Useful tips & information

How to level up your business network in France

Are you in France looking for a job or maybe wanting to change jobs, or planning to move and are looking for a job remotely?

You may have been browsing the web in search of job ads for foreigners or in English. But, have you considered using the networking strategy to find the right fit for you? More than 70% of jobs are filled thanks to a professional network in France! So you’ll be missing out on many opportunities if you didn’t.

You may think this is not for you, since you don’t know anyone or nearly anyone in France. Well, this is where you are wrong! I have found jobs several times remotely using a network I thought I didn’t have! It is worth reading this article “How I found a job abroad thanks to networking?” since I explain how I prepared my networking strategy.

Now, I want to give you more insight into how French people do professional networking in France

Network in France

Have your job hunt kit ready

Developing a professional network in France is the extra layer to a normal job with the traditional job hunt kit with your CV, cover letter, your professional sales pitch and your market research. You will need to check examples of French CVs as they are more concise than the English versions.

It is also very helpful to have business cards, especially when you attend business networking events. I haven’t always had some, but I find it easier and more professional to share contact details. 

I would say the job hunt kit is for the visible part of the iceberg job ads that represents about 30% of the job market and the networking strategy will open you the door to the remaining 70%!

Organise your business networking strategy in France

Based on your market research, the same way you would do to send unsolicited applications, find out the contact details of your potential future line manager. 

Make sure you track all these data in an organised spreadsheet as you will need to track all the following steps.

Also, add them on Linkedin or Viadeo (the French professional network). Shapr is also a great application to network in France.

Networking is tiring, it requires a full focus in order to connect with your counterpart. It is even more exhausting when there is a cultural and language difference, so the more you are prepared, the better.

network-in-france-planner
Photo by Jess Bailey

How to get a networking interview in France

Once you have gathered all the details. You need to contact people either by email, Linkedin or even by phone or in-person (if you dare, I personally never did, but it is highly efficient especially for small companies!).

The objective is to contact potential future line managers to ask for a networking interview, either in person, in “normal times”, or via Skype or Zoom in “Covid times”.

It is essential to explain your approach, what you are expecting from the encounter: maybe advice, contacts, information on the industry or feedback on your profile. 

NEVER ask for a job either at the initial contact, during and even after the networking interview. The interviewee knows you are actively searching and asking for a job will only put the other person in the shoes of a recruiter, not a person who will give advice or contacts. If a job opportunity matching your profile comes up along the way the interviewee will remember about you

Network in France: the One-to-One interview

Set your objectives

After sending many requests you finally received a positive response for a One-to-One networking interview! Congratulations! This is what you have been working for! 

Prepare for a networking interview the same way you would for an actual job interview

Have one or two objectives per interview, such as:

  • Validate your profile to a specific industry in France,
  • Have a detailed explanation of your industry, 
  • The skills required in France for the job you are looking for
  • Is French proficiency essential for the job you are looking for….

This is really up to you. But you need to know before going into the interview, what information you are looking for.

On top of the objectives you have set yourself, you should always get at least 2 other contacts to keep your networking interviews going. This is usually much easier when you are referred by someone else, so do not miss the opportunity to ask for other contacts to this person that accepted to dedicate half an hour or sometimes more to you.

French networking
Photo by Cottonbro

Prepare your questions

Keep in mind that as opposed to the traditional job interview where the company is looking for a candidate, here you are the one looking for answers. Preparing your questions will avoid you the “I should have asked this or that feeling”.  So have a thread in mind and be flexible.

Also, make sure you ask questions to the interviewee about their professional experience and how they got there. People like to talk about their experience, and also to give advice. This is gratifying and usually the main reason why people accept networking invitations. So this interview should be about the other person, yourself and the market or the company where the interview is working for.

Always follow-up

With your French network

Following up and keeping in touch, in the long run, is the secret to a good network in France

Write a personalised follow-up email 24h after the meeting to thank the person. And in parallel, send your Linkedin invitation or email to your news contacts with personalised messages.

Having a tracking table as mentioned before with your contacts will help you remember the date you met, who the person is when you email them and plan the next follow-up email (holidays, birthday, special industry event, the possibilities are endless).

follow-up call
Photo by picjumbo.com

Keep your home country network up to date

When you are abroad, keep your home country network active by keeping them informed of your new projects, your industry context in France… You will need your home country network when you repatriate. And reaching out after many years without contact can sometimes feel awkward.

At least this is what I did when I was abroad as it is always a good idea to keep in contact at least once a year. But the rules and codes may differ from one country to another.

Participate in networking events

Why going to networking events

Going to networking events is like sending a batch of 30 emails or LinkedIn invites but directly targeted to your industry or expertise. You will find networking events for breakfast, cafes, Afterworks, meet-ups and conferences.

Everyone is not at ease in networking events. To make the first step towards the contact you want to talk to, you will need to find a hook and go for it with all the courage in the world. Because YOU CAN DO IT! Doing your homework before the event will help you. The more you do it, the more you’ll feel comfortable. 

Have your speech ready, know what you are looking for and how to explain it clearly. Give examples and ask for other contacts the same way you did at One-to-One interviews.

Online networking event
Photo by Christina at wocintechchat.com

Where to find networking events

All the in-person events have been cancelled for the moment but may resume soon, hopefully, so it is still a great opportunity to get ready and also to assist with the online events

Many different platforms like EventBrite, Facebook, Weezent or even the MeetUp app will recommend business events. 

There are numerous associations or companies organising networking events most are specialised so you will need to do your research based on your industry and area of expertise. Here are two general ones I know that could inspire some of you: BNI and  Professional Women Network.

By registering to network events in which a speaker or participants interest you, you will meet other people that may help you in the long run.

How much does it cost

Plan a budget for networking. Many events are free but not all of them. Also, you may need to pay an annual membership to participate in events organised by associations.

There are also ways to find cheaper prices with early birds fees or special StartUp fees. When you anticipate you have more chances to get the best opportunities. Double-check the prices options in detail before paying.

French tips to network in France

How to greet in France

Depending on where you are from, the socially accepted distance between people differs. As I explain in another post about cheek kisses in France (temporarily in pause in Covid times…), there are small bubble people and large bubble people.

The French bubble is smaller than the Anglo-Saxon countries but larger than the Southern European countries like Spain or Italy or even Latino America.

In France, the average distance for professional context and also in some instances acquaintances is 80 cm to 1m, so about one arm’s length. It would be about 30 cm to 50 cm for close friends and relatives, which would be a forearm.

Have you ever noticed that when you were conversing with people with another bubble size than yours that they would adjust their distance to you? They may get closer than you are used to or move away. I call it the bubble dance, and it is very common in an intercultural context. Being aware of it, helps you to overcome it and do not take it either as an offence or cold behaviour.

How to greet at a networking event?

The general rule is to shake hands at an arms distance. Do not touch the other person’s shoulder (this would be for a closer relative). 

It can get a bit trickier when you say goodbye, especially when you had a very good connection with someone. If you are a man-woman pair or woman-woman, the kiss on the cheek may be an option. In doubt, go for the handshake or let the other person come first.

It is also confusing for French people, and we usually let it happen. If one person makes the move first to go for the kiss, welcome it. If you miss it, explain that you are used to the handshake, not to leave an awkward moment.

In a professional context, men will always check their hands between each other.

handshake or kiss at work

Practical tips to network in France

Plan to arrive early at networking events, but more importantly to stay afterwards. You will be more at ease to chat further with the contacts you have done during the event if you don’t have an appointment just after.

In networking events, people do not sit down, unless it is a breakfast or a lunch event. The idea of a networking event is to meet several people. So it is important not to monopolize someone else’s time. The strategy is to get the person’s contact and set up another meeting to continue this conversation one-to-one.

Just after the event, write down at the back of the card who the person is, what you’ve talked about. The main information to help you remember this person in a year’s time.

In short

Developing a professional network in France is in my opinion essential as an expat. This is a long term strategy that will help you build your career in France and take away the foreigner’s etiquette that people will see on your CV and you will make it an advantage.

It takes more preparation, perseverance and patience but it is worth it in the long term!

I hope these tips convinced you to start this strategy if you haven’t already considered it or gave you the confidence to do it. It is hard, but you can do it! Remember that you have already done much more difficult by moving to France!

Networking is another way of getting out of your comfort zone. And I’m a strong believer that beautiful things happen when we get out of our comfort zone.

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