In this article, I tell a true story about how I got a corporate job in Italy without being fluent in Italian and with a reduced network, that can help you to landing a corporate Job in a new country.
There is something good about being a Brazilian in Europe. I know what a financial crisis is. Actually, I know what multiple crises are and all the dramatic consequences they have on people. Probably the biggest one is pessimism.
When I decided to end my sabbatical period after moving to Italy, this is what I heard the most from random people I met: “Italy was into its worst economic crisis, and unemployment was hitting super high levels.”
Actually, when I pulled out Italy’s unemployment rate, the situation was quite the opposite for 2018. That’s already one big lesson: always check what people say and fear.
I met textile business owners who said their businesses were bleeding because of the Chinese competition - even though China is the most significant world player - just check the label of your sweater and read where it was made...
I heard senior Italians telling me in Italian that my “too modern and optimistic” mindset was not properly fitting the way of doing business in Italy.
As you can see, I received tons of pessimistic thoughts and perspectives when I started asking about Modena’s economy and industries. I wanted to know what else was going on here apart from luxury car making and related industries.
I learned that the region was also known because of its agricultural production - wine and food included. I visited cities sustained by the ceramic industry - and I had absolutely no idea of how big those companies were.
“The Italian ceramics industry is concentrated in the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia – in particular in the municipality of Sassuolo – and boasts an annual production of over 600 million square meters, equal to approximately 13% of total world production and 43.3% of total EU production.”
I started to think - “Gosh, there are so many industries here. My whole professional background is based on projects and financial controlling of industries and manufacturers. How come there is no space for me here? There should be a way for me to find it out.”
With that in mind, I decided to change the questions I was making to my Italian acquaintances. Instead of pushing them to think like me, I asked where my main competencies would be most valued.
I didn’t have any people in my network coming from business and working fields, just for the record. The (few) people I knew by that time were moms of my daughters’ colleagues in kindergarten, the cleaning lady in my house - who happened to have worked for several ex-pats in Modena in the past -, and random people I met at kids’ playgrounds.
By that time, I had already done a great job in terms of self-knowledge and development. Meaning I was pretty much ready to tell everyone my core competencies, my most remarkable skills.
It was after that change of focus that I got really great advice. I got even more - names of companies that had the values and culture I had.
I narrowed my job search to only 1 company using precise criteria. It should be close to my home, with easy access, and where I could have some time flexibility and autonomy. Those things were all that I wanted.
I set up a very clear goal and just went for it, without knowing one single person in that organization or speaking fluent Italian.
What were the steps I took to reach that level of specificity?
- Understand the local economic system.
- Map potential employers.
- Research as much as possible about them.
- Use the reduced network of people to ask for their knowledge about those employers.
- Narrow the job search.
- Monitor their job posts on LinkedIn and their official websites.
- Start applying for job posts written in English and that resonated with my goals.
Those were relatively simple steps to follow. They just require discipline and focus on what is possible to be created instead of on what is negative.
The other part of my strategy was a complete reshape of my CV and LinkedIn profiles.
Here are the checklists of actions I performed that drove me to be hired precisely where I wanted:
- Cut off previous experiences to make my 18-year expertise fit into a 2-page CV.
- Match the headline to the job post position.
- Add the origin of the multinationals I previously worked for (since almost all were European).
- Optimize the courses listed on the CV - no need to show them all.
- Tie out each work experience with the developed skills and results.
- Change the location to the area I was, not only the city.
- Match the headline to the desired position.
- Add more details in the about section, emphasizing abilities, the international/interculturalism orientation, and e-mail address.
- Ask recommendations from former managers and directors.
- Match the skills to the desired position.
Keep the language harmonization and use English only.
After having the strategy set up and my main instruments - CV and LinkedIn profile ready - I “magically” started receiving messages and calls from recruiters. They usually started the conversations in Italian, and I did my best to follow until they asked if I preferred to switch to English, which obviously I immediately accepted.
I almost had a heart attack in the first phone screening interview I got, of course, because of my lack of confidence in the language. But I knew I needed to face that part, and I found the courage in my will to go back to corporations.
After 3 months, I finally got a job offer as a temporary employee, precisely in the company I wanted to be without speaking fluent Italian.
My acquaintances were utterly shocked. They thought I was very lucky.
Well, if you call luck to be prepared, qualified, and to use all you have learned in your life to design and execute a career strategy, then I say hell, I am really lucky!
Never underestimate the power of a small network. It’s in you the will and energy to take action instead of feeling sorry about yourself and how poor your network is.
I hope you realized there is an immense mindset shift behind this framework. It’s about being persistent in what you want. Fail, learn, adapt, and try again.
There is no secret there. If I did it, you can do it too.
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