Sunday, 11 January 2009

Job prospects...please give your thoughts

I've been in France for over three years now and as I never really planned on staying, I never really thought my career path out, I've been living one year to the next, yearly job contract after another.

I've been teaching English for all this time. To primary school, high school and University students.

I am certain that I don't want to attempt the CAPES which is the high school teaching exam which works on a competition basis. No, not the kind where your entry is pulled out of a hat (although then again.....) but the type where there are a determined number of teaching positions in France available, and that number of people pass the exams. If you are unlucky enough to miss out by one place, tough luck, try the procedure again next year. No thank you. I do not want to go through this to be a) not be good enough and have to do it all again the year after, or b) to pass and then be sent 100s of miles away where I will be forced to work. That's the deal kids. French school teachers don't get a lot of choice where they work! Anyway, I don't want to teach high school students, so no CAPES for me....

You see, I have problems. I did a physics degree, have now spent over 3 years teaching English, would like to change activity, but don't know what to do, or what I am qualified to do in France. I've talked a lot about this before, but really, what are my options? I could continue teaching, try and get a lab job in industry (I doubt it would go down well my 'break' of 3 years to teach English) or I could retrain. This is where you guys step in...

I've been thinking about jobs that do not require working at home. This is the biggest problem for me concerning teaching. There is always something to do...marking, preparing....I absolutely HATE working the weekends, but it is forced upon me.

What about becoming a bilingual secretary? Or translator? If anyone can give me some help on what it's like doing one of the aforementioned jobs I would be very grateful. What training do I need? I've seen courses by correspondence for both of these positions, but are qualifications from the CNED or Educatel taken seriously? Or are they just a waste of money? I don't want to go back to Uni for another 3 to 4 years so I'm in a bit of a pickle.

Then again...I haven't really tried teaching adults, well, not for lomg periods of time. Would I prefer this? I keep going round in circles. I hate teaching - but I like the holidays (good for going home to see family etc) - I want to do something else - but what? I get the impression I am qualified for nothing in France - I'll do a course by correspondence - will it find me a job ? - what can I do that is more sure ? Teach. Voila, the circle continues.

I'm sending myself crazy, approaching ill. I think about my future a huge amount, cry too much about it too (twice already today). Did I waste any chance of a career by moving to France? I can't imagine spending the next 40 years of my working life going from one 1 year teaching contract to the next, not even really liking my job, but I can't see a way out of it.

I really need life to give me a break, please give me a sign, if you're out there.


L said...

Hmmm, so much to say....but really should be in bed.

Briefly: teaching adults in the Toulouse area is never full time work; maybe it's not like that in your region, but here schools and companies that send teachers into companies to teach employees English hire teachers for a few hours a week and you have to patch together a bunch of different gigs.

Bilingual secretary: in France, tons of young women still study to get a diploma in Secretarial Studies. No, I'm serious. The idea is that not too bright gals study how to file papers, use Excel, and answer the phone, and they'll do that for the rest of their life. When I was trying to find a bilingual secretary job I'd mention my bachelor's degree and job experience and people would just stare back "But you don't have a BTS Secretariat???" That said, if you can get your foot in the door at a temp agency, you might be able to get a long term job later. There are bloggers in Paris who are bilingual secretaries who don't have the BTS.

Diplomas are super super important in France (see above secretarial studies), so you might be able to find something in physics, even though you've taught for 3 years.

I wouldn't recommend doing any programs "below" any degrees you currently have, expect for the case of becoming a student soley for the purpose of doing an internship. This is the key to employment in France. Internships are how companies test if they want to hire that new grad. But most places won't accept interns unless they're a student and have a "convention de stage" from the university. You might sign up for any old program next fall, skip every class, and just try to get an internship in physics.

Um, what else...
Try CRNS. Even if they aren't hiring, send a CV and cover letter anyway. "Candidature spontanées" are really important in France as well. I sent out CV's the language schools and they finally contacted me months later (when I was already busy with something else).

I know the CAPES is difficult, but I know an American who teaches English at a university who only has the CAPES (no doctorate). You wouldn't necessarily be doomed to teach high schoolers.

And lastly, network. Join AVF or other associations with people who work (not just pensioners) and talk about how you want to find new work. I have an interview for an internship because I overheard an aquaintance talking about the Directeur of a museum that he knows through another association he's part of, and I asked him if he could recommend me to the Directeur for an interview, and voilà! When I first moved to Toulouse and was jobless and friendless this was impossible, but networking is so so important. I had another interview recently because a colleague's mother in law was the director or human resources at the company I applied to.

Hope that helps!

Rochelle said...

Sounds like good advice from Toutes Directions...

There's info on the CIEP website about having your degree equivalence in French. You send off a copy of your degree and other relevant papers and they will tell you what equivalency you have in French. If you want to go to uni you will probably need that anyway. Maybe you should do that so you know where you stand in terms of the field of physics.

I don't think you should resign yourself to a job that you don't like for the end of your days. I reckon maybe doing a post graduate degree in your field is a good idea and like Toutes Directions said, networking and doing some internships. You can tutor a bit on the side to keep yourself afloat financially.

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