7 tips for finding a job in Europe

[The tips in this post are aimed at Americans wanting to work in Europe, but most of the information is valid for those of other nationalities, as well.]

So you want to get a job in Europe, but you have no idea how to go about such a thing? It might be easier than you think. First of all, it helps a lot to have some sort of special skills, since an employer will probably need to be able to justify why you, a foreigner, were the best applicant for the job. Lucky for you, fluent English can count as this needed special skill for a variety of positions. Obviously, specialized and advanced degrees can help too, as can relevant job experience. What you don’t necessarily need is a pre-existing work permit, company connections, or foreign language knowledge.

Got marketable skills? Good. No more excuses – now polish up your resume and get searching. Here are some suggestions to get you going:

Open your mind wide. I know, this is the cheesiest job-searching tip ever, but I’m telling you the number one reason people fail to land fabulous jobs abroad is a closed mind. Sure, maybe you’ll be able to land job X at company Y in country Z, but the narrower your target, the narrower your chances. Instead, try to focus on all the different ways this could work out for you. Spend time brainstorming about the types of positions and companies that would interest you. Be willing to browse through job listings for things you aren’t sure about at first. Ask yourself whether your self-set criteria are necessary, and be open to considering changes. OK, now on to the more concrete stuff…

Online networking. Sign yourself up for LinkedIn, Facebook and whatever other sites you can stand. Connect with as many folks as possible. Poke around to see who they know in the countries or companies you are interested in. You never know which long-lost high school friend may have ended up as a hiring manager in Paris.

Monster.countryofyourchoice. Monster.com has sites set up specifically for many different countries, including at least 20 in Europe. This can be a good starting point to browse the local offerings and get a feel for what companies are hiring. If you don’t know where to start your search, go with the keyword “English” (and/or the word for English in the local language, if you speak it).

Multinational corporations. In my experience, larger companies are less likely to balk at a foreign hire who will need a little paperwork filed for a work permit. Plus many of them use English as their official language even in non-English-speaking countries, so these are a good target if you don’t happen to speak other local languages. Check out company home pages, which these days usually offer a list of open positions searchable by location.

Universities, NGOs, and non-profits. Idealist.org does have some international job listings, but you are most likely to find these types of jobs on the websites of the entities themselves.

Internal transfers. Does your current company have any European offices? See if they’ll hook you up with an expat gig.

Expat websites. Many countries and major cities in Europe have one or more websites where expats gather virtually to share information and socialize. Employment is a topic that comes up often on these. Poke around for helpful information.

See also: 7 internet resources to help you find a job in Germany

If you have a job in Europe, how did you find it?

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17 thoughts on “7 tips for finding a job in Europe

  1. I got my previous job in Switzerland by connecting with a former coworker on LinkedIn. He had moved to Switzerland and had the contacts to help me find a job there.

    My current job in Munich I found just by reading industry blogs and being observant. When I found blogs or posts that sounded interesting I checked where that person worked. In this case the person was working in the US, but his company had an office in Munich. I applied to the company directly, established a dialog with the blogger and got hired!

  2. i found my job through an interview for a different job i saw on toytowngermany.com. right now, i am an hr manager, and we use XING a lot. happy hunting!

  3. I got my job in Switzerland through my boyfriend, who works in the same field. He got the job looking through his alumni website. If the field is law, there are always jobs on lawjobs.ch.

  4. I got my job in Switzerland and in Germany by doing Google searches of companies/departments in my field and then emailing them!

  5. Thanks for sharing your job search experience and tips, all.

    Wanderingtex – interesting to hear that you use Xing so much. Perhaps I should update my profile on there…

  6. I’m going to have to make a FAQ and link to this post because people are always emailing me asking about how to get a job in Germany. As a highly educated person in a very sparsely populated field, I don’t have problems finding jobs and therefore don’t know what to tell them.

    I found my job when I first came over through my boss in the US. She got ahold of an email looking for someone to move to Berlin.

    I would add that if they’re coming to Germany, sign up for XING (maybe that was going in your follow up post). That’s where I get contacted by German recruiters most often. Swiss and UK recruiters contact me through LinkedIn.

  7. LOL. Christina, I had the same FAQ idea. I started this post ages ago, as a response to how often I got questions about jobs in Europe.

    And yes, Xing is definitely in the Germany-specific post.

  8. I’m on a 3-year expat assignment with a multinational corp. Unfortunately, these positions are becoming less common as companies cut costs. Your best strategy is to gain some global exposure and experience through participation in overseas conferences, collaborative projects, or multinational partnerships. Then, define a spot for rotation with the local offices that takes advantage of your special skills and experience. Generally you won’t get expat support for housing, cars, moving, taxes, and cost-of-living if you are there for less than a year, and most contracts don’t extend for more than three.
    It may be a better option to secure a local contract in the country you are interested in: most companies have separate job listings for OUS (outside US) positions. These generally require you to make your own living arrangements and to conform to local salary and labor laws, but should provide relocation and visa assistance.
    Finally, you might be able to set up your own business: the laws for incorporating as a non-EU resident vary widely (easy in the UK; tough in the NL, for example). See if you qualify as a “knowledge worker”, which gives you fast-track visa processing and reduced taxes. You get points for degrees, awards, job experience, salary, and professional licenses that qualify you if you cross a threshold.

  9. Dave – thanks for sharing your experience! I agree that looking at local-hire positions is a great way to increase your options when trying to get hired abroad. Although the perks of an expat assignment can be pretty sweet, they certainly aren’t necessary for a successful move abroad.

    Interesting idea about setting up your own company, too. The rules for that seem to vary wildly even within the EU.

  10. You’re awesome, Jul! Thanks for taking the time to write this post. It’ll definitely be a help when it comes to my overseas-living research, if I decide to go that route. :)

  11. I guess there’s a bit of a difference whether you want to come to Europe to further your career, or whether you come to Europe for personal reasons (say, getting married) and want to work.

    A niche for US expats is academic publishers, who look for native English speakers with academic backgrounds, and may even offer tele-commuting. I worked several years for a small publisher near Hamburg and enjoyed my time there.

    Another option is for your spouse to start a company and hire you. That’s what I’m doing now. :-)

  12. Diane & Zan – happy to be of help. Although I'm probably pretty useless on the motivation-to-work front. :)

    PapaScott – If only one of us were in the position to start a company and hire the other… that would be cool! Good luck with your start-up.

  13. Thank you to everyone for the great support and comments on this site. I am a marketing executive (sports and entertainment) seeking employment in Paris and your suggestions and tips have been very helpful. Thank you so much! If you come across any additional sites you think may be helpful, I would greatly appreciate it!