dont forget that many Frenchcompanies still expect cover letters, la lettre de motivation, to be written long-hand.Now you must learn the local protocols of communication, behavior, les faux-pas,dress codes and everything else to conform locally.William Bill Holmberg isa recent graduate of theFletcher School of Lawand Diplomacy at TuftsUniversity andparticipated in theexchange program of theHEC School ofManagement in France.He now lives, and works,in Paris.
  3. 3. Scared yet? Unless one is bi-cultural (not the samething as bilingual), this process will be ten timesharder than in your native country.To help myself on this front, I engaged a professional career coach who is an experton Anglophone/Francophone communications and career development to help meadjust the way I presented myself and answered questions in interviews.It was certainly hard to conform to a new ‘protocol’.Among the lessons I learned was that when interviewing in France, one needs to befairly cold and straight-forward.For example, I had to unlearn the American habits of smiling, speaking positively onexperiences and goals as well as elaborating on stories and giving more informationthat what is asked for; all of these can be negatives in front of a traditional Frenchinterviewer.Your vocabulary also needs to be carefully groomed in advance.Certain words like ‘ambitious‘, in French ambitieux, should be substituted by‘motivé’; the former would be perceived as having a manipulative edge, as if youwere out for the boss job.Moderate your expectationsMany MBA candidates, for example, look at the placement statistics of schools abroadand may be attracted by my schools program, for example, when they see that 58percent of non-European students found employment in Europe.But remember that these international degrees are defined by the diversity of theA lecture room at HEC -- fellowstudents now, competitors later
  4. 4. student body diversity. The implication that such a degree will help you secure a localjob easily is misleading.Half of MBA candidates pursue the degree so they can switch sector or function, butthis kind of mobility is a tough sell in France. Often the big recruiters in theconsulting and finance sectors do understand this-- others have to be convinced inthe cover letter.Strategies to successHere are some specific tactics to consider:• 50 percent of internships lead to a full-time offer, even abroad. Your bestchances are with a company from your home country operating in yourdream city.• Remember that your personal network and not Monster.com is most likely tolead to a job offer. So, exploit all friends, family, gym partners, etcetera toget introductions to decision makers in your dream organization.• If you are in France but really want to work in Italy, do an exchange programthere to network, interview and of course enjoy la dolce vita.• Only about 10 percent of fresh MBAs find jobs through headhunters so dontcount on them.• Do not simply translate your existing CV into the other language butcustomize it to match the expected formatting preferences and informationrequirements. For example, French CVs often include age, marital status, anda photo, none of which would appear on an American resume.And if you do get an offer...• Just like any other market, if a manager knows the labor market will offer aforeigner far fewer options than a local, he might offer a lower-than-marketsalary to a candidate with few viable alternatives. Be prepared to take thefirst offer you get and at a lower salary than you might want.Guide to workpermits in FranceHelp Wanted: To finda job in France
  5. 5. •• Remember that integration takes time. No matter where you end up, beready to be treated like a foreigner for a long time.Feel free to email Bill with your experience at: wholmberg@yahoo.comNovember 2005Copyright ExpaticaWould you like to tell anExpat Tale?Contact us at:feedback@expatica.com
  6. 6. •• Remember that integration takes time. No matter where you end up, beready to be treated like a foreigner for a long time.Feel free to email Bill with your experience at: wholmberg@yahoo.comNovember 2005Copyright ExpaticaWould you like to tell anExpat Tale?Contact us at:feedback@expatica.com

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