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Start with startups: How to find a graduate job in France
Paris is home to plenty of job fairs, all worth checking out if you're a graduate. Photo: AFP

Start with startups: How to find a graduate job in France

Published on: 08 Oct 2015 10:10 CET

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Everyone knows the graduate careers market is already saturated, but what happens when you’re a graduate with French language skills who is looking to enter the French job market?

As someone in exactly that position, trying to see the wood through the (French) trees, here are some top tips on looking for graduate jobs in France as a jeune diplômé

Look to start-ups

Paris is becoming a major haven for start-up companies which can provide you with a whole new source of job opportunities. If it works out, you'll grow as the company grows too. 

Blablacar is the most notable recent French start-up success story, but there is a serious growth in this area and fresh ideas and language skills will always be attractive to such companies.

Thomas Thorburn, a graduate who studied literature at the University of Warwick, now works at ‘Weblib’ – a Paris-based start-up which provides tablets and Wi-Fi for shops and restaurants.

“The best thing about working for a start-up in Paris is that it seems there are hundreds of them, for pretty much every field imaginable,” Thorburn told The Local.

“I got my job through LinkedIn, which is good for sales and technology jobs. Start-ups all seem to want people with native English, and a bit of experience can go along way."

Marie Cosnard from French start-up Happn, the dating app that is taking on Tinder, told The Local the industry is an opportunity for young foreign workers to find a job in Paris.

“Like other start-ups, something we really value is language, because we are looking to expand internationally and that’s the case with a lot of new companies,” she said.

“English is extremely important, but we hire many people from different countries, some of whom can barely speak French,” she added.

Although she warned potential recruits they would need plenty of drive and endurance to cope with ever-changing rhythms and long hours of working with a country trying to establish itself.

Check out the Paris Start-up Job Fair for a list of graduate-seeking start-ups.

Cast the net wide

Job portals such as http://www.indeed.fr/Paris-(75)-Emplois and http://www.letudiant.fr/jobsstages.html, (not to mention www.thelocal.fr/jobs) are also excellent tools to start your job search.

Target.com is quite right to say one of your best bets of finding work is with multinational or major national employers so look for the French equivalent of a company you would like to work for in your home country.

For example, if you are looking to work in real estate, Leggett Immobilier is the largest estate agents for English clients in France, so seek them out.

Well-known multi-national companies such as the L’Oreal Group, Orange or Societé Général which have branches worldwide are always on the lookout for fresh graduate talent and often provide handsomely-paid graduate schemes where you could earn up to €2,000 a month.

BUT, be specific and thorough in your search

Track down the contact details of the person who is really in charge and contact them. It is common in France to actually pick up the phone to speak to someone in charge, or even show up in person, CV in hand, to talk to people directly and get a straight answer.

Do your homework about job terms in French too, for example get to grips with the rules around a CDD (temporary) contract and a CDI (permanent).

Don’t get disheartened by the red tape

Rules about stagiaires (interns) and the convention de stage, sometimes state that you must be enrolled at a university to get an internship at a company, which can be an impossible hurdle to overcome.

There are however ways to get around officialdom, and schemes such as Erasmus+ and AIESEC can help you get break in to many industries, so don’t be afraid to try different avenues.

SEE ALSO: The good and the bad of internships in France

Keep your eyes peeled

It is very important in France to always have your ear to the ground when out and about.

Not all information or jobs can be found on websites or on Facebook posts, as seems the case these days.

Some employers in France still prefer the more traditional shop window display or even just word of mouth.

There are often posters for jobs fairs and events plastered around the Metro, and the American University of Paris and British Council office have notice boards with plenty of job offers.

Use English language channels

There are two ways your native language skills can come in handy in your job search: by being an asset to most jobs you’ll apply for and by providing you with a ready-made network of expats through which you can find tip offs and make friends which may eventually lead to a job.

Also, look at British organisations in France (such as the British Council or the British Embassy), companies with an international presence (such as Airbnb or booking.com) and of course there are certain industries where English will always be beneficial, for example tourism, fashion, estate agency, logistics and of course, teaching English as a foreign language. 

Remember to play up your language skills on your CV to show that it’s one of your best assets.

Finally, be official and get organised 

As you will probably know if you’ve ever done a Business French module at university, the French love formality, especially in professional settings.

So make sure your CV and cover letters are a gleaming example of French grammar perfection, and refer to your old textbooks to check how to structure a formal letter.

Even on the phone, treat people as though you’re talking to the president’s grandmother and remember that interviews tend to be extremely formal affairs, too, so keep the small talk to a minimum and be sure to use ‘vous’ instead of ‘tu’.

Keep a folder of all your paperwork handy (including a photocopy of your passports, bills, health insurance, and of course your CV) and try to translate every section of your CV so your experience is as clear as possible to the employer.

Make sure it’s clear what sector you have worked in if a direct translation isn’t possible, and never lie about your past experience, as they WILL check.

Happy job hunting!

Websites to look at: