How to Land a Job in Paris as a Foreigner


It’s been a bumpy road, friends, but after too many emails, cover letters, and CVs, the moment has arrived. A blazer? I wore it. The dotted line? I signed it. Hands? I shook them. This American landed herself a full-time job in Paris. Here’s how I made it happen.

Without a doubt, the biggest advantage I had in this process was the fact that I’ve already been living in France for two years, as an English teaching assistant through TAPIF. Still, though I’m happy it provided me the visa and salary necessary to scrape by in France, it caps you at 12 hours a week and kicks you out of the country after one or two years. TAPIF is a gap-year situation: valuable and informative, but lacking in longevity. It’s time to move onwards and upwards.

Or, well, onwards and eastwards. About three hours east by train, to be exact.

I’m headed to Paris, but these tips are applicable anywhere, whether you want employment overseas or in your hometown. (Specifically for my fellow English teachers, though, try this database for private schools in Paris, which are slightly more flexible with hiring than public ones, or applying to be a substitute teacher.)

This article is geared toward more permanent positions, though, for those who are looking to settle down somewhere new. If you want more flexibility, and potentially a less stress-inducing application process, troll our archives for tons of other ways to earn money abroad.

Stay Organized

When January rolled around, with about five more months left on my visa, the official job search kicked off. I marked the occasion with a spreadsheet, which I’d recommend for you, too, wherever you’re trying to go. If you’re starting out with no leads, you’re going to be sending out a tidal wave of emails, and sifting through a clogged inbox to track your progress isn’t going to work out. Keep one document where you list the positions you applied for, the date you sent the application or email, contact information, and the dates you got a response (if any), plus whatever else is pertinent to you.

For your reference, here’s the spreadsheet I made, though I took out the hyperlinks and personal info to minimize snoopin’ and stalkin’. Not that I don’t trust y’all, but. I don’t trust y’all. Bisous.

Cast a Wide Net

I already touched on this above, but if you’re looking for a job in a new city with no professional connections, get ready to send dozens and dozens of applications. Expect no response from the majority, negative responses from many, and positive responses from one or two. In my case, I sent about forty emails and applications, got nothing from thirty, NOs from seven, and interviews from three–only one of which turned into a job offer. All in all, it took about three months to go from the creation of the spreadsheet to the final handshake, although the work visa process is a different story. I’m still climbing that mountain. Once I’m on the other side, I’ll let y’all know.

Job hunting sucks. Just keep your head up, and keep applying. The worst they can say is nothing or no, in which case you just mark it on your spreadsheet and try, try again.

Communication, communication, communication

This is obvious, but if you want a job somewhere you don’t speak the language, start learning it now. Thanks to the TAPIF program and six years studying, I could already communicate pretty well in French, but even so I had a French person go over my CV and cover letter before I sent them out. If you don’t have a handy dandy bilingual friend, try the the Shut Up and Go community page to find a native speaker of the language you’re shooting for, or you could pay a translator if you’ve got that kind of cash.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until you’ve studied a language for six years to shut up and go, and the best way to learn it is when you move there, right? So one way to preface a more career-oriented position is to take a trip to the place where you’re job searching–do a couple months in a hostel, au pair, teach English, whatever you can manage–and practice the language while checking out potential employers in person. That’s how I used TAPIF to transition to a more permanent position overseas.

I know packing up and moving away isn’t possible for everyone, especially not right away, but the internet is your friend. Duolingo, Youtube, LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. Use them all. Google your little fingers off.

Play to Your Strengths

If you’re looking for a job somewhere that requires a visa or work permit, you’ll have to prove to future employers that you have a skill they absolutely need–something that would be hard to find in a local. Hiring and sponsoring a work visa for a foreigner is a hassle for employers, so you’ll have to show why you’re worth the paperwork and fees. The most obvious example is teaching or translating your native language, which was my tactic. You could also try social media companies that are looking to expand to international markets, or companies that are looking for locals to tell them how to market to your home country, for example.

Figure out what you have that the locals of that area don’t, and exploit it. Sell yourself, and don’t lead with the fact that you’ll need a visa. Get an interview first, and then, once you’ve convinced them that they can’t work with anyone else, drop that bomb. Or, lower it gently on the negotiation table. Fingers crossed it doesn’t bring the building, or Skype call, crashing down.

There you have it! All the information that fits on a reasonably-sized Shut Up and Go article. Now I have to get back to organizing all my paperwork for the visa appointment. Wish me luck, y’all.

Got tips or questions? Leave me a comment below!

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