I frequently get emails from my readers asking how they can find a job in Europe as an American. Citizens of countries outside of the European Union have no legal right to live or work in Europe without a valid work/residence permit. If you want to find a job in Europe, you need the proper visa and the requirements vary from country to country. (Here’s a great post on how to get a visa for Germany from Travels of Adam) The unstable economy, potential language barriers and layers of red tape make finding a job abroad difficult but not impossible. Since I currently work in Germany and previously lived in London, it’s natural that people ask me how I did it. In this post I share and expand on my reply to a reader who has her eyes set on the UK. She wanted to know if I had any tips on how to find a job in Europe and approach potential employers. So here ya go!
My tips on how to find a job in Europe:
I ended up in London on an internal job transfer. I worked for an American company and they temporarily placed me in London. The job started with frequent business trips to London, eventually I was spending more time in London than in DC. After six months of living out of hotels I was granted a full scale move of my household belongings to England. When my three year contract was up, there was the option to return back to the east coast. By this time I was in love with a Dane, my life in London and the traveling possibilities living that close to mainland Europe awarded me. At least once a month I searched the internet for cheap all inclusive holidays that took me to places like Morocco, Spain, Australia and beyond. I was hooked on Europe and determined to spend the rest of my life here. I planned to stay within London and the UK but local salaries were a joke ( I could never survive) and the job market was tight. I decided to broaden my search to other major European cities and luckily found something in Berlin, Germany.
- My first tip is to look for companies that have an international presence that will give you the opportunity to travel. It’s not the same as moving abroad but if jobs open up overseas you might be the natural choice, this happened in my case. International travel and exposure is also a good sign to international employers, so if a job didn’t lead to a full transfer, international work experience is a good thing to have on your resume.
I’ve mentioned before that I found my current job in Germany via google searches. I researched companies in my field within Europe. When ever I discovered a place of interest I contacted the companies and frequently checked their website for openings. When I found my job in Germany I had the advantage of already living in the EU. Companies see a move within the EU as not a big deal. Moving someone from London is much cheaper than moving them from Washington DC.
- Second tip: Use google. If you are a project manager who wants to look up jobs in Paris. Look up ‘Project Manager Paris’ or ‘English speaking careers in Paris’. Make sure to review all job requirements. Word to the wise, if the job description can not be found in English, they most likely are not looking to hire a foreigner. If a company website has the ability to switch into multiple languages it might be an indicator they are interested in an international workforce.
For a company to hire a non-EU citizen they have to prove to the government that the task is specialized and that no one in their country and within the entire EU can fulfill the job. This process is often called sponsorship and it can take a few weeks. When I got my job in Germany, before I was granted a residence permit, the job office posted my position on their website so other Germans could apply for it. No suitable candidates applied so then I was able to get…or better yet, keep my job.
- Third tip: The more specialized your field the better. Previously being a native English speaker was enough to knock out other EU applicants but today more and more Europeans are speaking perfect business English. Knowing English does NOT hold the same weight especially if you compare this to educated Europeans who typically speak at least three different languages. To help your chances, speak more than one language or work in a niche field where employers need a very specific skill set. (of course, English language institutes still prefer native English speakers but I am talking about jobs outside of teaching English.)
- Fourth tip: Set you net wider than the UK and the rest of Europe. Everyone is trying to move to the UK. You are competing with millions of people who have a better chance of getting a job because they have the legal right to live there or there may be country agreements that give them preference over Americans. Look at different countries that still value native English speakers highly. South Korea for example has a huge American expat community. Think of any international opportunity as a building block to get to you to your end goal.
If you are determined to land in Europe, there are countries that allow you to come in as a tourist and convert your tourist visa to a freelance visa while in country (Germany for instance). If you can prove to the government that you can make a living or have a portfolio of freelance work they can give you a residence permit based on that. It’s a paperwork intensive process; bank statments, portfolios, client recommendations but it’s worth it. The freelance visa usually grants you one to two years.
If traditional employment is the avenue you wish to pursue you have give a compelling arguement as to why you, a non-EU citizen, is the best choice for the position. I won’t go into self promotion skills but you should know how to communicate to recruiters in Europe. Research the Curriculum Vitae (CV ) format and convert your resume to this widely accepted European format. Resumes are much different in the EU than they are in the US, especially when it comes to personal data. I was shocked to see people list their marital status, number of children and even a picture on their resume.
- Fifth and final tip: For jobs, try sites like Experteer which list positions for high paying jobs where the employer is more than willing to hire from outside their immediate area. The higher up the position and more specific the field the harder it is to find candidates so they know their search might have to go international. Try international networking sites like LinkedIn and Xing. I know a few people who have leveraged their skillset and networking skills to secure positions outside of their home country.
Are you interested in working in Europe? What are some observations or challenges you have experienced?
If you enjoy posts like these be sure to subscribe to my newletter. It will lauch this summer and be filled with tons of exclusive content about job searching, how to network, and fine tuning your resume for European recruiters!! There will also be travel related features!