The graduate CV guide.

It’s almost the end of June and the academic year is coming to an end. Scores of students are looking towards graduation, with many UK Universities having released results to finalists last week. This means one thing – a fresh batch of graduates are on the hunt for jobs. Although some are way ahead of the game – with their places in graduate schemes secured months ago – many are just starting on applications, sending their CVs out in all directions.

It is no secret that getting a job these days is tricky and this is no less the case for graduates. Record numbers are entering the job market, so competition is tough. Many are forced to look outside their target field in the hope of improving their chances of employment. With hiring managers having to eliminate more candidates than ever in the early stages of the recruitment process, impressing employers with your CV is more important than ever. But how should all the relatively inexperienced graduates go about this?

So you’ve been working hard for the last three years to get your degree, before which you had probably only just finished at school. You haven’t got a huge amount of experience, but then how could you? No realistic employer will expect a graduate to have a huge variety of relevant experience, so don’t panic. Look to the skills and experience you do have and present them clearly and realistically. If the only work you have ever done is a summer job in Sainsbury’s, then tell it as it is. There is no point claiming that you “have accounting experience” if in fact you just worked on the till. Employers will see right through such claims and if anything, you’re making yourself look less credible rather than enhancing your skill set.

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Image via .SilentMode (Flickr)

Another temptation is to go into too much detail. While it’s great that you got your ten GCSE’s and Grade Two flute in 2007, they’re not so important now that you have your degree. By including everything you’ve ever done, you are only decreasing the chances that an employer will notice the truly relevant information. Although it is not necessary for an experienced 40 year-old to adhere to the “one-page-CV” rule, there is no shame in graduates keeping CVs to a concise page. Consider your content carefully; CVs from graduates listing their favourite books, films or board games among their interests (which some seem to do in an effort to pad out their CV) quickly flag them up as questionable candidates. It is always important to show professionalism and the case of graduate CVs is no exception. I have previously mentioned the value of including a photo on your CV. This is another area where professionalism is key. Attaching one of your holiday snaps or graduation photos will not help your credibility. Attach a smart, sensible photo of yourself in business dress however and you will help the employer remember you and put a face to a name.

Simple as it may sound, it is vital not to lie on your CV. Stating that you have an advanced level of German, when in actual fact you haven’t spoken a word of it since you got your B at GCSE is just not worth the risk. Employers are unlikely to seek such skills in a candidate if they don’t plan on having them put to use somewhere down the line, so there is absolutely no point in lying if you want to avoid looking like a fool later!

Be prepared. To give yourself the best chance of success, it is advisable to thoroughly consider the requirements of the job for which you are applying. There is absolutely no harm in tailoring your CV to the job at hand and highlighting particularly relevant experience. Preparation is also important where references are concerned. If you are claiming to have “references available on request”, then you should previously have identified those people, as well as having checked that they are happy to be contacted to provide a reference.

Do blow your own trumpet – as long as it’s true! As much as I have talked about the risks of exaggerating your experience, don’t be modest. Your CV is after all your real chance to show off and make a good impression. Describe relevant experience accurately and thoroughly, quantifying success and making your aim and suitability for the role clear.

Knowing the importance of CVs in the job search process – and particularly in today’s competitive graduate job search – it is important to follow the above suggestions in order to ensure that your CV portrays you in the best light possible.

Good Luck!

Advice for moving to Paris

For most people, moving to France is a very exciting prospect.  It is the most visited country in the world with 78,95 million people visiting last year. What’s not to like about its appearance from a foreign perspective, what with its gastronomy and culture as a whole. Paris in particular gives the impression of being very romantic and stylish. Although there are so many positive things to say about France as a country and Paris as a city, there are certain pieces of advice it is worth taking into account before making the decision to settle down there.

Copyright by Moyan Brenn

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The English speaking community in Paris is renowned for avoiding the use of French when confronted with a French speaking person. How polite you are tends to affect the quality of service you get for example. If you are polite, normally, you will be treated well. However, if you don’t make an effort with the language when going to a restaurant or café and don’t say your ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’ and ‘au revoir’ (which is the least you can do really) you are likely to have a very ill-tempered and irritable Frenchman/woman on your hands! Make an effort with the language and you will see that what goes around comes around.

Transport

On the whole, public transport is very reliable and available in Paris. The Paris Metro is by far the most time efficient way to travel around and having a car is really not necessary. It is definitely worth investing in a Passe Navigo, which is basically Paris’s Oyster Card. It costs around €60 a month for zones 1 and 2 (the main zones in Paris; if you are in the outskirts of Paris it will cost you more depending on which zone you are living in and travelling to). Once you acquire the card, you can top it up at any ticket office/booth and pay a fixed fee either weekly, monthly or annually. You will then be able to use the Passe for all forms of transport in your allocated zones, including Metro, RER, Tram and bus. If you are working full time, you will get a percentage of your transport reimbursed by your employer.

Banking

It goes without saying that if you are working in France, you will need a French bank account. Getting one is by no means an easy procedure, but a bit of preparation will make the whole process much less overwhelming. First of all, you will need to choose your bank. Crédit Agricole seems to a popular choice for non French residents and they tend to have a good English speaking department. However, it is worth trying to contact other people you know who have been in the same situation as you to get a better outlook. In addition to completing the application form – called a mandate – you will need to provide a reference from your current bank, a copy of your passport, a signature witnessed by a solicitor (non-residents) and evidence of residency which can be anything from a utility bill to a copy of a house permit agreement. Basically just be prepared for a very different banking experience! In France, you are charged for more or less everything and nothing seems to happen quickly.

Accommodation

You shouldn’t find it too challenging to find accommodation in Paris. However, if you are looking for somewhere central, it will come at quite a cost! The average price for one square metre in an apartment is 8, 487 €. Property prices have shot up in the last few years, making property in Paris some of the most expensive real estate in the world. It’s true that finding a place to live in Paris can be tough but it’s not as bad as you may think. All you need is to know how to go about it. Here are some useful contacts to get you started:

The most economical way to stay in Paris is to find an apartment that’s for rent by owner (FRBO). These deals will probably require a fair bit of digging, as residents will often post to online bulletin boards or send out e-mails to friends rather than listing them with agencies. Apartments that are rented from non-commercial agencies may not have the appropriate insurance that traditional agencies might offer and one should accept any risks associated with that.

Moving to any foreign country can be daunting, especially when your destination is a big city like Paris. It is very important to come prepared and as long as you have done your research and keep an open mind it will make the experience much more enjoyable.

The other side of the story: Brits in France

I recently wrote about London’s newly gained status as “France’s sixth city”, a status it wins thanks to high numbers of French nationals calling London their home. I concluded that this influx of French migrants was thanks to a combination of “push” and “pull” factors giving young professionals an incentive to move away from France, towards London. “Push” factors such as unemployment and discrimination reflect badly on France, but is there in fact another side to the story?

It is no secret that Britain is a key player in the global movement of people. Emigration has run in cycles throughout the last 200 years and thanks to a huge increase in Globalization and the facilitation of travel abroad, this trend is currently on the rise. In the last 40 years, a colossal 67,500 more Brits have left the country than returned each year, with emigration figures standing at 2000 people per week. It is only thanks to similarly high immigrant numbers that such an astonishing statistic has not had a greater effect on British demographics.

So why do Brits move abroad? Where do they go?

The BBC has conducted a large study into expat behavior; who goes, where do they go and what are their incentives? Results show that more British citizens than ever before want to move abroad, with more than half of those surveyed stating that they have considered emigrating. Emigrants can be divided into two distinct groups. The first group is young professionals with the flexibility to move abroad to follow professional and educational challenges offered elsewhere. The appeal of emigration to the younger demographic is especially clear in the current economic climate, with the study showing that one in six UK graduates move abroad. The second group of emigrants is the retirees, who seek a better climate and improved quality of life. The top expat destinations can be explained easily by considering these groups, with younger emigrants choosing destinations such as France (where their employment opportunities and chances to use skills are increased) and older emigrants preferring the warmer climes of countries such as Spain and Australia.

Brits in France

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recently conducted a survey into British emigration in an attempt to put a number on Brits abroad. This survey concluded that only 12% of Brits abroad moved thanks to negative features of their home country. It follows therefore, that it is positive aspects of their destination that attract migrants. So what is it about France that appeals to British people?

For those seeking a relaxed lifestyle, escaping to the sunny countryside to retire, France has an obvious appeal. For youngsters looking for increased job possibilities, opportunities to use their skills or even simply seeking an adventure, France (and Paris in particular) has an obvious appeal. It is no surprise therefore that France makes the list of top ten destinations for British emigrants, with more than 200 000 British nationals currently calling France home. Just like the French are attracted to London, the British seem to be drawn towards Paris.

Budget airlines and the ever popular Eurostar make travel across the channel easier than ever, with Paris now only a train away from home for many Brits. There is no shortage of jobs for those wanting to live abroad, with their superior grasp on the English language making them attractive to employers. In Paris, the British presence is clear. As is usually the case with expats, the British congregate in certain areas. Western suburbs such as St Germain-en-Laye are popular with British expats looking to settle down in Paris. As the Parisian British population grew over the years, so did the demand for British services and products. Particularly in areas dense in British nationals, there is no shortage of British pubs, bookshops and supplies in Paris. British chains are so conscious of the Paris-based demand for their products that they have opened up their own Paris branches; take Marks and Spencers on the Champs Elysées or WH Smith on Rue de Rivoli, for example. The British School of Paris in St Germain prides itself on offering “British education of a high quality to an international student clientele”.

The availability of British services alone is a clear sign of the presence of Brits in France. Does this drain of citizens affect Britain? Probably not, given the current rate of arrivals from abroad, who boost the British workforce. What interests me is how Brits settle in to their new life in Paris (and of course in other areas of France!) Do they find that the French correspond to British stereotypes and is the working environment in France very different to that of England? Have you had any difficulties moving from the UK to France?

How to write a French CV.

“Curriculum Vitae” (usually known as a CV or resumé) can be loosely translated as “the course of my life”. A summary of academic and professional achievement to date, the CV is a requirement of absolutely every job application. Detailing your experience, characteristics and what sort of job you are looking for, the CV is your first chance to show a potential employer that you are a good fit for their job. In most countries, sending your CV is the first step in the employment process, so the impression it gives of you is key to your job search success.

I have written before about the importance of making an impact quickly with your CV. Studies show that it only takes employers six seconds to decide whether the CV in front of them is going to make its way into the bin. For this reason, knowing what the company you are applying to is likely to expect from your CV is essential if you are to tick all the right boxes and land yourself in the “Interview” pile. Popular worldwide, the format of CVs varies from place to place. Hiring managers in Hong Kong therefore will not expect the same sort of CV as their counterparts in Berlin. For this reason, time spent adapting your CV to the country where you are seeking work is highly valuable.

Working in a bilingual recruitment agency in Paris, we receive a lot of CVs from British candidates, who often seem unaware of the differences between ideal CVs in the UK and France respectively. Making the following adaptations could greatly improve their employment chances in France.

Clarity

Start with a heading telling readers exactly what role you are looking for and a short description summarizing your key skills. Follow on with clearly marked sections describing your experience, education and other skills.

Be concise

Going hand in hand with clarity, the ideal French CV is concise. Although the “one-page-CV” myth is excessive for those with extensive experience, it is a good guideline for juniors writing their French CV. Even those with 20 years’ experience should write concisely enough to keep to two pages, keep it relevant.

Photos

It seems that adding a smart, professional photo to your CV is advantageous in any job search. In the six seconds spent deciding whether a CV is worth considering, employers’ eyes always go to the area where they expect to find a photo. In France, adding a photo is the norm, with employers liking to put a face to a name.

It is best to regard CV writing as an ongoing process and to acknowledge that adaptations will be necessary when applying for jobs in different countries, just as they would be for different types of job.

Good Luck!

Is the ability to multitask a blessing or a curse?

We all know how it feels to be busy. Your to-do list is never-ending, with demands requiring you to be doing six things at once, with a variety of different people, all in different places. How on earth can you fit it all in? It is human nature to want to rid yourself of the burden of these tasks and to cross them all off the list as soon as possible. Efficiency is paramount, so doing three things at once helps you reach your goal as quickly as possible. Multitasking is the key. Jokes mocking the perceived male inability to multitask are popular with women, whose supposed ability to juggle three things at once is viewed as wholly positive. But does the ability to multitask really make us as productive as we like to think?

I recently read an article about a businessman who – having arrived in London from America ready for several important meetings – realized that he had completely forgotten to pack any trousers. Thinking back to when he packed his suitcase, the businessman realized that he had been interrupted several times in the process due to the need to “multitask”. Can we really expect to get everything done to the best of our ability if we are trying to focus on three or more things at once? Considering that the businessman could well have been cooking dinner, talking to his partner and leaving to help his son with his homework – all while intermittently packing his suitcase – it is no longer so surprising that his trousers ended up on the wrong side of the Atlantic. Several studies have been conducted into multitasking and how interruptions affect the flow of work. The results are varied, but all agree that being interrupted while working is common and that the affects are often greater than we realize. One study claims that the average person takes a whole 23 minutes to recover from interruptions to work. Another disagrees, saying that recovery only takes five minutes minutes, but that an average of 50 to 60 interruptions per day add up to more than four hours of recovery time!

Whatever the correct statistic, it seems that multitasking is considerably less efficient than many of us would like to think. Shifting mental gears does take time after all, so it is hardly surprising that muddling several tasks up at once would impede concentration on each one. Still think that multitasking works? Think back to the last report you wrote or project you worked on. How many times were you interrupted by a colleague, phone call, or email? Estimate the time all these interruptions took up, you may be surprised!

So the need to focus on one task at a time is clear, but it cannot be denied that it is tempting to multitask. Technology in particular facilitates multitasking, with internet browsers’ multiple tasks making it so easy to have several tasks open and in progress at once. So what steps can you take to maintain focus?

Work from home. Although not always practical, a good tactic can be to simply stay at home and force yourself to work in a controlled environment. Removing all distractions completely is useful particularly when working to a deadline or on a project when you can’t afford to succumb to distractions.

Give yourself goals. Quantifying tasks makes them easier to work towards. Set a goal of three attainable tasks and don’t check your email, talk to colleagues, or switch tasks until they are done.

Switch it all off. One of the biggest distractions these days is technology. You wouldn’t approve of your son or daughter texting while they should be concentrating on an essay, so the same rule should apply to you! Switch off your phone and unplug your computer – the world can wait until your work is done!

As tempting as it is to try to get everything done at once, multitasking does decrease concentration and lead to a loss of focus. Once you have acknowledged the problem, the biggest step is over. Work out which working conditions suit you best and cut out interruptions until you have finished important tasks.

How to strike a balance between work and family.

A hundred years ago, family roles were simple. Father was the breadwinner, while Mother stayed home to cook, clean and – most importantly – look after the children. Fast forward to 2012 and things are very different. Higher education and business being dominated by men is a thing of the past and stay-at-home Mums are no longer the norm. These changes do of course beg the question; how do you balance work and family?

The press is crowded by stories of busy celebrities so taken by their career that their children and spouses often take a back seat. This is widely frowned upon, with characters who prioritize family values far preferred. Barack Obama for example has been praised for insisting that time is made in his hectic schedule for him to have dinner at home with his family at least three evenings a week. Balancing time at work with family time is undeniably important, with family relationships, stress and income all affected by the balance. Perfecting the balance is even more of a challenge for many these days, thanks to ever-increasing single parent figures and tough economic times.

Addressing the balance between work and family life is a big consideration and takes up a lot of time. Despite the time that must be dedicated to this issue, it is absolutely not worth putting off. Children grow up fast and you don’t want to end up regretting decisions you didn’t take the time to make ten years ago. There is no time like the present, so sit down and talk things through with your partner or a close friend whose opinion you trust. The first question that you should ask yourselves is; what is most important to your family? Determining the answer to this question is the first step towards a long term plan to balance the two parts of your life, whether it’s travel, education, savings or time spent together that you prioritize.

Having established what exactly you want to be able to afford – to take a two week holiday abroad each year, pay for your three children to have weekly piano lessons, or whatever your priorities are – you will then be able to consider how much you need to work in order to get by (or to live slightly more comfortably). At this point, it can be worth hiring a financial advisor to help you make financial sense of your plans.

Having regular goals to work towards is helpful when trying to keep to any plan. Perhaps your new financial plan will allow you to commit to a four-day week or to leave work an hour early twice a week to do the school run. Whatever goal you choose, it is worth having one to keep you on track and give you motivation. Such a goal will also give your children a routine, so it is worthwhile keeping it constant if at all possible (so your children know that it’s always Wednesday when Mum picks them up). The amount you work and the hours that you do have a huge effect on your children, as does your attitude to your work. The benefits of such a large component of life are not just financial. Children develop an attitude towards work as they grow up. Having no personal experience of the working world of course, your children develop an opinion of this alien concept through what they get from you. If you work excessive hours or are under an unbearable amount of stress at work, your exhaustion or negative attitude is more than likely to rub off on your children. It is much more prudent to promote the positive aspects of work to your children; the challenge, people you meet, feeling of accomplishment and opportunities for progression, for example.

After deciding how you are going to balance your work and your family, it is vital that you embrace your choices. For hundreds of years, it has been mothers that stay at home and look after the children. In the day of the working Mum however, countless mothers every day are forced to tear themselves away from toddlers clinging to their legs on their first day at nursery. As difficult an experience as this is, be confident that you have made your decisions for a reason and that this is what your family needs right now. Priorities and family needs do change as children grow up and when promotions are offered, so don’t be afraid to re-assess the situation.

It is important to remember that every family is different. Only you really understand what is important to you and your family. Whatever decisions friends or colleagues make for their respective families, your situation is unique and must be assessed as such. Only then can you ensure that your whole family are happy.

France’s sixth city: what does London offer the French?

Many of us have been shocked to read in the news recently that London has been dubbed “France’s sixth city”. We read on thinking that this must be some joke, nothing more than a twisted statistic. On the contrary, recent estimations have shown the number of French nationals living in the UK capital to top figures for important French cities such as Bordeaux, Nantes and Strasbourg. It is difficult to calculate an exact figure, but an estimated 300 to 400 thousand French nationals currently call London their home. The figure is so staggering that the French in London have won the right to elect a candidate to represent them in the French National Assembly. So what exactly does London have that encourages so many to make the move across the channel?

If you don’t know London well, you may be unaware that the French presence there is actually nothing new. Following years of persecution in their home country due to their protestant faith, the Huguenots were offered sanctuary in the United Kingdom by King Charles II. Large numbers of French migrants began to arrive in London in the seventeenth century. Often known as “Le Refuge”, this movement even led to the coining of the term “refugee”. Attracted by cheaper prices, the Huguenots converged in the east of the city, where their mark can still be seen in the area around Spitalfields market, with names such as “Fleur de Lis street” and “Fournier street”. Feeling towards these refugees was not entirely positive, with many feeling that the newcomers were depriving Londoners of work.

Several hundred years on, the French can be found in just about every corner of London. In the streets around the embassy in South Kensington, French “Londoners” flock to the finest patisseries and send their children to the posh “Lycée Charles de Gaulle”. The charitable “Centre Charles Peguy” in Shoreditch helps new French arrivals to find accommodation in London and demand has greatly increased in recent months. Surely it is not just the promise of familiar home comforts that entice more and more people to make the move?

Image via TJ Morris (Flickr)

In some areas of France, employment and family problems provide an incentive to leave. Department 93 for example is renowned for such problems. An abbreviation for the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, department 93 is home to a high proportion of French nationals of African origin. Probably thanks to its high immigrant population, the area is synonymous to many with high unemployment, racism and discrimination. In France, job prospects can be harmed by the obligation to list such a postcode on your CV, as well as by name and skin colour. Fleeing the banlieues, many young French professionals see London as a land of promise, where their ambition might really come to something.

Looking closely at the demographics of migrants, it is clear that it is young professionals in particular that London attracts. They like the freedom that the UK capital offers, including its welcome escape from French bureaucracy and increased opportunities in the East End’s creative sector. Furthermore, many see London as a gateway to globalization. They are under the impression that once you come to London, the opportunities are endless (as long as you speak English!). Another reason for the recent increase in arrivals is of course the appeal of the Olympics, offering a perceived myriad of jobs. There is a definite case of the “bright lights syndrome”, which by definition can lead to disappointment. It is not unusual to move to France totally unaware of the expensive lifestyle, with housing often costing even more than that of Paris. Moreover, living conditions are often questionable and are particularly poor in areas such as the French-friendly Brick Lane.

Despite its initial appeal, it would seem that the French don’t always find life in London easy. Some claim that London is not for the faint-hearted and that those fond of their French food and holidays should stay put. London is an adventure. Wait to see if the risk pays off and you never know, it just might. One thing is for sure – a city with such a long history of French inhabitants isn’t about to give up its claim any time soon!