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FRANCE: 'If You Want to Work, You'll Find Work...'

This week Huffington Post will highlight the personal stories of young people in different countries trying to find work during the worst unemployment crisis in generations. In Europe, according to recent figures from the OECD, by January "more than one active youth in three were unemployed in Italy, Portugal and Slovak Republic, and more than one in two in Greece and Spain." The outlook is grim for U.S. youth as well, where youth unemployment hovers at 7.7 percent; and even in Canada, which has weathered through the global economic crisis better than others, many young people are finding their degrees aren't worth much when up against hundreds of other applicants for a single position. Today's focus is on the U.S. To read the other stories in the series, go here for the U.S., here for Canada, here for Spain and here for the UK.

False. If you're happy finding a job as a street sweeper or laborer, of course, it's possible to find work. Try telling that to an unemployed engineer.

To be sure, I'm no engineer, I've "only" got an undergraduate degree in communications under my belt and just a handful of work experiences that are actually in line with my career goals. Recently I learned from a communications assistant working for a large firm that she started off at the welcome desk and worked her way up from the inside.

Well, isn't that interesting.

So without wasting another moment, I'm trading my peaceful family life in a small country town and packing my bags for a pied-a-terre in Strasbourg in the (small) hope of finding work. Because, even if the Revenue of Active Solidarity gives me free train tickets, these are conditional, dispensed only if I am taking concrete steps. Once in town, the buses and trams are legion and passes are calculated according to the family budget (4.60 for me, instead of 45.00 Euros).

It still feels like a big sacrifice, I think constantly of my husband and two children who are back in the country, and I call them every day. Thankfully the prospects here don't give me much time to ruminate....

So 10 days have gone by since I arrived, and I still haven't seen a single friend from school, and only my sister knows that I haven't been to one party; 10 days spent writing and distributing my cover letters and CV, the former focused on communications and greatly improved, the latter detailing the reception work I already do on a volunteer basis.

However, during the last 10 days I've learned a lot of things:

  • A little fearlessness doesn't hurt, and actually strengthens your application:
Last week, I wanted to hand my CV directly to an HR director, who was in a meeting and couldn't see me. In spite of it all, I was well received at the reception desk and was able to calm my nerves. A week later, the HR director remembered my name, and given the size of the company, must have remembered me coming by the office.
  • Don't be satisfied with Unemployment Office advice concerning CVs:
Advice from Employment Offices is often good, but for what it's worth, in specific career paths, rarely relevant. For example, I was speaking with a communications director of a large firm in Strasbourg that gave me very specific advice: I should streamline my CV and add "proof" of my skills and an excerpt from my portfolio! In short, definitely seek out people working in your field and ask for their advice. Know that if you are capable, they will recognize that, like this communications director with 25 years' experience in the field did for me (when you're looking for work, it can really lift your spirits).
  • Stay humble:
I remember one image from my conversation with this communications director: When you fry an egg, you don't call yourself a chemist. Even if there is a chemical reaction at work in the cooking of the egg... Cooking and chemistry are still two quite different careers. I had made the mistake on my previous CV of going all out in describing my abilities, without giving any proof, when simply listing my most relevant experiences would have provided enough of a demonstration.

So whether you have five or 25 years of experience, be proud of them without showing off!

Now, after 10 intensive days of searching, here I am, armed with a lot of good advice, an even better CV, but still no job.

Yes, I want to work. But no, finding a job isn't as simple as that. So, as the saying goes... never give up!

Annick didn't give up and we are happy to report that she has since found a job in her field.