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Old 27.11.2013, 02:11
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Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

I'm a Swiss citizen who moved to the US in 2001 and was recently forced to return to Switzerland because my employer wasn’t able to file for permanent residency in time to stay there legally. So far it’s been a nightmare trying to reintegrate into Swiss society and I had to find out the hard way that despite Switzerland claiming to have a good social safety net this isn’t really the case when one doesn’t fit the mold.

Case in point--when I registered with the unemployment office (RAV) I was quickly told that I would not be eligible for the standard unemployment benefits because I worked in the US and consequently am limited to receiving financial support for a maximum of 90 days and that they would use a flat per-diem rate instead of the standard 70% of my previous salary. Two months have passed and I have yet to see a single Franc in unemployment benefits and they had me jump through hoops with bureaucratic requirements that border on insanity. They demanded everything from US immigration documents proving that when I resigned I did so because my visa was expiring (if they disagree they can delay payments by another 60 days) as well as a notarized letter from my previous employer certifying that I was indeed employed by their company. Luckily I left on good terms sothey were willing to go through the effort and expense of providing that for me.

Even the job search itself is proving to be rather challenging since I can’t produce a “Swiss” application package with performance reports from all my previous employers. I did my best to adapt my CV to Swiss standards (it even passed the RAV advisor's inspection) and obtained a few letters of recommendation from previous supervisors and coworkers but have yet to be invited to an interview.

Part of the challenge seems to be that while I hold a BSc in Management/Marketing all my work experience is in the US defense industry which is pretty much useless here and yet when I try for entry-level jobs I get rejections based on having too much work-experience. Applying for jobs that would fit the bill in terms of age/experience seems to lead to rejection because I am underqualified for the positions as I don’t have the experience in the business sector they’re looking for. Never mind that not speaking any French seems to be very detrimental in the Marketing field.

I also accumulated quite a bit of IT experience since I have a natural affinity to it but without holding any certifications that seems to be a dead-end too. My best chance seems to be in sales but given that I have not been able to convert my US driver license I obviously have the problem that I am restricted to public transportation until I get that issue resolved. I can’t even use my US license since I handed it in when I applied for the Swiss one over twomonths ago and after wasting weeks producing all the paperwork they required theycame back to me saying I need to undergo a medical examination before they could convert the license so right now I am waiting for my scheduled exam (takes over a month to get an appointment!) and hoping that I will be able to get a Swiss licenseby the end of the year.

It’s just very frustrating to see bills stacking up and being unable to support myself (currently an air-mattress dweller at my mom’s). If anyone else has gone through something similar or has any good ideas in how to get back intothe labor market (please don’t say go back to school, I simply cannot afford it right now) I would be interested to hear about it.
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Old 27.11.2013, 12:15
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

OP. sounds like a hell of a time. I have been here unemployed for 10 months now, constantly searching for jobs, and i agree the at level of burocracy and paperwork is crazy and can drive you up the wall.

At least you are a Swiss citizen. however watch out for the '3 column' contributions that you may have missed in your work in the US. not sure if CH will give you a bill for that too once you start working again. in acny case something to be aware of.

Getting back into the market? i'll let you know when i have a job to. but all the usual websites as well as cold sending out CVs can provide at least interview invites.

Best of Luck
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Old 27.11.2013, 13:19
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Are the "3 column" contributions mandatory? I thought it was voluntary, similar to a 401K.

I'll definitely keep sending out applications, considering that my unemployment benefits end a month from now I really don't have much of a choice in the matter. Last thing I want is to depend on social services, the city I live in apparently overpaid a lot of people last year and now they're really cracking down on anyone applying for assistance. When I scheduled an appointment with them to check if there's subsidized housing available (of course not) they made it very clear that they want complete insight into all bank accounts and even threatened that they will send private investigators after people if they suspect any of their rules aren't being followed. Nevermind that they expect you to work for them from 7.30 - 11.30 (may be different in other cities) for the measly 1,600/mo. or so I would have received from them. I told them I would earn more working in fast food and declined a 2nd meeting.

Right now I'm looking at supporting myself with some consulting work for companies I worked with in the US but need to form a company first to ensure that I don't run afoul with the law here and can make AHV/IV contributions. Still, even that is more difficult here than in the US since they require you to have a physical address and the permission of the owner to conduct business at that address. I was surprised to learn that one cannot simply lease a virtual office with a physical address like in the US but considering that you can't even get a post office box without having it tied to a residential address nothing surprises me anymore. I was hoping to separate my mail from my mother's mail just to realize that a PO box doesn't work the way it does in the US and now both our mail gets delivered to it. I wonder how people who don't have a permanent residence manage to get their mail delivered in this country.
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Old 27.11.2013, 14:04
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Wow....sounds like you need a lot of resourcefulness...

1. Are you allowed to stay with your mother and use that as your registered address In the longer term? If so, go fix your post office problem, that's easy. They might even give you a discount or refund if you cancel the post box.

2. Change your cv. Make is simpler. Tailor it to match the job. I have probably 20 different parts to my cv and I take out and put in what is needed. As an employer I would look only at general working history and whether you have longer stints with the same employer. Plus qualifications, certificates of study, but only those that match the job ( my childcare employer wants to see my first aid certificate and wants to hear that I am a mother of three kids, my administrative employer probably doesn't. I also have a driver's license for Switzerland, but haven' driven a car for 5!years....you choose what you put In and take out.

3. Swallow your pride. Unless you want to live with your mother for the long-term then you are going to have to start jumping through hoops and getting used to your limitations.

4. The system is going to be very nosey about your bank accounts and ability to support yourself. The 'system' is going to see everything from a Swiss point of view.

5. Don't be fussy. You can also be self-employed so start using your contacts to try to pick up work, any work. If you can do better by getting a job at a fast food restaurant, go and get a job at a fast food restaurant. Social help is for people who cannot help themselves....

I am sure there are several ways for be self-employed, and forming a company is only one of them. Also, if an employer pays under 2000chf total in a calendar year, then the ahv obligations and paperwork is quite different...but I highly doubt that a cleaner needs a private office and a company to work cleaning houses.

Switzerland actually has quite an interesting history in weapons technology, can you actually name the companies in the industry? List every single one, do your research and then approach every single one for a possible job.

What about engineering companies ? Pharmaceuticals ?

As for your drivers license fiasco. I sure hope you are not waiting a month for a normal doctor's medical clearance! I am also quite sure that you can go back to the licensing office and ask the. To give your Us license card back in the interim. You are allowed to drive with it for up to 12 months before changing it over.
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Old 27.11.2013, 14:06
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Oh, and getting your mail is very easy, the sender just needs to write c-/ mum on the envelope. This works....
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Old 27.11.2013, 14:37
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Have you thought about applying to defence (& similar) companies in other European countries? BAe Systems, EADS, Airbus, Eurocopter etc etc!
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Old 27.11.2013, 15:10
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Actually receiving the mail isn't a problem, what I wanted them to do is split the mail, like have mine delivered to the PO box and hers to the apartment but I guess because we share the same last name it's something that doesn't work here.

I do have multiple versions of my CV, a very simplified "Swiss" one in German and a detailed one I use for multinational companies posting jobs in English. I always include a cover letter highlighting the relevant experience that they're looking for.

Regarding self-employment, it's not necessary to form a company if you make less than <100K but you need one in order to pay AHV/IV and to be able to open a merchant account with a credit card processor. But this is unique to my circumstances because I plan to do consulting work for clients overseas, a cleaner as you mentioned would not need all that since the Swiss client hiring them for their services would be making the AHV/IV contributions and no one expects to be paid with credit cards here.

My driver's license fiasco is even more complicated than you think :-) I lived in VA and because some of the 9/11 hijackers held VA licenses they came up with the policy to tie the licenses to the expiration date of your visa so even getting it back wouldn't allow me to drive now since it expired within a few weeks of leaving the US. Other states aren't as strict about it and some even grant them to illegal immigrants but it is what it is. Not much I can do regarding the physical exam, they require you to see a doctor of their choice and that's probably why there's such a long wait.

I looked at a number of defence companies in the area and submitted my resume to the ones accepting unsolicited applications. Not a lot of jobs in that sector right now though, the whole industry is downsizing quite a bit because of US budget cuts. Island Monkey makes a good point and depending on how the next months go it may be the best option to look at countries like the UK and France where a lot of the major European players are located.
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Old 27.11.2013, 21:18
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

This is the third post I write about this in probably three days.

Marketing is a dead field in Switzerland. Too many applicants for too little jobs and if you don't fit the mold.... well... good luck! & welcome to the club!

Maybe the four of us non-mold fitting marketing people should start our own company.
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Old 28.11.2013, 01:38
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Daniel, you have my sympathies and I can relate a bit. My wife is Swiss and spent 8 years in the US before coming back. She has had similar issues to what you have had. Her degree, qualifications, and experience don't "fit the mold" and make finding work very difficult. Also sometimes life can be harder for her than me since she feels quite American but is expected to be Swiss. As a normal expat many times you "get a break" since maybe you don't know the rules or understand. As a Swiss, you don't get those "breaks".

Anyway I wish you the best, good luck with reintegrating, and finding a job.

Dan
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Old 28.11.2013, 09:31
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

I would start a GmbH rather than trying to fullfill all the requirements for being self-employed. Is much easier.

Have you thought about doing a course in project management? Prince 2 or similar? That could give you an edge when it comes to looking for consultancy work.

I assume you are already registered with all the Temporär agencies? The key for you now is to get any job. Doesn't have to be within marketing. Once you have a job you all of a sudden becomes much more employable.
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Old 28.11.2013, 10:53
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

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I would start a GmbH rather than trying to fullfill all the requirements for being self-employed. Is much easier.
A GmbH is rather expensive option, depending on what your doing. If your actually self employed it's not an issue. Having zero clients & zero income in early years is acceptable.
It's having a job & pretending to be self employed that they don't allow,
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Old 28.11.2013, 11:30
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Hi Daniel,

Really frustrating and tough situation for you. My suggestions is to keep the composure and try building a network for friends and professional network here. This should help you professionally as well as personally.

Switzerland is a very typical market in terms of job, surely slow and bureaucratic compared to US. Having said that if you have wider experience in defence industry which I think could be moulded and used in capital goods industry here. You speak the local language as well. Try looking at SME / Large employers in capital goods companies, I am sure you can find something. You can also look at the US / Large international companies in the capital goods sector with some kind of base here in Switzerland like Siemens has a base in Zug, Ge has some operations in Switzerland, Honeywell, J&J, Alstom, ABB, etc are also based here in big and small way.

Just that you have to be patient and keep yourself motivated to aply for numerous jobs. I know it is tough but that is what you will have to keep doing.

I also live in Oberland area, if you feel very down, send me a PM. We could meet up for Coffee / Drinks. All the best..
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Old 28.11.2013, 12:20
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Daniel,

I'm not sure if you exhausted all your possibilities for the US but you were there quite a long time and I assumed you wanted to stay. Permits are difficult, but you may even want to keep looking for a job there as well. Being flexible about location also increases your chances. You have US experience and qualifications which give you an advantage over another person who needs the same permit. Good luck.

Dan
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Old 28.11.2013, 17:21
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Starting a GmbH is actually what I'm looking into right now. It's definitely significantly more expensive than a sole proprietorship but I have a relative who agreed to loaning me the start-up funds required and it'll make it a lot easier to keep personal and business finances separate and limit personal liability which I've been told has bankrupted people who operated sole proprietorships. There's also the added advantage from a tax perspective since capital investments are clearly company property which should eliminate arguments with the tax authorities whether something is for personal or business use.

I've also spoken with a headhunter who advised me that based on my experience they could almost certainly find me work as a contractor since that way companies aren't taking the same risk they would by hiring someone who doesn't exactly fit the mold. I think at least for the time being it's the best approach, obviously it won't generate a stable income overnight like a full-time job would but it will give me more flexibility and allow me to pursue additional opportunities.

As far as the US is concerned unfortunately I have exhausted all possibilities for the time being; would've loved to stay there but I've already used F-1 OPT, J1, H3, and H1B visas to allow me to work there this long so now I have to wait a minimum of a year before I can try to get a new H1B. I have two companies offering to sponsor me but short of entering a marriage of convenience (too unethical) I'll just have to wait it out before I can go back.
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Old 28.11.2013, 17:43
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

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...
I have two companies offering to sponsor me but short of entering a marriage of convenience (too unethical) I'll just have to wait it out before I can go back.
Hi, and "sorry" to welcome you back home.
Just something to think about, although a bit late now. Have you ever, in the 12 years you were in the US, attempted the green card lottery?
My cousin did 3 years ago and got it right away. Not many swiss people apply for it, so a very large percentage of swiss applicants win as compared to other countries. But surely if you had applied every year for the past 12 years you would have got yours by now.
Deadline is passed for this year unfortunately, but maybe try next year.
Best of luck to you!
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Old 09.03.2015, 16:42
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

I came back to Switzerland 2 months ago after living in the US for almost 7 years. From day 1, my first priority was to get a job in my field (Information Technology). I've sent out dozens of applications so far but I haven't been able to even land a phone interview!!! I'm really starting to depress...the reintegration is very difficult and the system doesnt seem to be flexible enough for returning expats. I've started to think about migrating to one of the emerging markets in South East Asia or Africa.
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Old 09.03.2015, 17:25
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Switzerland: the place that makes you want to get down on your knees and beg for a place to live and a job. Or thank your lucky stars everyday if you have them.
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Old 09.03.2015, 20:24
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

..are you over 45?
If yes then get friendly with the idea of the low income sector economy.
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Old 09.03.2015, 20:33
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Have you looked at the sticky threads here for companies wanting English speakers? Not sure if there'd be any IT jobs, but it doesn't hurt to check. Or you may find something else you could do.
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Old 09.03.2015, 20:40
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Re: Difficulty in finding employment as a returning Swiss expat

Yes, I have applied to most of them...and got a denial or still in the waiting process. I called one of them recently and they said I would hear smthing back in 4-5 weeks
@slammer Few more years and I'll be at the magical 30 :/
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