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Networking is key to finding a job

Finding employment in France depends more on your energy, drive and contacts, not necessarily your level of French.

By Samantha David

THE COMMON denominator among British expats who find work in France is not, surprisingly, their level of French but rather the energy with which they tackle jobhunting, followed by their willingness to accept any job that crops up.

The ANPE (the former name for France’s job centre) estimates 20% of jobs are found by chance applications while a further 50% come through friends and family.

Sending a CV ‘cold’ is called a candidature spontanée and is vital when job hunting in France. To make it work, write a general CV outlining your skills and showing how you have already used them. Start your CV with the heading Compétences and list your key skills.

Then list your work experience (ie. employment record). If you have never worked in France before, consider adding some explanations along the lines of “a small engineering firm employing 30 people and supplying machine parts to Italy” and descriptions of your activities.

Naturally your CV will have to be in French, so make sure you have a French spellchecker installed on your computer, and once you have made your best stab at translating it take it to your nearest Pôle Emploi. (It does not matter whether you are registered there or not.)

This is the new amalgamation of the old French job centre ANPE (Agence Nationale pour l'emploi) and the employment benefits office ASSEDIC (Association pour l'emploi dans l'industrie et le commerce). They have specialist staff who can help you correct your CV.

It is also important to ask everyone you know to check it too. This includes your French friends but also show it to the secretary at the local mairie, your child's teacher, the local priest, your neighbours, your keep-fit teacher, the manager of the local shop, and so on. This has a doublepurpose; it is a fantastic way of networking.

It ensures that everyone knows that you are job-hunting and, in France, will often result in word-ofmouth job vacancies being passed your way. You need to go through the same process with your lettre de motivation which is the covering letter you send out with your CV.

In the past this had to be hand-written but with the rise of e-mail and applications via the Pôle Emploi, firms are increasingly dropping this requirement.

The covering letter should consist of one sentence explaining why you are looking for a job (for example,“having moved to Lille a month ago” or “my children now having started school”) followed by a list of personal qualities (such as “I am meticulous, intelligent, wellmotivated and responsible”).

Add what you are looking for (eg. “I am prepared to consider full or part time/temporary or permanent/all offers”) and end with the usual French effusion along the lines of: “Veuillez agréer, Madame, Monsieur, l'expression de mes sentiments distingués”.

Note that if you are 50 or over, it is wise to fudge the issue of your age. Naturally, you should never lie on a CV but you can omit your birth date, omit all dates earlier than 1990 and add an ID photo of yourself looking energetic, perky and young for your age.

Having put these two documents together, you should go through the Yellow Pages ( and send them out to everyone in the area. You can often do this by email but do not hesitate to use the post. It really does not matter how many you send - at this point there is no such thing as too many.

You should also go through the Pôle Emploi website every day Click on Tous vos services Recherche d'emploi and then on offres d'emploi which will take you into the national database of job vacancies.

A Recherche avancée will allow you to search for specific vacancies in specific areas and you will find that you can apply for many of them online via email or via the Pôle Emploi website. If you are not confident on a computer, you can go to the Pôle Emploi office and someone will show you the first time.

You can also upload your CV onto the site, and again, if you need a hand, ask at the Pôle Emploi. (Take your CV and lettre de motivation along on a CD.) The trick is to log onto this search every morning and apply for absolutely everything that you could even conceivably do.

Do not be put off if you do not have all the qualifications, or experience required.Apply for everything and you will soon find yourself being asked for interviews and, once you get that far, the same rules apply in France as anywhere else in the world. Turn up on time, clean and neatly dressed with your CV, covering letter, photocopies of your ID, plus any diplomas, qualifications, exams, references etc in a file. During the interview, smile, do not gabble, ask intelligent questions and be positive.

Remember that part time or temporary contracts can often lead to permanent full-time employment. Finally, do not forget that, whatever your level of French when you start job-hunting, the process itself will improve your language skills and, once you land your first job in France, you will soon see your French improve no end.

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