Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

with kind permission of Gabrielle, guest blogger

Having passed the mid-30s mark recently, I couldn’t help but wonder: “where the hell did all this time go?”

Fresh out of law school, wide eyed, idealistic with grand plans for the future, I had no idea what life had in stored for me. The life now is totally not what I’ve envisioned. But that’s ok, right? Because Joseph Campbell said so.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” 

Do I regret anything? Not really. If anything, it is really the impact of some of my more negative behaviour that have had on others over the years. But hopefully, I’ve learnt to refrain from repeating those mistakes and am grateful to those who have the stomach to stick around.

Over lunch last week with one of my closest friends here, we got into a discussion about the challenges of moving abroad.

When the Mr decided to take this opportunity, we were so excited about spreading our wings. He, stoked about taking another step forward in his career, and me, well, to take a deep breath and step out of the corporate rat race. After the logistics were sorted and dust settled – like finding a roof over our heads, and location of the all-important Asian market, the Mr went back to work, and I was left pretty much to my own devices.

From time to time, I grappled with pangs of homesickness and panic attacks, which consisted mainly of “OMG, what have I done?!” and making calls to family in the middle of the night – their time – sobbing down the phone. Don’t laugh or roll your eyes. This happens, when you are chucked into a foreign environment away from the familiarity of your safety network of family and friends. Friends that you’ve known for many years. Friends you’ve been through thick and thin with, who have giggled with you over your teenage crushes, held your hand as you pierced your nose, made you drink 21 shots of tequila on your 21st, celebrated graduation, and helped you blow your first pay check…

There is also dealing with the harsh reality of being a trailing spouse – in this age of female empowerment. I lost count the number of times I wanted to call my ex-boss, begging for my job back. This is especially so when the honeymoon period is over, and you no longer see the new country that you’ve settled in, through rose-tinted glasses. (Zürich, I still love you though).

So, whilst your friends back home mourn your departure by posting mouth watering pictures of local food and tagging you on Facebook, rebuilding a new network seemed like the next natural step.

This is the part that no one who has relocated talks much about. They can tell you how: attend expat events, network, smile, engage in small talk  (“where do you come from? What do you do? I love Singapore!”) blah blah blah – oh dear Lord, shoot me – but they don’t tell you HOW.

The biggest lesson that I’ve learnt to maintain my own sanity is to be mentally true and good to myself. Trying to shape and mould yourself in order to get people to like you, is quite frankly, bloody exhausting.

Most often than not, it is easy to fall into the trap where you think that you HAVE to get along with everybody. Things that you normally wouldn’t hesitate to speak up about back home, you’ll think twice about – especially when someone is behaving like a complete twat – for fear of upsetting them. Culture differences aside – there are freaks under that human being. Freaks who seem to think that it is ok to behave badly towards others. But you embrace those freaks, and kiss their three heads because you keep telling yourself that maybe it is time that you need to learn tolerance and acceptance.

After all, isn’t accepting someone for who they are, part and parcel of a friendship?

Maybe – but I think I’ve become better at differentiating the crucial difference between being a doormat and acceptance. (I think I can hear those from home laughing their heads off and wee-ing themselves because I’ve used “doormat” and “I” in the same sentence.)

Perhaps I am a slow learner. Five years in, I’ve concluded that it is better to remove such toxic people than being around them. For people you simply don’t feel like you have anything in common with, be brave and say no, thank you – nicely. Sure, my phone beeps less these days and I have lesser mails to respond, but it is ok to like your own company. Spending time with a four-legged scamp helps too.

I find that being yourself will naturally lead to worrying less about what people think of you. When you do that and take a back seat by being the observer instead, you can see them still trying hard to shape how the world views them – be it as a parent, jet setter or a serious corporate ladder climber. Your narcissist radar will also naturally be honed to spot those from a mile away and beep like crazy.

Few other lessons I’ve learnt:

a. keep moving. Whether it is from your mistakes, toxic people, unhappy experiences or new places – never stop.

b. never stop travelling and seeing the world.

c. no one has ever truly grown up. You heard me: there are no such thing as a proper adult. Sure we pay our bills, manage our finances and take care of ourselves, but everyone is guilty of a childish hissy fit and engaging in schoolyard spats, once in a while. Learn from them.

d. lastly, and oh-so-random: throw out those size 6 jeans that you are hoping to fit in. Leave your skinny teenage selves behind. It is ok to be a size 10, 12, 18 or 20.

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others and the rest will follow.

 

 

http://opinionatedfrau.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/what-relocation-guides-never-tell-you-2/

For this year we planned to experiment. Sounds funny right?

So one of these experiments is that we invited bloggers to tell us about how their transition to Switzerland has changed their outer and inner life. The results are showing women with different voices and different stories. All of them have shown a lot of courage. We admire them for what they have mastered. We love their voices and we love how they admit their anxieties and shortcomings.

Going abroad is an adventure. It changes us deeply. Some of us can never stop and settle again. Others just want to do that. Let’s see what our bloggers want to share from Tuesday onwards. Every Tuesday a new post will appear. Your comments are appreciated and please share as much as possible.

 

Thank you

GPT-Team

 

We are all focussed on our immediate need these days (“I need to get this done NOW.”)​. When you run a startup this thinking changes a lot as suddenly you just need to do one thing: Make others happy! In that sense I sometimes browse through posts and share a lot of knowledge and insights via Social Media.

I have just browsed through this article and had to laugh about one sentence. I thought it was worth sharing with you and hope you like the post.

“From an organisational design point of view, GM is a subset of HR. But when HR went through a redesign, GM was left out, because it was regarded as being a bit strange and too difficult to do. It often has its own software, its own reward and HR policies, and so on. Consequently, mobility was left in the ‘too difficult to solve’ box, and we see that with our client base.”Andrew Robb, L​eader of Deloitte’s Global Mobility Transformation Team​

We have a lot to catch up on and a lot of work to especially around the interface of talent management, succession planning and Global Mobility.

One of the hardest issues for me when becoming an entrepreneur at 40 was that I had been used to a certain lifestyle that included holidays, lunch and dinner at restaurants, not knowing how much milk costs, buying healthy food, going to concerts and movies for fun. All of my close friends are employed and have a career. I hardly know anybody who lives like me here in Zurich, Switzerland (among the Top 5 most expensive cities in the world).

Counting the cash
Living in Zurich can be tough when you are starting out…

I admit that I still live in an overpriced apartment and have big car (which I do not really need) but I had to learn as an entrepreneur to spend a lot less money than I used to and I am still working on this exercise. As you might face similar challenges (or you wonder how you will get through the initial low earning first three years) I thought I’d share my practices to remind me of my real situation.

1) Carry very little money with you when you go to town. Leave your credit card at home. Use your credit card only for emergencies or online bargains. Have enough money to buy a cup of coffee (max 10 CHF).

2) Call a friend for coffee instead of dinner and hope that they will ask you to come to their house. Invite friends to your house for a glass of wine.

3) If you reach a milestone such as two years in the business celebrate yourself at home. Cook a nice meal and buy healthy food.

4) Pay small amounts at the grocery store with your bankcard so you see exactly what you spent your money for. When you go out for drinks or fun only carry cash and when you are out of cash return home. That’s especially important when you tend to buy expensive drinks at 15 CHF. (Imagine how long you work for one drink!)

5) Budget all your spending especially your holidays or how much money you spend on clothes, makeup, sunglasses and shoes.

6) Strictly separate business from private spending but try to optimize your private spending by using legal options to deduct costs for a home office, laptops, phone, Internet connection and cleaning services.

7) Avoid television and exposure to advertising. You feel a lot less like spending money on crap that you don’t need.

8) Avoid impulse buying decisions by adding all potential buys (books, seminars, travels) to wish lists. I even have a wish book. A lot of my wishes do not appear so important after a few weeks. Others just materialize themselves.

9) Love your business plan. Add anything you will earn right when you have the confirmation. Stay on the careful side but motivate yourself by adding all future turnover and checking the total annual turnover regularly.

 

I cannot say that I have worked it all out but my spending was a lot higher. I cut it approximately by half this way. Keeping the wish lists and wish book makes me more appreciative of the stuff and holidays I eventually pay for. Since I work on my own I appreciate the luxury in my life a lot more than when I was in the corporate world.

 

How do you survive as a startup entrepreneur? Where do you save and what do you value?

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.

Tips GPT_7

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.

Discrimination Issues

 

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.