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Working in Europe


Working in Europe


Thinking of working abroad but dont know where to start? Julia Pierce looks at the organisations that offer help to those seeking a career without borders


Deciding to live and work outside of your home country is an exciting yet daunting prospect. Using second language skills in a working environment, cultural differences in how to present your academic and work experience, and even local legislation can be challenging, so having someone to guide you through the process is extremely helpful.


Recruitment agencies and staffing companies

With this in mind, its little wonder that many graduates choose to make use of recruitment agencies. While some may specialise in a certain profession, such as IT, there are also a host of general recruiters. Recognising that their clients and jobs advertised may be based throughout the EU, most have extremely informative and easy to use websites that contain general information on applications processes and information about working in different member states.

"Often, getting a foot in the door with a prospective employer is the hardest part of landing a job, says Tamara Achba, regional marketing manager, EMEA for pan-European recruitment agency Kelly Services, which covers areas as diverse as manufacturing, marketing, accounting, information technology, engineering, healthcare, science and law. "However, working with a staffing company such as Kelly can help a job seeker connect with companies where job opportunities already exist.


Staffing companies a company that supplies staff members to another company provide a popular route into a career. "As staffing needs have changed over the years, the staffing industry has kept pace, Achba explains. "Companies now routinely supply employees in professional services in addition to the more traditional office clerical assignments. These companies can offer other advantages to jobseekers, as Achba points out: "Benefits include flexibility and enhanced skill levels through free training and valuable work experience, says Achba. "Training is key to professional development and many staffing companies offer free training to their employees, who are able to improve current skill sets or learn new, marketable skills to keep pace with the changing job market.


She notes that staffing companies offer both short- and long-term assignments that can be a good stepping stone to full-time employment. In addition, many people choose temporary work as an employment option because they can select their work schedule and choose among a variety of diverse and challenging assignments.

Advice and experience

Other agencies have been set up in response to personal experiences of the EU jobs market. Harmen Rijks graduated from university in Holland after studying as a textile engineer and worked in Belgium, Holland and Germany, before coming to London and setting up pan-European recruitment website The company went live in September 1995. As well as jobs, the site also features Rjiks blog, which offers tips on issues such as work permits.


The company is truly international - while its English-speaking IT department is based in Italy, the Dutch-speaking headquarters is based in the UK. "Programs such as ERASMUS have encouraged students to study abroad so they have a taste for this, says Rijks. "The average age that workers seek their first position outside their home country is much lower than it used to be.


Local knowledge

Rijks provides the following tips for those seeking work. "Differences in culture are important to consider, he says. "My first job after leaving Holland was in Belgium. I quickly found people did speak Dutch there but with a totally different accent and a lot of French mixed in. The way things were done was also different. It helps to read up on the local culture beforehand. There are also local regulations, such as the need in France to get a permit to live there from the local police. Despite open borders, local regulations are going strong.


Rijks says that the advantage of using an agency for work is that there will always be someone there who can not only speak the applicants language but can offer them advice on matters such as local expectations. "Everyone knows what a degree is, but for instance in Germany, you are expected to send copies of qualifications with your application or you wont get far. Also, while in the UK you may study a subject such as biology then find work in the financial industry, elsewhere in the EU it is expected you will look for a job in your area of experience.


Marketing yourself

There are a number of presentation tricks and tips that can attract interest to a candidate. After graduating from Rouen University with a degree in business, Carole Desmarais was looking for a position in the French tourism industry. However, while searching she came across a job in the UK offered through the website French Recruitment. The company, which has offices in Newcastle and London, was set up to help British businesses recruit French speaking staff, while helping French speakers to find a job.


French Recruitment helped Desmarais to record a video CV as part of her application. "As soon as my video CV was on the website, things started to happen faster, she says. "I had a telephone interview which has lead to a face to face interview in Manchester.


Salary vs living costs

Once an attractive position has been identified, it is worth doing your research to make sure the pay is sufficient for your needs - particularly if you have to factor in the cost of visits home. Salaries for the same job may vary between countries, and making an accurate comparison of what this will mean is important. Companies such as Mercer produce yearly statistics on the cost of living between cities, which may help.


According to a survey by the engineering publication EE Times, in northern Italy, a junior analog engineer could expect between €24,000 and €34,000 while in Germany, the VDI trade groups online engineering salary comparison engine (Gehaltstest von Ingenieurkarriere), says that between 2005 and 2006 the median entry-level salary for an electronics industry engineer was €38,400. However, what this will buy locally will differ. "You must take the cost of living into account, says Eurojobs Rijks. "Looking at what the money will buy in real terms is vital.


Lastly, Rijks advises that you research as much as possible about a place before taking the plunge. "It is even better if you can visit before and talk to people or get a feeling for the area before you commit, he says.


Web links
Cost of living:


Kelly Services:

Federation of European Employers:

About the author

Julia Pierce is a freelance writer based in Cornwall, England. She has written for publications including the New Scientist, The Engineer and the Daily Mail.



Did you know?

The most expensive European cities to live in, according to the top twenty of Mercers Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2009 are: Geneva, Zurich, Copenhagen, Milan, Paris, London, Rome and Helsinki.


According to survey conducted by Netherlands based researchers Intelligence Group, 72 per cent of jobseekers questioned in 2009 were willing to move abroad to get the right job, compared to 62 per cent in 2006. More significantly, 46 per cent of respondents now say they are willing to work abroad for an extended period, against 29 per cent in 2006.