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Old 06.10.2015, 11:27
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Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

Hello,

Maybe you could help me with your thoughts about my situation.

I recently completed studies in finance, economics and quantative methods in a prestigious university in Switzerland. Prior to that, I was educated as an industrial engineer in a top university in France, and I had 4 years of experience in the industry, in varied positions.

I have been searching for a job since I am here in Switzerland (3 years) although not full time, I had my studies, and I really struggle.

I am a career changer, so I thought I should start with an internship. The constant feedback was that I had already too much experience (in the industry) to do an internship (in finance), and not enough experience (in finance) to get a regular position (in finance).
I went even further and did my networking part. A senior manager from a major bank advised me to go back to the industry, saying that he would prefer somebody without any experience for an internship or an entry level position. An executive from another major bank was praising my quantitative skills, telling me the only way to start was to go for a graduate development program (GDP), while a HR from the same bank told me that I would never be considered for a GDP because I already have experience.

As a result, I couldn't do any internship during my studies and get a first experience in finance.
Thus, I tried to base my search more on my previous experience. After all, there are many skills that I can transfer. I even passed a related professional certification. Since, I am getting some interviews, where I can use my experience. Everything else is closed.
I finally managed to get an internship (2 masters, 4 years of experience) in accounting. But the work was extremely basic, not related to my profile and the manager was checking every email that I was sending (I had sent hundreds of emails in my professional life), so I refused their offer.

Since I passed my C1 in German. I thought that strong German skills would unlock the situation. And I have restarted my search. I am getting interviews in German, but not many. So far, I have been interviewed for a junior position, but the company was willing to pay me as a junior, despite me having more than all the certifications they wanted and several years of experience. Other positions, you need tons of experience. As a example, I remember seeing a job offer requiring somebody with the experience of managing a 40 million portfolio so as to manage a 20 million one.

Thus, I really wonder what to do now. It appears to me that here you are put in a box and you cannot transfer skills at all. It is all experience based, creating difficulties for the young Swiss to find a job. And of course you get age discrimination (must be between 25 and 35 for example).
On the other side, I am getting much more openness from England based companies. Phone interviews, reimbursed travel expenses. I was once asked if I was well aware that it was an entry level position, to be then told that with my experience I could probably progress more quickly.

As a solution, I am thinking about creating my own consulting company. At least I could offer the skills I have with the flexibility I want. I have limited experience though. But I met a Swiss lady who did the same because she couldn't find something after living and working in America.
But is it really worth the risk? My German is C1, fluent but not perfect. Would the Swiss be open to a newcomer like me? Would there be a price / skills discrimination because I am a foreigner?
I really wonder whether I should stay in this country or try something else like England, Ireland.
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Old 06.10.2015, 13:28
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

I believe it's an European mentality problem. Career changing is something totally normal and widespread in the USA, Canada and in some extent in the UK and Ireland, but rare in Europe.

If I were in your shoes I would try London. USA would be the best choice by far but they have a very retrograde visa policy so it can be difficult.

Last edited by Capo; 06.10.2015 at 15:58.
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Old 06.10.2015, 13:38
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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I remember seeing a job offer requiring somebody with the experience of managing a 40 million portfolio so as to manage a 20 million one.
.
I am amazed that even such a job exists to run such a tiny portfolios. It can't possibly be viable.
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Old 06.10.2015, 14:59
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

@Capo
I agree with you. Some time ago I was applying in England. Reasoning tests, interviews...The processes were engaged, it was more open. Even British companies based in Zürich were much more open.
The problem is, I have already lived in several countries and I am getting older now. Why not moving one more time, but I'd really like to settle somewhere, and I have already so much invested here.
On the other side, I feel like I am wasting my time in Switzerland. I have actually been in the USA and the UK. There I could make relations very quickly.

@fatmanfilms
Maybe they were billions. But I remember 40 and 20. I was rather shocked.
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Old 06.10.2015, 15:11
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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@fatmanfilms
Maybe they were billions. But I remember 40 and 20. I was rather shocked.
If you don't even know if it was millions or billions I suspect they were just humouring you. Why are you shocked? it's no more difficult to run a fund of 20 million or a billion. I doubt you were being offered a fund worth 40 billion......... It's not that difficult to half the value of a fund either, hedge fund managers often loose 90-100%
BTW an index tracker will outperform 90% of managers most of the time.
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Old 06.10.2015, 15:49
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

I see two options if staying and settling down in CH is a priority to you:

1) take a technical position (maybe you will be offered a position with more managerial responsibility, given your new business education and certifications) in your previous industry, and seek internal transfer opportunities within the organization

2) take an entry level position in finance/accounting as you were previously offered, and prove, while you are already on the job, that you have transferable skill sets and deserve more responsibilities & better compensation, rather than trying to persuade potential employers before getting hired

I have the general belief that there are always enough qualified candidates with good experiences for finance/accounting jobs, but when you are already working at the company, no matter at a more junior position or in a different function, the employer might have more patience to listen to what you believe you can do.

About your idea of looking for clients who would appreciate your overall skill set, either as a freelancer or with your own firm, can that be tried out while doing either 1) or 2), therefore less risky?
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Old 06.10.2015, 15:50
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@fatmanfilms
Yes, I was humourous. I was shocked because usually one doesn't change job to downsize it, unless there is something else, such as a better compensation.
It is not the unique case I have seen, from far.
Personally, if I were to change job, I would be first to get something more interesting. Compensation cannot compasate satisfaction at work.

My issue remains to find a job. I'll follow Capo's advice. But I really wonder whether starting my own business as a consultant could work, considering the local culture.

@Oosoo
Your advice are very good.
Changing career, people are not willing to take me, even for an entry level position. That's the feedback I got so far.
Regarding the position I was offered, there was no way to evolve there. As I said, even the emails were checked, no autonomy was left. It was a clerk job.
I'd really love to start with an internship (doing the actual work), or a contract, to then prove what I am able to do. I did it several times in the past and it worked. UK managed companies are more open and willing to consider me for entry level positions. But Swiss managed coompanies are not.
I get more interviews applying from CH for jobs in the UK than applying from CH for jobs in CH.

Last edited by 3Wishes; 06.10.2015 at 19:37. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 06.10.2015, 19:15
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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I believe it's an European mentality problem. Career changing is something totally normal and widespread in the USA, Canada and in some extent in the UK and Ireland, but rare in Europe.

If I were in your shoes I would try London. USA would be the best choice by far but they have a very retrograde visa policy so it can be difficult.
As a Swiss born and bred with 15+ years working in HR-related fields, I have to agree with this. The Swiss and probably others in Europe are not particularly open to career switchers even when all certifications, degrees and whatever else may be "important" can be presented.

I agree with the person that said a GDP is the best bet. That or any junior position you can get, even if it'd that mundane clerk job - it's a foot in the door and better than nothing. I'm not quite sure why you would prefer an internship over a clerk job... It's less money and certainly even less responsibility. Cause that is actually the flipside of it all, i.e. that many career switchers think they need to be paid more than a junior given they have work experience, even though that experience is irrelevant.

Otherwise this may not be the country for you and you'll be better off in the UK or the US where - I agree - there is more openness to nonlinear career paths
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Old 06.10.2015, 19:42
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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@fatmanfilms

Yes, I was humourous. I was shocked because usually one doesn't change job to downsize it, unless there is something else, such as a better compensation.

It is not the unique case I have seen, from far.

Personally, if I were to change job, I would be first to get something more interesting. Compensation cannot compasate satisfaction at work.



My issue remains to find a job. I'll follow Capo's advice. But I really wonder whether starting my own business as a consultant could work, considering the local culture.



@Oosoo

Your advice are very good.

Changing career, people are not willing to take me, even for an entry level position. That's the feedback I got so far.

Regarding the position I was offered, there was no way to evolve there. As I said, even the emails were checked, no autonomy was left. It was a clerk job.

I'd really love to start with an internship (doing the actual work), or a contract, to then prove what I am able to do. I did it several times in the past and it worked. UK managed companies are more open and willing to consider me for entry level positions. But Swiss managed coompanies are not.

I get more interviews applying from CH for jobs in the UK than applying from CH for jobs in CH.

Well if you ever got a small fund, if you were any good it would grow VERY fast. Of course if your another closet index tracker you wouldn't.
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Old 06.10.2015, 21:41
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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I'm not quite sure why you would prefer an internship over a clerk job... It's less money and certainly even less responsibility.
Because all the internships I had so far were accompanied by real responsibilities. They were actually done in a certain framework. Probably I expect the same from internships in Switzerland. From one country to another the culture is different though.
What I am talking about here is a clerk work desguised as an internship with absolutely no responsibility.

I disagree with experience irrelevancies. If you interview a musician for a quality engineer position, you may see an irrelevancy in a first instance. But if you look for somebody with attention to details, good communication skills, keen to improve himself and the others through hard working and discipline, and used to working in a team, there may be a fit. Same thing with a chef, a project manager and organisation skills.
That's the advantage of career switchers. We already have developed our soft skills, with maybe one or two only left to develop for the new position. We only need to learn the hard skills, which may be more or less quick depending on the previous job.
I know that in the UK somebody coming from the automotive industry is highly praised, because this person is used to working in a fast-paced environment. Same thing, in the UK the juniors are advised to explore several jobs to broaden their horizon and to develop well-rounded skills before they settle somewhere.

There is wealth with the career switchers. We need to be trained like the others. But we can learn and be productive more quickly.

In my case, the switch I am trying to make is not so big. I have reduced it as much as possible. Moreover where I come from should be advantageous for where I want to go. However it already creates difficulties, close-mindness.
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Old 06.10.2015, 21:59
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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I disagree with experience irrelevancies. If you interview a musician for a quality engineer position, you may see an irrelevancy in a first instance. But if you look for somebody with attention to details, good communication skills, keen to improve himself and the others through hard working and discipline, and used to working in a team, there may be a fit. Same thing with a chef, a project manager and organisation skills.
That's the advantage of career switchers. We already have developed our soft skills, with maybe one or two only left to develop for the new position. We only need to learn the hard skills, which may be more or less quick depending on the previous job.
I know that in the UK somebody coming from the automotive industry is highly praised, because this person is used to working in a fast-paced environment. Same thing, in the UK the juniors are advised to explore several jobs to broaden their horizon and to develop well-rounded skills before they settle somewhere.

There is wealth with the career switchers. We need to be trained like the others. But we can learn and be productive more quickly.
I've worked in this long enough and am aware of what advantages switchers MAY bring. But I'm also aware of what they may NOT bring. In reality, I've seen it both work out and end in disaster.

What you say may be true in some instances, though not all. But regardless, you lack technical experience. If I were to complete a Finance degree I couldn't take up a Senior Controller position tomorrow - I may have all the interpersonal and whatever skills from 15 years of work experience, but I have no idea how Finance works in a real-life setting, hence I have to start at the bottom or more or less there, though maybe not on the lowest end. Simple as that.

That's the thinking and reasoning in most instances, exceptions apply. It is not close-mindedness, but a different viewpoint and culture. It's just the way it is. Good for you if in the UK it would be supereasy for you to find something and given you seem to receive offers after offers from the UK or at least interview after interview while you find nothing in Switzerland, I'm not sure why you would want to stay here anyway. You won't single-handedly revolutionize the way most Swiss do business, recruiting etc. Maybe you're lucky and will find someone who gives you that chance of an internship - though make no mistake, depending on where that is you may have no responsibility whatsoever and I still think it's not the best route as it may well lead into nothing. But for now, it doesn't seem to look good, so I'm not quite sure what else you want to hear. You might indeed need to try your luck elsewhere in the world. The best advice is that given by oosoo - get a technical position in your previous field and venture out from there into your new field, or accept pretty much anything you get can in your current preferred field. Or try one of those GDPs if they're available.
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Old 06.10.2015, 23:17
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I am not talking about starting as a senior. I am just saying that a company can grow a career switcher quicker than somebody without experience at all.

I agree that recruiting switchers may both work well and end out in a disaster. It's also true with linear career employees. Curiously, I have never seen any IQ test performed during a recruitment in Switzerland. It is quasi systematic in England and I have seen some too in Germany. Maybe one can start by looking at the recruitment process. It is true that a linear career reduces the risk. But risk also means opportunity.

I don't want to revolutionize anything. I just want to find a solution for my situation.
Getting a technical position would be the worst move ever. It would show inconsistency in my decisions. The best I can do is make use of my previous skills in a new field, which already produces some results. Still, too often I am rejected because of my profile. It happened once that I got rejected by HR, to then be reinstated in the recruitment process after submitting my CV to a partner, who found it interesting.

Regarding internships, it really depends on the country. In the UK, the USA, Switzerland, you have summer internships, which companies may use as a pre-recruitment.
I have never seen Summer internships in France. Instead, you have several 6 month internships as part of the academic curriculum. The high tax rates make that many companies hire interns at low wages, 300-400 euros per month, and without any social security rights to do the work of regular employees, so as to cut on salaries. In some companies interns may represent 30% of the staff. It is quite advantegeous for the companies as they usually can pick interns from the elite universities. The high unemployment rate makes that each intern usually wants to achieve the best.
This situation is becoming true in countries which have been suffering from the economic slowdown since 2007, including Switzerland.

In my case, I am ready to start as an entry level. I am looking for the opportunity.

What I forgot to say is that I have the ass between 2 chairs. I am told that I have too much experience when I apply for an internship or an entry level position, and that I have not enough experience for a regular position. It applies to GDP.
I get interviews when I can use my experience for regular positions, but they are too little.

Last edited by 3Wishes; 06.10.2015 at 23:40. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 07.10.2015, 01:09
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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I am not talking about starting as a senior. I am just saying that a company can grow a career switcher quicker than somebody without experience at all.
Again, that is your viewpoint. And often that of Anglo-Saxons (hence the different approach in the UK, US and the like). It is not necessarily that of Swiss. It doesn't matter what you think or what I think. Obviously, Swiss companies disagree with this viewpoint, for whatever reason, otherwise you would have found a job by now.

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I agree that recruiting switchers may both work well and end out in a disaster. It's also true with linear career employees. Curiously, I have never seen any IQ test performed during a recruitment in Switzerland. It is quasi systematic in England and I have seen some too in Germany. Maybe one can start by looking at the recruitment process. It is true that a linear career reduces the risk. But risk also means opportunity.
Most will simply assume that a person's IQ is not a reliable predictor of job performance. Nevertheless, I've had had interviews here that included an IQ test. But again, same here, it does not matter what they do in England or Germany - because this is not England or Germany.

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The best I can do is make use of my previous skills in a new field, which already produces some results.
True, if you can find such a job this would be the best option.

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Regarding internships, it really depends on the country. In the UK, the USA, Switzerland, you have summer internships, which companies may use as a pre-recruitment.
Again, this is not the UK, US or any other country. I used to recruit hundreds of interns and graduates in a previous job (in Switzerland) and believe me, internships and even traineeships post-graduation here are not always what they're cracked up to be. They may serve as a path into permanent position sometimes - but in many cases they do not, for lack of structure and priority within the company, especially in MNCs, which unfortunately indeed often abuse interns as cheap labor as they can't get approval for permanent employees.

But btw - so does the US. Plenty of examples where interns are both unpaid plus nothing more than free labor for crappy tasks no one else wants to do (at least here they are being paid a relatively okay salary). The glorification of how the UK (and US) are supposedly doing things is irritating. Why would you want to work here at all then? Why does it HAVE to be Switzerland if you dislike the way they do things or at least dislike the way they handle their human resources at the very least during recruiting? If you prefer the way they do things in the US, UK, Germany, France or wherever else, why not try to find a job there? Shouldn't be too hard in the latter three, apparently, especially if your EU. What's keeping you here then?

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What I forgot to say is that I have the ass between 2 chairs. I am told that I have too much experience when I apply for an internship or an entry level position, and that I have not enough experience for a regular position. It applies to GDP.
I get interviews when I can use my experience for regular positions, but they are too little.
Yes that is a dilemma, but one similar to others you will encounter again and again and again, in Switzerland and likely elsewhere in the world. You're either too young or too old (aka expensive), have not the exact correct experience (they will ALWAYS find something you don't have or haven't done yet) or too much experience, blablablah. We all go through that.
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Old 07.10.2015, 11:30
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

Gontran, I think you have been given some excellent free quality advice. This is English Forum at its best. You are free to disagree but Switzerland is what it is. I guess you are French right?
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Old 07.10.2015, 11:55
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

@Samaire
You cannot be more right about internships, unfortunately. Some companies even admit it.
Moving to another country is something that needs to be thought ahead. The education I received here enables me to go to Germany, Scandinavia and to some extent the UK. France and the USA are closed (although there is a trick I can explain for the USA). It also requires some personal investment. But to answer your question, yes I am considering it.

@Belgo
I have been in several countries. I could get an idea of the pros and the cons in each. There is nothing perfect.
The issue I am talking about affects all nationalies, including the British.
Recently I was discussing with a South American industrial engineer, over 40 years old, who was multiplying internships here.
I have young Swiss friends who struggle to find their first job and who multiply internships as well.
A Swiss friend of mine is also a career switcher. Thanks to his language background, he could find something in a small company, but outside his field of studies, i.e. leading to a second switch.
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Old 07.10.2015, 12:30
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

The reason I was asking is because I receive CVs almost on a daily basis. I usually recognize the ones by French nationals immediately. They often approach companies in a way that Swiss companies do not like, i.e. a sense of entitlement or a style that can be perceived as arrogance or overconfidence, which does not work in Switzerland.
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Old 07.10.2015, 12:32
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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@Capo
I agree with you. Some time ago I was applying in England. Reasoning tests, interviews...The processes were engaged, it was more open. Even British companies based in Zürich were much more open.
The problem is, I have already lived in several countries and I am getting older now. Why not moving one more time, but I'd really like to settle somewhere, and I have already so much invested here.
On the other side, I feel like I am wasting my time in Switzerland. I have actually been in the USA and the UK. There I could make relations very quickly.
Do you prefer to be an old guy doing internships or clerk work in CH or having a proper job in the UK?

If you really want to stay in CH, then perhaps you will need to look at other areas and industries in which your new studies and skills will be valued.

Have you tried to approach the alumni from your university?

I believe that setting up your own consulting company is definitely a good choice. By being an entrepreneur you have the possibility to grow faster and higher than being an employee. BUT you need first to evaluate whether you will have a market for your services, the difficulties of being a foreigner, etc.
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Old 07.10.2015, 12:39
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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As a Swiss born and bred with 15+ years working in HR-related fields, I have to agree with this. The Swiss and probably others in Europe are not particularly open to career switchers even when all certifications, degrees and whatever else may be "important" can be presented.

I agree with the person that said a GDP is the best bet. That or any junior position you can get, even if it'd that mundane clerk job - it's a foot in the door and better than nothing. I'm not quite sure why you would prefer an internship over a clerk job... It's less money and certainly even less responsibility. Cause that is actually the flipside of it all, i.e. that many career switchers think they need to be paid more than a junior given they have work experience, even though that experience is irrelevant.

Otherwise this may not be the country for you and you'll be better off in the UK or the US where - I agree - there is more openness to nonlinear career paths
But Samarie13, if he accepts a clerk job, he won't be doing what he was trained to do and won't build a resume. What's the point? In this case I would rather earn less in an internship, but doing the actual work, putting my skills into practice, having experience to show on my resume, networking within the industry, etc.
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Old 07.10.2015, 12:41
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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The reason I was asking is because I receive CVs almost on a daily basis. I usually recognize the ones by French nationals immediately.
I have never received a CV in my life yet I could probably do the same thing by reading the nationality from the front page just after the name and date of birth
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Old 07.10.2015, 12:44
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Re: Working in Switzerland and Swiss culture

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Well if you ever got a small fund, if you were any good it would grow VERY fast. Of course if your another closet index tracker you wouldn't.
Sorry, but that's not a small amount to start with. Some hedge funds give a newcomer "some millions" to manage to start with in order to evaluate how he/she performs.
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