How I found a job abroad thanks to networking?

How to get a job abroad before moving? You are dreaming of moving to France. You have responded to numerous job ads, you have spent your evenings writing cover letters, maybe even in French, and you scan daily the douzaine of websites you are receiving job openings. But nothing! No response, not even a rejection! Is the French job market so difficult? You know there is a solution (or maybe not, but you soon will) but you think it can’t help you as a foreigner. It takes you out of the comfort zone of your computer screen job-hunt. Yes, I’m talking about finding a job via a business network. Did you know that about 50% of the positions were filled via a professional network in France? and another 20% via unsolicited applications? And if you use your network well, you will even know how to get a job abroad before moving!

Prepare yourself… but don’t wait to be ready

What is business networking?

Networking is building relationships. We do it every day without even thinking about it. But business networking comes with goals and organization.  

With your network, you can find your next job, find a new client, exchange tips and contacts or maybe even make a new friend!

Most of us think that we do not have a professional network, even less in a new city or a new country. First, we may have an indirect network we are not even aware of. This was my case in London and this is how I found my two jobs in London with indirect contacts I didn’t even know I had. I’ll tell you more below.
Also, there are many actions that are taken to create and expand our professional network. Some people even have proper action plans to find a job via a business network. I believe preparation is important, but small actions can be taken step by step. Too much preparation and perfectionism are the enemy of acting! Why? Because we use it as an excuse to procrastinate!

Why is networking in France so important?

Everywhere, the job market is like an iceberg. Only 30% is visible with job ads and the large remaining 70% is hidden, maybe even more as some even say 80% or 85% of positions aren’t advertised! These jobs do exist and they are filled via unsolicited applications and business networking. We call it the hidden job market (“le marché caché” in French).

Employers do not necessarily have the time or the budget to publish a job ad to source the ideal candidate among hundreds of applicants. Many choose to go through the unsolicited applications they’ve received in the past weeks and remember the few people they have met with great profiles.

Also, compared to many other countries in the world, the French labour law protects much more employees. It is hard and expensive to end a work contract in France. Therefore many companies feel reassured when recruiting via their business networks as they will have more direct recommendations and trust.

I found most of my job positions via networking even outside France and as a foreigner. Networking is my first answer to the “How to get a job abroad before moving” question, I get asked so often.

I’ll share with you my tips and the process I have used to find jobs from a French point of view. You may find some information surprising and it may be different from what you are used to in your home country. Others may be evident but it is all about trusting we can do it, action and getting out of our comfort zone!

Few of us like to network. It may come more naturally for extroverts, but for most people, like me, it takes effort and practice before eventually feeling more comfortable. 

Get your usual job hunter tool kit ready

Networking is an extra step to a usual job search with market research, a curriculum and cover letters. Of course, you need to know what you are looking for to actually plan your job search accordingly, but this is a whole other topic.

CVs in France are much more synthetic. If you are looking for a Junior position or have less than 10 years of experience you need to make a one-page CV. Yes, that’s right! If you have a senior profile a 2 page-CV is fine but no more unless you apply to academic or researcher positions.

No need to write actual sentences. Concise bullet points with your responsibilities and achievements are usually expected. Don’t forget to work on your keywords for the position you are applying to as recruiters spend a maximum of 15 seconds per CV (and I’m generous).

I usually only write cover letters when responding to a specific job ad or sending unsolicited applications and I adapt the cover letter to every position and company. The recruiter will see it if you send a standardised cover letter. The cover letter is usually what the recruiter looks at in the last stage when deciding between the last candidates.

moving abroad


How to get a job abroad before moving: Keep an active watch

Networking is keeping an active watch and making contacts.

You have done your market research, you know your target companies, and you have tried to broaden your research to more than just your dream employers. You have also sourced other types of potential employers, maybe smaller companies, or other related sectors even if the remuneration may be lower. Expanding the geographical scope also is sometimes necessary.

Now, keeping yourself up to date with your target companies’ news is essential to be pertinent and also aware of opportunities coming up to send unsolicited applications because you know a company is expanding for example or to be spot on in your cover letter. 

Being informed of the latest news in your industry will help you plan in advance your networking event calendar.

Network in France
Photo by Melinda Gimpel

How to start: Network your own way

How did I find 2 jobs via networking in London?

I said before that I found your jobs in London via networking when I barely knew anyone there when I first arrived as a 24-year-old young graduate.

When I graduated with my Master’s degree in International Relations back in 2008, it took me a while to find my first job. The economic crisis had just hit and the job I should have been offered in Luxembourg where I was doing my final internship, had just vanished. At the time, I was looking for a job in Corporate Social Responsibility. Not an easy task when unemployment rates are rising and when your diploma doesn’t match exactly the position you are looking for.

That’s right! This is an important factor in France, still today, unfortunately… It is slowly changing and transferable competencies and potential are a bit more valued but you may still be asked about your diploma at a job interview after years of valuable experience. After 6 months of sending hundreds of applications, I was desperate! Nothing was happening…

So I decided to get some help from an association called Nos Quartiers ont des Talents, which assists young graduates living in Educational Priority Areas to look for a job. This is the association that helped me, but I’m sure you can find one where you are. Everyone needs help at some point and the sooner we find it, the easier it is. This association helped me change my way to look for a job and understand how to network. Every graduate had a mentor, in a related area. My mentor opened her professional network to me and helped me to prepare for networking interviews

I was really scared, but it ended up paying off because after meeting several people, validating my profile, practising my pitch, and sending some CVs to specific contacts. I found my first job in London!

Expat life in London
Guiga in London

I couldn’t believe it, the initial lead was a possible job opening in a relocation company in Paris, but the job finally didn’t get created. It was for a British company, and they called me for a second interview at the head office in London. Two weeks later I was moving to London with my 2 suitcases to start as a Relocation Coordinator! I was going to discover what is today both my career and my passion: help people to move abroad!

Reach out to everyone you know

After one year of working for the British relocation company, I wanted to evolve and didn’t see any opportunities internally coming up any time soon. I started to know a little bit better about the London relocation industry in London, but I had no contacts. Or at least this is what I thought.

I remembered all the tips given by my mentor from Lyon “You have a network, even when you think you don’t”. So I sent an email to my entire email contact list. I gave them an update on what I was up to and explained to them that I was looking for another job. I told them the sector, the position and the type of contacts that could help me.

One of my father’s cousins gave me a contact in the HR department of a large multinational in London, who passed on my CV to their Global Mobility provider. I went through all their recruitment process and got a Global Mobility consultant job! A few months before I wouldn’t have dared to send that email, thinking that no one could help me or that I would bother them! Well, I realised that if people can, they’re actually happy to help and we won’t know if they can help unless we ask.

How to get a job abroad before moving: Networking on social media

How I almost found a job in Brazil via Linkedin

Social media is now unavoidable to do professional networking. It is not the only way left during a lockdown because we can still email or make phone calls and video calls but one of the best ways to create the opportunity to meet other professionals.

Unless I use social media to look for a job remotely, I always ask for a networking interview in order to present myself, and ask for advice and other contacts.

I use LinkedIn a lot, it is very useful when you are searching remotely. This is why it is essential to have your profile updated and optimised. Viadeo, the French version of LinkedIn, is also very strong but very Franco-French. So if you are not on professional social media yet, I would choose Linkedin.

I got several interviews in Brazil back in 2013 when I tried to relocate there. I was very active at contacting every HR person or potential line manager to ask for tips and contacts. 

After 3 years of living in London, I was tired of the big city and did everything I could to move to Brazil. I was taking Brazilian Portuguese classes and I was networking a lot on LinkedIn. 

When I finally gave my notice to a good stable job I had in London, I left and travelled for a few weeks to Asia. I was in the tropical forest of Laos when a Brazilian friend of mine invited me to Rio de Janeiro for the Carnaval! (not really job search-related, I agree, but I managed to create that link). I was jobless, I had some savings but no job lined up. So I just went after my Asian trip! Maybe this was my chance to move to this country I had discovered a few years before and that made such a strong impression on me!

I re-contacted all the contacts I’d made online to let them know the dates I would be in Brazil and one of them offered to meet me for a networking interview the day after the end of the Carnival! A few days later I got a call for an actual job interview in Sao Paulo, all in Portuguese! When the Brazilian director asked me, as a second question of the interview, if I was married to a Brazilian, I knew it wouldn’t work. I had the exact profile they needed, I was trained and knew all the processes, and the job was in English but they didn’t want to take the time and invest to sponsor my work authorisation…. A problem that so many foreigners face in France. So I gave up on my Brazilian dream, maybe a little too fast… but my point was that it is possible to network remotely, that it can lead to a job interview and eventually a job, even if it wasn’t my case this time.

You can also follow Expat in France on LinkedIn by clicking on the logo

Other social media options

There is another professional network app that works quite well in France. It is called Shapr. You can link it to your Linkedin account and meet or just chat with inspiring professionals. I also find it a great way to maybe find a mentor.

There are also many specialised websites or big professional events per industry or sector. I use the list of participants as a way to find names and contact them on Shapr and Linkedin.

Twitter is also a good way to follow journalists and influencers in your area of expertise. They can pass on information about networking events.

I reached out to people on social media to ask for information about the Brazilian job market, information about the Global Mobility sector and ask them if they would recommend anything for me to integrate into the job market easier, maybe training or a contact. I even had a Skype networking interview with people I met on Linkedin! People I’m still in contact with today! It is all a matter of asking, and being open to unusual possibilities!

How to get a job abroad before moving: Talk about your job search to everyone

When I Iook for a job I usually talk about it a lot and also ask for information and advice to everyone. You never know what can come out of it. If I had never written this email I may never have found this second job in London! 

Reaching out is the first rule and having a concise and clear pitch explaining what you are looking for would be my second tip.

If you don’t know what you are looking for exactly, your contact will not know it for you. However, I have also tried a second approach to explain clearly what I’m looking for but also say that I want to broaden my research and would appreciate feedback and pointers about it.

How to get a job abroad before moving: My answer

How to get a job abroad before moving? My first answer is to use the network you think you don’t have to find information, advice and finally a job. Social media are a great tool to build a personal and professional network that goes far beyond borders. All the tips I described can be used for any country.

I have used it to move to the UK and try to go to Brazil. How different these 2 cultures and job markets can be? I would say, pretty different. It is better to use it before moving but it is really efficient in any situation really.

I was thinking of writing another post about how to network in France and take into account the cultural differences. Would you find it useful?

Let me know in the comment section, below


  • Ernesto

    Thank you for this article! Yes, I would definitely benefit from about networking in France. For some reason I felt like my networking in France was very stilted, but it wasn’t just me, other French people I saw in hiring programs were also struggling. But then again, I think younger people were more at ease with finding jobs, and they were not so worried about having to put up with a lot of stuff. I feel like I wanted to get to that level of comfortability, not to be arrogant, but to just do my job well and be appreciated for it, and not feel like I’m not doing my job right. I decided to just do my own thing at work, and then my networking skills went down the drain, and I just didn’t have any rapport with anyone. I think my French level also had something to do with that.

    • Mademoiselle Guiga

      Hello Ernesto,
      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience!
      I think networking is difficult for most people whatever the nationality. Being a foreigner adds extra difficulty with the cultural differences and also the language. Hopefully, with time, your French proficiency will improve and your colleagues will see that. This is something they should appreciate and that will help you as a professional too.
      I will definitely plan another post about networking in France for 2021 first quarter.
      Reading your comment, I also realise that two types of networking should be considered. The inhouse one when you already have a job and the “external” networking, when you are job hunting but also already with a job. Both are important and should be managed slightly differently. More on my coming post…
      All the best for the end of 2020!

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