Friday, May 25, 2007


It's strange to think that a week ago I was miserably despondant about my career, my life, my general direction. I was sick of hearing myself whine incessantly to my long suffering friends and seriously doubting the likelihood of finding any work for at least the next 6 months (outside of September, optimum recruitment periods in France can sometimes seems like an eternal shifting line in the sand).

Moving to France was sort of one of those things that just happened without any prior planning on my part. Initially I didn't think too much about my career, and was more concerned with keeping my bank balance in the black than anything else. After some time temping, I started to concentrate my energies on getting something related to my qualifications and while I knew I would probably not find anything spectacular, I sort of assumed I should be able to find my place in society somewhere, somehow, eventually. After more knockbacks than I can count I changed cities and went back to temping followed by 6 months with social services I thought perhaps I would have more than proven my capabilities to work in the most French of French job roles. Not so.

In all honesty, it was with a fairly half hearted effort that I sent out a few job applications over the water. Two years in France where you're forced to appreciate whatever job you can get hasn't done wonders for my self esteem and I figured I was just a much too little fish in a much too large pond to ever be selected - here or abroad. So my jaw quite literally dropped when I got I got a job offer a half dozen applications. Right now I don't know if I was just lucky, or if things in France are even worse than I imagined. And while I'm really glad, relieved that I won't have to think 'job' or even 'career' for a while now, but there is also a part of me that is angry about the time I have sacrificed in France, jumping through hoops and trying to get a toehold anywhere.

France has a lot of things going for it, but I came to the realisation that it is not necessarily a place where, if you keep at it, and you're halfway intelligent, you WILL eventually get a break. Especially if you come from outside. The thing is, I know all this in part because this is what the French tell me about France already. Job searching assistants, temping agencies, they all sympathetically tell you how terrible it is in France that everyone is pigeon-holed. How the flow of your CV from the right uni to the right work experience placement to the right job is more important than what you as a person could bring to the job. They know their faults and lament them, but the situation remains unchanged. It would seem that, at best, as an english speaker (who hasn't had a work transfer directly from another country), you can get something in the bilingual line of work (barring having good personal connections)or teaching english - which probably suits a great deal of expats who end up settling here. I can't remember the number of times that well meaning locals suggested I switch my career choice to English teaching, and didn't really understand why I didn't follow up on this. I most commonly explained that in Australia we wouldn't ask (for example) a medical doctor who'd just emigrated from China and who spoke English correctly that all he could hope for was a job teaching Chinese. Mostly this worked better as an example because I've found that for the average French person, the notion of working in the 'environment' is kind of vague and airy and not really serious. More often than not, when people asked me about my qualifications, the standard response was 'what's an ecologist?'. I thought I was using the wrong word for quite a while before I realised that a scary number of people here genuinely don't know what an ecologist is, even though there always seems to be a trendy 'environment' story on every other news broadcast. Well anyway, if you're still reading through yet another French employment system rant, good on you. I expect it should be my last.

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