Switzerland, Austria and Germany have changed since the 19th century started. Not only through the Second World War. Globalization changed our way of working. When my generation went to university we wanted to be “international” but I feel that nowadays this isn’t cool anymore.
Regional identity is trendy. You can see this in political movements from Scotland to Barcelona. You see it in the written expression of dialect versus formal “high“ languages in Spain, the UK, Switzerland and Germany.
I am amused that youth enjoys “Volksmusik” (traditional music) more than rock’n’roll and that the “dirndl” had a revival over the last five years. Even I got one and while it’s ok to be conservative our inner “Heidi” needs to grow up.
Reality is diverse and full of color!
Global companies deal with diversity of their clients and staff. Many diversity and inclusion initiatives are run under affirmative action legislation. In the European Union we discuss quotas for women in leadership roles. We want to avoid gender and cultural bias. We talk about age diversity and feel it’s a solution to the war for talents and lack of skilled labor if we ask our senior worker to stay a few years as consultants after their retirement.
When will we discuss diversity of cultural backgrounds and mention religious diversity in a positive sense?
In Europe we fought for religious freedom since the enlightenment. So why should we think that religious freedom can only be given to us?
We all believe in Equality, Freedom and Brotherhood. Freedom means that you can chose your religion freely and that you can chose not to believe in anything as well.
We have to develop our collective intercultural sensitivity. We have to drop our assumption that our way to live, work and act is the only correct way in the world.
Intercultural researcher Milton Bennett calls this assumption “ethnocentric”. It comes in a development stage of denial, polarization or minimization. If you take a look at the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity by Milton Bennet you will probably notice that our current public discussion and our media are driven by the denial and polarization stage of intercultural sensitivity. The worldview of “Them” versus “Us” is enforced daily. To me this is propaganda and not very advanced.
Have we not learnt from the past I sometimes ask myself? Do we not understand that the refugees in Europe flee the same terror that we despise? How can we dare to even talk of refugees and terror in the same context?
Watch the media closely. They should know better and be more differentiated. Why would you speak of the percentage of Muslims living in a country as an indicator for the risk of terrorism? That would be like saying: “In Italy we have a high percentage of Catholics. That’s why we believe there is a higher risk for rape of our youth.”
You deduct a behavior from a very small percentage of criminals to the majority with only one common denominator called religion. Have we not learnt statistics? Have we not learnt to be differentiated in our world views?
I think we have to be very careful in our judgements. I condemn terrorism and rape too but I do not relate it to religious or cultural background.
You might be afraid of what you don’t know and don’t understand. Your parents might have taught you not to talk to strangers and to lock the door. So yes, the first time you see someone who looks different you might be surprised, maybe even a little shocked. Once you get to know the person though did you not notice that they deserve your respect and trust?
With refugees at your doorstep it would be so easy to overcome your fear. Take a first step. Speak to a refugee. Or just speak to a person you don’t know who looks different. Smile at a “foreigner”. Be kind to a person who looks sad.
Open your mind to the endless possibilities of human interaction. Open your heart. Open your home.
Let me start off with introducing myself, I am Martijn Roseboom, 39 years old, married to ‘Bee’, father of a 6 year old girl and 4 year old boy. Since moving to Switzerland I have been a full time stay-at-home dad.
These days most people meet and get married within their social circles. This is the case for us. We met during University where I was studying business economics and my Bee was studying Medicine. I recall discussing for the first time, who would be the breadwinner, as students having some drinks in a bar. When I found out what a doctor is expected to earn and compared this to my own financial prospects, I asked Bee what she planned to do with all of her money. It seemed an awful lot for shopping. The underlying and never questioned assumption underneath was that I would be the breadwinner of the family and take care of all the bills. Bee thought that this was absolutely ridiculous. For me this was one of the core beliefs of what was expected as being a man, and never had imagined otherwise. That was the start of an interesting evening full of (alcohol fueled) heated discussions.
Since leaving University and starting work, we always have been competitive (me mostly) about who would earn the most. In practice we agreed that we would both bring in 50% of the income. When moving abroad for our first international assignment, I had to give up my job and we agreed to combine all our income together. As the ‘trailing spouse’ in Singapore, without a job, I could not do anything without my wife’s signature. This led to the practical situation where I ‘adopted’ my wife’s last name and this was also clearly stated on my credit card and all other bills. This was the ultimate reversal of the concept that I had as a man and being the breadwinner. All of this changed again back to ‘normal’ when I found a job in Singapore. However now that we have moved to Switzerland, I find myself in the same situation, except that this time I at least can use my own last name and can prove this with my credit card.
Whilst it is more common to see that nowadays there are more female breadwinners out there, it is something that remains frowned upon. Whilst on a family level, this is clearly the best way forward for all of us, it is still sometimes challenging. The biggest challenge is the stereotype I have that the man needs to be the breadwinner of the house. This leads to not always appreciating the opportunities it brings. The best thing is being an integral part and see the kids growing up. The only thing I miss is more men in the same situation. It remains socially frowned upon for a married man to ask another woman out for a drink. Even if it is coffee and there are kids running around all over the place. Let’s hope this will be a normal way for dad’s to spend their mornings in the future.
Martijn Roseboom, President Partner Committee International Dual Career Network (IDCN)
Even if you’re super excited about the new position or company, moving or relocating is still complicated. Potential obstacles to international assignment success are almost innumerable: tax complications, cultural incompatibility, economic crises, security concerns and political unrest. With all of this, what remains the biggest threat to assignment success? It comes not from external forces, but from within. Study after study shows that family concerns are the leading cause of failure among expatriate employees.
So here you are, settled in Switzerland and ready to start looking for a job. Your spouse, whose international assignment led you here, in the first place, is trying to adjust to his/her new job. The children are feeling comfortable in their new school and your house finally feels like home. Eager to re-establish your professional self, you prep your résumé, send it out and wait for the interview invitations to roll in. After all, you’ve been working in your field for 15 years in a well-known company. So what’s with all the rejection emails you’re getting?
When a dual-career family accepts an international assignment, it’s likely that the trailing spouse will be left with the challenge of finding a new professional identity. In many cases the visa issued to the non-working partner limits the kind of contracted employment they can accept, the type of work that existed back home doesn’t necessarily exist in Switzerland or requires speaking the local language plus one of the other three official languages, and sometimes it’s a simple matter of adapting your résumé to Swiss standards. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable and expected to include your picture, birth date, marital status, citizenship and visa type in your résumé.
An experienced international career consultant can be an essential ingredient to the success of an overseas assignment, helping the accompanying partner to avoid the pitfalls of an interrupted career, even if employment is not an available option. If an organization wants to protect and capitalize on its investment in global assignments, it needs to address the needs of the whole family in its international relocation policy. And in today’s world, this includes offering assistance that addresses the career aspirations of the accompanying partner.
Expat spouses who are in search of new employment, is a common theme for many coaching sessions. Giving up your career for the sake of your partner’s means you’ve lost an important part of yourself and often feel lost. While the assigned partner starts a new career and receives career coaching from his/her company, the non-working partner is on his/her own, feeling alone and depressed. This inevitably leads to frustrations in the relationship.
What can you do, when you are in such a situation?
1. Gather as much information about your host labour market as possible.
2. Take time to get to know your new environment before you decide to get employed.
3. Find professional advice on how to adapt your résumé to the local market.
4. Define your transferrable and global skills.
5. Discuss freelancing with your former employer before you quit.
6. Get a “return ticket” to your former employer.
7. Choose volunteer services that would enhance your resume.
8. If not employed immediately, use the time to further your education or diploma.
9. Discuss with your spouse how your career, not just theirs, will benefit from the move.
10. Agree on a long-term vision of both of your careers and how they will fit in your life plan.
Relocation itself could be one of the most stressful changes in life but these tips and advices will not only help during your time in Switzerland, but also prepare you for the next time you move to a new place.
Tell us about challenges that you’ve faced during your transition!
Once you understand how to adapt your application strategy to Switzerland you might feel frustrated by the amount of rejections you have received to date. Many of my clients are very eager in the beginning of their job search and after about two months reality of the Swiss job market hits them. My advice to clients in this case is to focus on two to three applications per week. However, make them count.
1) Stand out of the crowd by using your network
Use your network to follow up on your application or to support your application. Many HR processes in Switzerland are very standardized. It is usually necessary that you apply through a website first. However, you can ask your contacts in the company to follow up and support your application. This way the recruiter will be more inclined to take a closer look.
2) Have a perfectly branded motivation letter and résumé
I advise to seek a coach or consultant if you are not sure how to brand yourself. Most of my clients cannot tell me who they are professionally. We usually work that out within the first month of our cooperation. Once you know what you are good at, you still need to brand it in a way that is understood by your wider audience (not only by peers or similar professionals). This is not so easy but it can be done.
3) Less is more
Only apply to roles where you fulfil 70% of the criteria. Be honest to yourself. Then write on a piece of paper what you like about the company. On a second piece of paper note why you would like to work in this role. Based on these notes write a new motivation letter from scratch. This way you will avoid the copy and paste taste many motivation letters have.
4) Patience is key
The recruiters are under a lot of pressure to make the right choice so be patient and nice with them. If you follow up wait for two weeks before doing so. If you follow up over the phone ensure they have time to understand who you are. Try to connect with the person by being friendly and professional.
Understand the recruiting market
Unlike other countries in the Swiss cultural norm is to be transactional and sequential. That means that many professional do not like to be disturbed in their way of handling a process (one candidate at a time). Even Swiss HR colleagues tell me that recruiting has become really low in standard.
A fast turnaround and response time used to be considered market relevant when I was hired in 1997 for the first time. Within 10 days of handing in my applications I had been to an assessment of two days and been given an offer within less than three weeks (as a graduate).
Nowadays, HR has hardly any decision making power in the recruiting process. Often the recruiter has to wait for feedback from the line manager for days. Also, most line managers increase the minimum requirements for candidates on a daily basis. Often they change their initial search as they are basically looking for a mini-version of themselves.
Another issue is the time component. Professionals and especially Line Managers have such an overbooked agenda that it is very hard to block interview times in their schedules.
I know: These challenges exist across the globe but you must not forget that here the recruiters hire for about 50 roles at the same time. Switzerland is still growing in many business areas. So be patient and kind and show a bit of understanding.
Again, the advantage is that the Swiss like to work with perfection. The least you can expect is a professional interview process and a personalized feedback once you made it to the interview stage.
In Switzerland (unlike most other countries in the world) it is very common to add a picture and all of your most personal details on your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). This includes but is not limited to your date and place of birth, marital status, names and birth dates of your children, work permit type and validity, postal address.
You may be discriminated purely on this basis.
Increasingly Swiss role descriptions demand “Swiss German” (which is a dialect not a language) and knowledge of the Swiss market.
Other reasons why you might end up in the rejection pile that are not really related to your professional experience:
Salary expectations: Switzerland has a very high salary level. Still, if your expectations do not match the budget of the position you could instantly be selected for the “rejection” pile.
Resignation period: You might have a non-negotiable resignation period. Usually staff is needed yesterday and most companies are not organized enough to hire a candidate before the current position holder runs off.
Children: Your young children cause concern about your availability.
Woman in their 30ies: Your age and gender causes concern about you having children.
Number of moves: Your annual job changes indicate you are a troublemaker
Social Media: Your Facebook pictures indicate you are partying to hard or likely to cause trouble.
Lack of German or French: Your lack of language skills is interpreted as a lack of respect for the Swiss culture.
Longer periods of unemployment or education periods.
The missing “rote Faden”: The most prominent cultural tendency in this country is “Uncertainty Avoidance” (check out G. Hofstede’s definition). Basically, you will need to fit into a shoe like Cinderella. If that shoe is too big (or goodness you have the same amount as Imelda Marcos) the recruiter might think you are not an “earnest professional” but a “Hans Dampf in allen Gassen”.
Most of my clients hate it when I tell them that they have to brand themselves in one area, which might narrow their “shoe” to Cinderella’s size. It is not against you. Just painful experience and understanding the market a bit longer. I talk to headhunters and HR recruiters. Their band with for your multitalented selves is limited. Make it easier for them to work with you and keep 60% of your talents in the drawer for later use. If you need someone to tell you what a wonderful person you are you can always email me.
Well, if you do remember when it came out in the movie theatre you probably have the same age as me. So what does that mean? It’s hard to find a new job. Anywhere. But if you are new in Switzerland and you do not speak one of the four national languages you are probably on the verge of a nervous breakdown right now. (Another awesome movie btw).
You have just unpacked your boxes, fixed the electricity in your apartment, got the stove running, know where to buy high-priced groceries at Migros or Coop and are ready to go on the job hunt. Computer in place, Google opened, jobs.ch found and (zack) you send out the first five applications before you start discovering Basel, Zurich or Geneva for the weekend.
Worst case: Less than 24 hours later you find a rejection (Email template along the lines of “we have received your documents but we have other candidates matching the profile better”).
Better case: After an instant “we got your documents please be patient” but then you don’t hear anything for two weeks…or three…or four. You call them nervously after three days. The reaction on the other end is less than friendly. “We will get back to you.” Then you get the rejection. Your application might have gone lost or it might have ended up in a pile of candidates the company kept as “back-up solutions”. But calling them and pestering them after less than three weeks they did not like.
Best case: After about three weeks a nice HR person calls you and invites you for an interview which will happen within a time frame of another three weeks.
You stomp your feet, you bite in your desk and you complain to your partner every night.
So you contact headhunters and recruiting companies and hope they will place you but the sheer amount of them overwhelmes you . You tell your story for the seventh time and all you get is a “There are tons of applicants with your profile in the market: I advise you learn German / French first. Then your chances will be higher to land a job.”
Yes, Switzerland has an official unemployment rate below 4% (3.5%) but all the EU job searchers, expat spouses, self-employed, freelancers and Swiss parents with children do not necessarily appear in this statistic. You need to receive unemployment benefit to be counted as “unemployed”.
Let me share the current three filters in the recruiting process
Filter#1: Global companies have split up Human Resources in factory-like process items. Filter #1 is a computer that looks for key words. This computer does not care about your feelings.
Filter #2 is a very junior HR coordinator somewhere in Bratislava, Pune, Manila or Costa Rica. Outsourcing and offshoring has led to the creation of shared service centres in most global companies. (These are usually the companies you target first.)
Then the last filter #3 is an HR Recruiter who sometimes is also an outsourced service provider sitting in any location in the world responsible for one silo (line of service) of the organisation. The HR Recruiter often works on a mandate basis but does not necessarily know the hiring manager well nor does he or she know the people in the team.
The hiring manager has certain ideas about the “ideal” candidate and often looks for a more junior version of her self or him self. Hiring managers tend to forget that they are unique so that it will be hard to find the “ideal” match. Many candidates therefore do not even get to the hiring manager as the filter #3 HR recruiter does not want to be seen as not being able to select the right candidates not to come up with the right shortlist.
The process breaks down and everyone is frustrated!
The hiring manager starts talking to her or his colleagues about how “HR is wasting time” and colleagues start talking about the vacancies to the team members. They speak to their friends on Facebook and LinkedIn and suddenly by miracle a good candidate appears through the network. The referrer gets a referral fee and the desperate hiring manager is happy to lower the standards he or she earlier had as the position has now been vacant for a few months.
This is not the “War for talents”. It’s just bad recruiting.
We need to improve recruiting again and come up with better standards.
1) In my opinion recruiting needs to change, processes need to be reviewed in global companies.
2) Hiring managers need to open up to a wider range of candidates.
3) Candidates need to expand their network and use various channels to land a good job.
4) Cooperation and performance is not predictable in a recruiting process. Even though we have two or three step modular processes with tests, case studies and competency-based questioning we can still hire the wrong person.
5) Headhunters and recruiting firms need to be more open to candidates and support them better through the process.
What is your experience in the Swiss market?
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