Alessandra’s interview: "Working is a form of freedom."
Dernière mise à jour : 18 août 2021
Alessandra is Italian. She has lived the last 10 years in Denmark and has moved to France during covid19 pandemic. Finding a job can be a nightmare as a local during this time but as an expat partner it is twice harder. She found a job recently at Total Corbion.
Can you introduce yourself, please?
I am Alessandra. I arrived last summer in France to follow my husband that was expatriated. I had always worked in the energy sector. My last job was as an engineering manager in a company in Denmark.
That’s actually the 3rd time I came to France. I am living here with my family, I have 3 children that are aged 15, 11 and 8 and they come all the time with us during our expatriation.
I had no children during my first expatriation and the last arrived in Denmark. It is quite challenging to move when you have a big family.
But it is part of the journey!
Did you do well even during this strange period?
I think we were privileged because school was opened even during covid19, and my kids continued their academic growth in class. Outside school has always been difficult but school helped a lot to maintain social relations.
We left Denmark last year in July and after a month of holidays, we moved to France at the beginning of the School year.
When did you start to look for a new job?
I was already looking at the market when I was in Denmark to have a feeling on how it was here with the Covid, how it will affect my job search. And I knew it would not be easy for me.
When I arrived, I focused more on my children wellbeing than my career.
In January, I started to look for a job but I was also learning through a coach and restructuring my resume that was quite outdated. I really started to apply in February. It took around 5 months for me to get a job.
Expat partner : The Talents of Tomorrow
What did you change in your resume?
It was obsolete. I have worked for over 20 years, and work was always coming to me. But this time, it was the opposite. I needed to reposition myself to the market with this crisis.
My resume was too long, around 2 or 3 pages. My coach told me that I should summarize my experience in one page because recruiters in France are reading only the first page of a resume. It was a challenging because I had to rethink what was important while highlighting my strengths, knowledge and experience to make my CV attractive.
Did you put a picture in it?
I did, since I was told that in France it is almost a requirement.
How did you manage to get it?
A head hunter from the UK contacted me for the job.
I did try to network in general too because my coach has told me that it was useful to do so here in France and consequentely I started to use LinkedIn a lot.
For this job, did you do something special?
They called me soon. I had a very good feeling about the company. We had a very honest exchange.
But it was not easy, because I had challenging interviews.
With other job offers, there were too many things blocking or my salary expectations were too high. With my current job, the pieces came together and my experience was regonized.
Could you give tips to expats looking for a job?
Learn the language at least a little bit!
Language is a showstopper if you do not speak it. In this case it was easy for me because I knew French and could handle an interview.
All companies will speak their native language so you have to learn it to not be sidelined.
Don't sell yourself short! I think putting limits to our expectation is bad because it will make you feel frustrated.
Look around and take opportunities! Main words are try and wait.
Did you get some help to find a job within Absolutely French?
Not to get it but in the process to get it. Our community is very diverse. They gave me some tools to change my vision. When you live in a new country, you need to change your way of thinking.
What are expat partners for you? Do they develop special skills?
Yes, you are forced to adapt. The way you dress, you eat, you move around and relate to others. You have to adapt to the country you are living in. There are two categories of expat partners:
The one that don’t want to get a job and the one that want to work.
Sometimes they do not really have the choice. Often, women choose to follow the man and take care of the family.
You are an expat partner; do you think it impact your work in some way?
It impacts your integration and it could be a showstopper, since companies know you will leave eventually. It happened to stop me.
As a woman it is even harder. You have to double your efforts to get credibility. This is the reality unfortunately.
My aptitudes might be different. I need to use more diplomacy than locals. Language is one the barriers. Expressing yourself in different languages is very useful.
Do you have something to add for our readers?
Always reach your target because you will feel accomplished. Lot of companies are waiting and not hiring anymore. It might not be your fault if you do not get a job.
I will add a recommendation: get help from a coach. He will not find you a job. But if you take his advice wisely, it will be easier to find one. And if you do not want it, at least give it a try.
Can you tell us what are you 3 magical places in Paris?
Le Musée de l'Orangerie, la Sainte-Chapelle and le Jardin du Luxembourg.
What is your favorite quote?
I do not know who said this, but I find it very close to the way I am:
“Problems scream but opportunities whisper, be ready to listen!”
What is your favorite word in French?
It is not only a word, it also a way of living: liberté. And working for me is a form of freedom and independence.
Do you have 3 words to describe Paris?
Romantic, elegant and beautiful.
You are expat partner? You found a job in your new country?
We will be very happy to have your testimony: contact us!
Alessandra taught us how difficult it can be for an
expat partner to find a new job in a new country.
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Thursday 16th September 2021, in Station F, Paris.
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Article written by Théophile GRUET