Want to work in Europe?

Seems a lot of people do because I’m getting a load of emails lately asking me how I got over here, if I have any advice and if I know any recruiters. So I thought I would share what I know.

Having an EU passport would make your wish a reality a lot faster. It does cost the company money to obtain a work permit and involves quite a few man hours to maneuver through bureaucracy. Plus, if you are fresh out of school legally it is not possible to prove to the government that no suitable candidate could be found in the country or EU.

Language skills are also very valuable, but you need to be totally fluent in order to operate “in country.” International work is done in English, so you’ve still got a shot if you are not multi-lingual. I speak some Spanish and know a few phrases in other lanuages but do not use this in my work other than building rapport. London is the largest English speaking/working market, but not the only place to go. Amsterdam for example has about 30 or so international (thus working-in-English) planners. I imagine that there are jobs like these in most major cities but there probably aren’t a lot – I’ve only met a handful. Having good agency experience and client experience will help. Having Crispin on my resume really helped DDB take the chance on me given I didn’t have much in the way of international experience before I moved.

I got really lucky and was asked to come over based on the exposure I had through the survey. But I was aiming to live over seas for 2-3 years before I came here. I was looking into the peace corps/foreign service and had thought I decided to take a year off and travel through South America. I was saving money for this plan, my boss at Crispin knew that’s what I wanted, and I had been aiming for May of 2010 to do it. But then the opportunity at DDB arose to come to Amsterdam and I had to jump on it. I am a big believer in leap and the net will appear. If you somehow get the opportunity, go for it.

I’m willing to connect people via LinkedIn who have taken the survey. If you and I are linked, you can look through my connections, craft your note and ask me to forward it – all in LinkedIn. I’m afraid I can’t do much more than push the “please forward” button.

*Update* – whenever people tell me about jobs and ask if I know anyone, I post it as a gig alert on Twitter. So if you want to know what I do, follow me (@hklefevre).

And last, here are a couple of recruiters who I have heard good things about.
KevinWilson

Trevor Cook
tcook@tda-group.com
TDA Digital
http://www.tda-group.com
Office: +44 207 382 7483
Mobile: +44 7824 874 133
Linkedin

Nick Grime
LIZH, 61-63 Beak Street, London W1F 9SL

T: +44 (0)20 7437 7863

M:+ 44 (0)7968 695 350

W: www.LIZH.co.uk

I wish you lots of luck in reaching your dreams. It has been really satisfying for me – in fact, I’m not sure I will ever return to the States…

13 thoughts on “Want to work in Europe?

  1. Hope you don’t mind my two cents.

    What about advice for people that have no EU passport, little experience and no connections? I find these types of people are the ones most often asking how to make the move.

    My advice to them is to go over while they are young enough to do so on a working holiday visa or find a family connection that will enable them to get an ancestry visa (ie. good for 5 years in the UK). When they land, pick up a publication in their industry (ie. Creative Review is good for creatives), contact as many recruiters as possible in the city (located in the backs of these publications) and take whatever freelance work they can get to make ends meet. Use that experience to land you subsequent better gigs. Employers over here do not generally hire jr. to mid level employees without EU experience of some sort unless you have made major inroads success wise (winning awards, gaining major clients, etc.)

    That’s at least how I did it, without any connection to an EU partner (even though I was dating one I didn’t use him for a visa) and no work visa given to me while still in North America.

    If you are older than the age limit for a working holiday visa or aren’t able to get one, there may be opportunities to start up as a contractor in your home country and have a office/invisible office in another country, but this scenario is quite difficult unless you can prove financial gain.

    I think the bottom line is that people are afraid to fail and/or have too many ties to spontaneously make the jump. Just move, get over there, save some money, take a chance and test your luck.

  2. Thanks for the tips Carla. I didn’t know about the visas. Europe is expensive living though. It seems that there is a lot of growth happening in Brazil right now so maybe learning Portuguese is a good tip??

  3. Well San Paulo is pretty English-fluent, at least at the big agencies. There is good work being done there, especially in the last five years, but it would be a culture change. Brazilian Portuguese is hard but easier than Portuguese (IMO) but I think the only job that would depend on it is Copywriter or a solely BP-speaking client-facing role. I still think you can find an English place in almost any country to work for without having to speak the language.

    Yes, the working holiday visa, at least in Canada (I think there is a similar thing in the US) is good for 1 year of working in any job but your own company in various countries. It is available for those under 28 I believe. If you have a parent or grandparent that was born in Britain and still has citizenship, you can apply for an ancestry visa which allows you the same working and other benefits as a UK citizen for 5 years. You can also renew it once it is up, which is pretty amazing. I have heard of similar setups in Ireland and other countries in the EU.

    There is also just getting a dual visa if you are in a country that allows it. If one of your parents are from anywhere in the EU it would usually qualify you for a dual visa and working anywhere in the EU.

  4. Alternatively, if you’re outside the US and want to come in you have all of two options: enter as a student or get married! Or enter some low likelihood lottery. I guess it’s easier to come to Europe when you think of it like that. If you shack up with a European for just 1 year you can stay. What a deal!

  5. Hey Heather,
    thanks for the helpful tips, it’s kind of funny, but I must admit I am also one of those who tried reaching out (friend of Cathy Moldenda). I’m actually heading up to Amsterdam in a week to dig around the agency scene to see if anything bites and was wondering if you could recommend good planning agencies in town (aside from the larger ones). It’d also be great if you may have time to impart some knowledge (for a starting planner) over a cup of coffee, my treat! You can email me at jchu17@gmail.com Cheers!

  6. Heather,

    Fascinated and delighted to discover your blog. I’m really interested in finding out more about the survey, and taking it when you do the 2010 version.

    I suspect that speaking native-level English is an under-rated skill in European companies. Many assume that a functional fluency automatically means full understanding of nuance and concepts.

    I have crunched gears many times on this. It may be a generational thing. But bilingual doesn’t mean bicultural. And culture needs an interpreter more than language does, often.

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