When I moved to France in September 2020, I planned to stay for my 7-month teaching assistant contract. By then, my gap year would have inspired me in my next steps, and I would return to the United States to start my “real” adult life. Well, that’s not exactly how it played out. During my first TAPIF teaching contract, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving and reapplied for a second year. I worked as an au pair during the summer between the two school years. Now as my second (and final year) of teaching is winding down, I’m still not ready to go back to the States. After lots of interviews and networking, I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a job that’s sponsoring my visa once I finish my teaching contract— and the new job isn’t teaching English. I wanted to share my experience about how I got a job in France that’s not teaching English as well as some job hunting tips for English speakers in France.
But first things first
Before we dive head first into my job hunting process and my tips, I want to underscore that I am not an expert. I am simply sharing my personal experience about how I was able to find a job that sponsored my visa as an American. And that being said, paperwork and logistics are still in the process. I’m not able to provide legal advice, but my heart in sharing this post is to inspire and to share what happened to work for me.
Is it hard to get a job in France?
It’s hard but not impossible.
“French companies don’t want to sponsor visas for Americans.” “You’ll have to be an English teacher.” “You need a master’s.” “You need to marry a French person.” “You need to make enough freelance income to prove that you make the SMIC (minimum wage).” The moment you tell people that you’re an American looking for a job in France, you’re met with the boilerplate response: “It’s not possible.” I’m in several Americans in France groups on Facebook, and this is a common topic met with immediate disappointment.
But it’s just not true. I will be honest and say that you have to work a heck of a lot harder to find a job in France as a non-European. It is not for the faint of heart. I cried a lot, prayed a lot and doubted myself a lot. And had many a counseling session. Because of many people’s natural pessimism, I kept quiet throughout the job search process. It’s extremely vulnerable to be in job-searching mode, and the last thing I need is some internet troll telling me I’m stupid for even trying.
But last week, I received my autorisation de travail, meaning I have the right to work.
It’s true that when hiring a non-European, French companies are required to do more paperwork and pay more fees. It is harder. But it is not impossible. If you’re committed to living in France, buckle up because you’re in for a ride. I stopped keeping track of how many rejection emails I got, but I did get a yes. And one yes is all it takes.
My job search wishes
I graduated from the University of Missouri with journalism and French degrees. Upon graduation, I took a little detour by doing two years of TAPIF, an English teaching assistant program, to be able to live in France. I had no desire to be an English teacher long term, and I still don’t. I’m grateful that the program allowed me to follow my dream of living abroad, but I’m surer than ever that I don’t want to teach.
My background is in magazine journalism. I love editing, writing, interviewing, creating and communicating. And I was set on staying in or near Marseille. My life, my friends, my chéri, my church and my livelihood are here. (There are way more job opportunities for anglophones in Paris, but I wasn’t willing to move that far right now.)
Although I’m fluent in French, I’m not a native speaker. Just because a person grew up in the United States doesn’t mean they’re a good writer; the same goes for any other language. Although I’ve honed my journalistic writing skills in English, being a journalist in France is another ballgame. (I’m sure it’s possible, but it’s not a path I decided to pursue.) So, I ruled out working for francophone media. Instead, I spent my job search looking for communications-related positions and really any position that needed a native English speaker near Marseille.
My job offer
After months of interviewing and applying, I finally accepted a job with a company that specializes in international student exchanges. They help French students go to the United States to study abroad or work as an au pair. I’ll be helping manage their au pair program, running their social media accounts and building their site in English.
We have a good family friend whose father-in-law started this company, and I met with the people at the company four times over the course of four months before I received an official offer. Even though my teaching contract didn’t finish until the end of April, I reached out to this company around November. Starting early can be frustrating because many companies are looking for people immediately, but it can’t hurt to introduce yourself, send your CV and share your interest.
Because I’m fluent in French and I’ve been living in Marseille for over a year, this process was simpler. My bilingualism was a big help in applying for jobs. And the fact that I was already in France while looking for a job meant that I could easily meet with the company.
Best tips for finding jobs for English speakers in France
If you’re a non-European English speaker looking to find a job that sponsors your visa in France, this section is for you. Again, I’m no legal expert, and unfortunately, there’s no one streamlined process. The French administration doesn’t make sense and doesn’t follow the same pattern. But I want to share some of the strategies that have worked for me and my fellows expats.
Translate your CV into French
One of the first things you should do is translate your resume into French. I had my French boyfriend help me translate mine line by line. And we also added a headshot, which tends to be very important on French resumes. When I sent out my resume, I always sent it in both English and French. I printed out a big stack, and before any networking meeting, I’d pack a copy to hand out.
If you know a francophone who could help you translate your CV, that’s a great starting point. If you don’t have that luxury, here’s an article on best tips and recommendations for translation services. Or take a look at freelance translators on Upwork. Translating your CV is not a step to skip.
Scour online job listings and create alerts
Praise the Lord for the internet. There are so many job opportunities to be found online. Head to the job boards on LinkedIn, Indeed, PACA Job, Welcome to the Jungle, etc. I created alerts for several different categories: communications, marketing, bilingual and English speaker terms. This is how my American friend Bianca found a job in the travel industry to sponsor her visa: simply by applying to jobs she found on Indeed.
Okay, yes, the title of this post details my journey in finding a job that isn’t teaching English. But that being said, it’s one of the easiest ways to move abroad as a native anglophone. After two years of teaching with the TAPIF program, I am grateful for my experience because it allowed me to live abroad. During my two years, I was able to make connections, improve my French and establish myself. And it was a good trial period to see if I wanted to live in France longer term.
When I moved to France to teach, I always knew it would be temporary. I used these two years of teaching as a launch pad to my career as I saw value in growing my intercultural and language skills. If you’re a native English speaker, don’t immediately rule out teaching. At least it gets your foot in the door and helps you start your life abroad. I wrote an entire post on the specifics of how you can find a teaching job in France.
Get a master’s
Many blogs and expats will tell you that you have to have a master’s to be able to get a job in France. But my rebuttal is that it all depends on your experience and what field you want to be in. Neither I nor my friend Bianca have a master’s, and we both secured visa-sponsoring jobs as Americans in France. But that being said, getting a student visa is fairly simple, and earning your master’s in France can be affordable compared to American university prices. And the student visa in France allows you to work part-time.
Getting a master’s degree in France is another way to establish yourself, improve your language skills and make connections that may lead to jobs. And once you complete a master’s, you’re automatically eligible for the “recherche d’emploi/création d’entreprise” visa, which gives you one year to find a job or create your business.
Fellow American bloggers Jalen and Maria have a blog where they publish articles on how they’re pursuing their master’s in France and working while studying through alternance.
Network, network, network
My dad always said, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And there is much truth to be told in this saying. Putting a face to the name, and not simply bopping into someone’s inbox, makes a difference. My friend Bianca casually mentioned she met someone on Bumble BFF who works at one of the largest companies in Marseille. As I was job searching, I remembered and asked her if she could introduce us. Next thing you know, I’m grabbing lunch at Pitaya with Bianca’s friend. I handed my resume over to this friend of a friend, who then sent over my info to the HR department.
I’m currently working at an elementary school, which has next to nothing in common with my desired career trajectory. But I’ve created bonds with the teachers and proved myself to be a hard worker. I talked with some of the teachers about my goals and asked if I could network with their spouses. And after chatting with their spouses, I was recommended for several job positions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to any slight connection you may have.
Convert your diploma
Perhaps you’ve already earned your diploma in the United States or even another country and have no desire to continue your studies in France. But the problem is that education systems vary extensively. And French companies might not have a good grasp of your training. Enter ENIC-NARIC, a body that helps foreign diplomas to be recognized abroad. Here’s more information about how this program operates in France and how you can submit a request. In all honesty, I did not do this nor did I need to. But it could prove useful depending on your field.
Add personal touches
As in any job interview process in any country, going the extra mile can be what gets you the job. Here’s what I mean: I was raised to write thank you notes, especially after job interviews. After every interview, I sent a handwritten note to the person who met with me and thanked them for their time. I also sent copies of my magazine to several people at the company that hired me to show them my skillset. I’ve found that these extra touches go a long way, especially in France.
Don’t be shy
Job searching is vulnerable. It’s so tough to put yourself out there and to risk rejection, especially when you tell people of your dreams to work abroad. But if networking is often the key to success, it’s so important to reach out for help. Tell everyone and their mother that you’re looking for a job. Who knows? They might be looking for someone with your profile. Work with any and every connection you have.
I was extremely touched during my job search. Because as I started talking with teachers at school about it, they went above and beyond to help me. One teacher in particular connected me with her husband (who connected me with HR at his company) and offered to connect me with her American neighbor. Another teacher’s husband is an architect, which has truly nothing in common with my search. But he was willing to connect me with his colleagues. It’s hard to be helped if people don’t know you need it.
Take a French language test
Although being a native English speaker is a major plus, having some level of French will prove useful in your job search. An official French exam may not be required in your job application. But your potential employer will want to know your French level according to CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
Not sure what your French level is? It may be a good idea to take the DELF or DALF exam, which will correspond with these levels. Alliance Française is an international organization that offers French courses and administers these exams. And they have locations all over the world. I took a summer class with Alliance Française Dallas to keep my French sharp while I wasn’t in school. They’re internationally recognized and are a great option to improve your French level or take the DELF or DALF exam.
I didn’t need any formal documentation before I received my current job offer. But they were also able to gauge my French level throughout our multiple interviews.
Looking for easy ways to improve your French level? Here are some of my free resources.
- Basic French for travelers (with worksheets)
- 50 Most common French verbs (with flashcards, printables and Quizlet)
- French movies to help you learn French
What’s next in the process
I start my job this summer and have a two-month période d’essai (trial period) before my contrat de travail à durée indéterminée (work contract with no set end) can be validated. And although I received my autorisation de travail (work authorization), I just sent off my dossier (application) to renew my carte de séjour (my residence card). So lots of paperwork and still more hoops to navigate.
I am overwhelmed by how the Lord has provided for me over the past year and a half and blessed me every step of the way. Moving abroad during a pandemic in September 2020 was one of the scariest, hardest things I’ve done. But it’s been the most rewarding, enriching experience. I don’t know the future, but I do know that my life is in God’s hands. I pray that all goes well with paperwork and logistics.
It’s terrifyingly vulnerable to share about this as I’m still in the process. But I hope sharing my experience on how I got a job in France serves as an inspiration and hope for other English speakers looking to do the same.
You might also be interested in 6 Things Every Expat Needs.