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Old 29.09.2016, 09:36
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What am I doing wrong?

Hi All,

I'm a new member to this forum and would very much appreciate if I could have some advice from you.

I moved to Switzerland (the eastern part) a few years ago when I married my Swiss husband. Prior to that I earned an MBA and another research Master degree from one of Australia's top universities. For numerous years I worked for NGOs around the world, as well as in teaching and retail during my studies.

Upon arriving in Switzerland, I was very lucky to immediately find temporary employment at Switzerland's largest bank. Unfortunately, the project ended, and while I tried to find another position within the bank during this period (I had 5 interviews for other positions) I was unsuccessful.

Since then, I have applied for countless jobs and had 17 job interviews at several companies here with no success. I have tried all the banks, the top 4 consulting firms, universities and industry. I have gone so far as to have had 'probe-tags' at a few of them, however to no avail.

I should also mention that I have a Slavic first name (parents were migrants to Australia), but I have taken on my husband's very typical Swiss surname (upon the advice of expat colleagues at the bank). Also, I have learned German since coming here and I am now at C1 level.

I just don't know what I'm doing wrong? I went to a career counsellor, who seemed very surprised that it is so difficult for me to find work here and that perhaps I should omit the MBA from my CV. What are your thoughts?

Any advice would be appreciated. I have come to the point where I am considering giving it all up and starting a family to be a stay-at-home mum.
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:01
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Don't give up. (unless you really want kids, then ok, give up)

I have been to as many interviews, have multiple degrees, tons of experience, and am still looking after 5 months of unemployment.

How long have you been looking? "They" say 9 to 12 months, on average, to get a new position is fairly common.

Remember, employers in Switzerland can be picky - they can pick from any country in Europe and have no problem drawing overseas applicants to Switzerland, with its high standard of living.

Have registered at the RAV (regionales arbeitsvermittlungszentrum)? They may be able to help you, in your case, by setting you up with an interviewing skills workshop. I thought I interviewed really well, but the proof was starting to be in the pudding, and I found the course very helpful. Especially as I was used to interviewing in a North American context where the interview more resembled an informal chat more than anything else.

Check if the RAV can help, it doesn't hurt, and make sure your Linked-In profile is up to date. Also, take advantage of the one-month linked-in premium account and start "cold-emailing" some people in your field. I emailed three people this was and got three interested replies.

Good luck.
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:06
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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For numerous years I worked for NGOs around the world, as well as in teaching and retail during my studies.
This bit has me wondering on two grounds. "Numerous years" makes me ask about your age - are you the wrong side of 40 or even 50? Sadly once you're an old git (as I am), employment doors shut rather firmly.

Second is the NGO thing. Depends exactly what you were doing but the tendancy is for the private sector to look unfavourably on people with any form of public sector background - often with reason as many find it difficult to change the public sector mentality. Not saying at all that this applies in your case but an NGO background can be a turn-off.
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:15
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This bit has me wondering on two grounds. "Numerous years" makes me ask about your age - are you the wrong side of 40 or even 50? Sadly once you're an old git (as I am), employment doors shut rather firmly.

Second is the NGO thing. Depends exactly what you were doing but the tendancy is for the private sector to look unfavourably on people with any form of public sector background - often with reason as many find it difficult to change the public sector mentality. Not saying at all that this applies in your case but an NGO background can be a turn-off.
Hi, and thanks for the reply! I'm in my early 30s I started working at a very young age, mainly in financial consulting firms (top 4) dealing with economic development in post-conflict countries.

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Don't give up. (unless you really want kids, then ok, give up)

I have been to as many interviews, have multiple degrees, tons of experience, and am still looking after 5 months of unemployment.

How long have you been looking? "They" say 9 to 12 months, on average, to get a new position is fairly common.

Remember, employers in Switzerland can be picky - they can pick from any country in Europe and have no problem drawing overseas applicants to Switzerland, with its high standard of living.

Have registered at the RAV (regionales arbeitsvermittlungszentrum)? They may be able to help you, in your case, by setting you up with an interviewing skills workshop. I thought I interviewed really well, but the proof was starting to be in the pudding, and I found the course very helpful. Especially as I was used to interviewing in a North American context where the interview more resembled an informal chat more than anything else.

Check if the RAV can help, it doesn't hurt, and make sure your Linked-In profile is up to date. Also, take advantage of the one-month linked-in premium account and start "cold-emailing" some people in your field. I emailed three people this was and got three interested replies.

Good luck.
Hello and thanks very much for your advice! It was very helpful.

I definitely want to avoid not having a job when I have a baby, but considering I have been asked in every job interview whether or not I want to have kids, and my career counsellor told me that babies are a "career killer" here, maybe I have no choice

Last edited by 3Wishes; 29.09.2016 at 17:40. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:24
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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I'm in my early 30s
Sounds like it's about time for you to have some kids then.
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:26
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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perhaps I should omit the MBA from my CV. What are your thoughts?



I'd widen your search instead. Maybe it does not need to be the top two banks or the big four? Competition is fierce and most of them are currently reducing workforce instead of building it up... so why not look for the hundreds of smaller banks?
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:31
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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I'd widen your search instead. Maybe it does not need to be the top two banks or the big four? Competition is fierce and most of them are currently reducing workforce instead of building it up... so why not look for the hundreds of smaller banks?
Hi and thanks for your advice! Yes, I have tried the smaller banks too. Will keep trying
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:35
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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I definitely want to avoid not having a job when I have a baby, but considering I have been asked in every job interview whether or not I want to have kids, and my career counsellor told me that babies are a "career killer" here, maybe I have no choice
You know that the law says you are perfectly at liberty to lie through your teeth and tell them you have no plans for kids?

It's a bit shit but I think this might be one of the things acting as a red flag on your applications. You are exactly the right age.

I was also looking for jobs in my late 20s and early 30s here and was repeatedly asked about kids (although it's apparently illegal to ask).

I'm sure the right role will eventually come along and, to be honest, you might have had lucky escapes from firms that see women having kids as a deal breaker.
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Old 29.09.2016, 10:38
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

If you're getting interviews then your CV is fine. If you're getting invited back after first interview, then your interview technique is fine - you're just unlucky, and maybe go for less prestigious employers.

If you're not getting invited back for second interviews then I think you should seek some advice on (Swiss) interview technique.
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Old 29.09.2016, 11:32
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Don't lower your aim. Grow your network somehow. There is a group for women called Powerhouse, it's in Zurich, and I am sure others can add to this list. Also consider swiss Australian chamber of commerce. And of course hobbies are a great way to meet people and who knows, some of them might be good to add to a professional network.

I wish you well!
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Old 29.09.2016, 11:36
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Since you're being invited for interviews, neither your name ( ), nor your age, nor your background incl education can be the reason.

Sorry, but it must be something in the way you present/sell/position yourself in the interview, or you're possibly just really out of luck and very narrowly miss out to other candidates. If it were anything in your CV, you wouldn't be invited in the first place. And yes, your age can easily be found out by your CV even if it's not explicitly mentioned and as far as the question on kids is concerned, it's an illegal question to ask, but perfectly legal for the candidate to lie about it.

Might be time to get some real feedback from one of your interview partners. Granted, they may not really tell you anything other than the standard blabla. But it can't hurt to try.

Without knowing whether that is the case or not: I also recommend to not continue applying to the same companies over and over and over again. At some point, that will backfire. If the jobs you're applying for are extremely similar, well then maybe, but if you start to apply to whatever comes your way, it may seem very random and that will not land you any more interviews, let alone a job.
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Old 29.09.2016, 11:41
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

do you have social media accounts? are they linked to the email address you use to contact these companies? are they locked down so only friends can see what you have posted? having interviewed quite a few people in the past its the first thing we checked, and tripped quite a few candidates up! If you have a unique name its simplicity itself to find you on these sites too.

always have a totally separate email account that you use only for professional business purposes, like applying for jobs.

worst case, just lie in the next interview and say you can't have kids.
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Old 29.09.2016, 11:44
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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Sounds like it's about time for you to have some kids then.
That's a bit sexist, isn't it?

(You must like J. M. LePen. He tried to get a law passed to pay women to stay at home.)

In this enlightened age, women can have kids and a career, thank you very much.
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Old 29.09.2016, 11:58
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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(You must like J. M. LePen. He tried to get a law passed to pay women to stay at home.)
that is sexist!

i wish they paid me to stay at home!
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Old 29.09.2016, 11:58
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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That's a bit sexist, isn't it?

(You must like J. M. LePen. He tried to get a law passed to pay women to stay at home.)

In this enlightened age, women can have kids and a career, thank you very much.
I misread the double negative below. I thought she said she wanted to avoid having a job when having kids.

Many women believe that 35 is the new 25 and their bodies don't get the message. So when it comes to having kids later on, they're often shocked when their thinking flies in the face of science. This is mainly the result of career pressure.

Women can have a career and children, however the playing field is only level with men when there are no kids involved. That's not being sexist, it's merely a fact.

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I definitely want to avoid not having a job when I have a baby
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Old 29.09.2016, 12:09
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

17 interviews and no job. I would assume (I know when you assume, right), that you're doing something during the interview process which tends to put off the HR Gods and Goddesses. I'm guessing, that it is something which is culturally acceptable in Australia but is generally viewed as a big "No-No" in other countries or Switzerland for that matter. I have a proven track record in job interviews and so far, throughout my ephemeral career, I can go to any interview and be 85% certain that I'll get the job. For me, the issue is merely getting to an interview, as my CV is quite "unique" (let's put it that way). Have you got somebody to do mock interviews with or did you partake in a course, where they do mock interviews?
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Old 29.09.2016, 12:13
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Can you at least say you have childcare provision, ie family, to fall back on & intend to continue your career should you commit the sin of conceiving?
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Old 29.09.2016, 12:20
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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I misread the double negative below. I thought she said she wanted to avoid having a job when having kids.

Many women believe that 35 is the new 25 and their bodies don't get the message. So when it comes to having kids later on, they're often shocked when their thinking flies in the face of science. This is mainly the result of career pressure.

Women can have a career and children, however the playing field is only level with men when there are no kids involved. That's not being sexist, it's merely a fact.

Indeed, and considering babies here seem to be a 'career killer', I'd rather have my career firmly in place before having them.
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Old 29.09.2016, 12:27
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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I definitely want to avoid not having a job when I have a baby, but considering I have been asked in every job interview whether or not I want to have kids, and my career counsellor told me that babies are a "career killer" here, maybe I have no choice
Absolute non-sense.

If you want to be a stay-at-home mother, yeah, sure it's a career killer, in the sense that you stop having a paid job.

Does Switzerland lag behind in support to working mothers - from kinderkrippe place availability to nonsense school times? Sure. But having a child will not kill your career any more than in other slightly still in the 50's countries.

But if you have a child while employed, normal companies will take you back after your 14 weeks maternity leave without trouble.

By law, your interviewers should not be asking about children. By law you absolutely do not need to answer, and you can lie - "not in the near future" is a good answer. Interpretation as to wether that "near" is the next 5 seconds of the next 5 decades is up to free interpretation.

One of your main problems is being a married woman in your early 30's without children. This is prime time to pop kids (in ridiculous generalizations), which makes you less appetizing for hiring companies. You have to keep looking and not give up.

There is still the lingering notion in Switzerland that a family is composed of (woman+man)+children, and that either the woman does not work, or stops working once children are born. The family nucleus has been changing, however (someone posted a fantastic census info-graphic sometime ago, need to find it) but the lingering idea is taking longer to adapt to reality. That's why women in their early 30's find it hard to find jobs. Also the ones after 50 (to be honest, more like 45), because then they are "too old" - but that's the age women who stayed home with their children at 30 want to come back... talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place...

But generally speaking, having a kid is not a career killer... This idea only puts even more pressure on women, and we have it enough already...

The trick? Don't give up. Keep busy. Try to "downgrade" your CV to look for an entry job and look for better once employed. Don't despair.
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Old 29.09.2016, 12:31
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

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17 interviews and no job. I would assume (I know when you assume, right), that you're doing something during the interview process which tends to put off the HR Gods and Goddesses. I'm guessing, that it is something which is culturally acceptable in Australia but is generally viewed as a big "No-No" in other countries or Switzerland for that matter. I have a proven track record in job interviews and so far, throughout my ephemeral career, I can go to any interview and be 85% certain that I'll get the job. For me, the issue is merely getting to an interview, as my CV is quite "unique" (let's put it that way). Have you got somebody to do mock interviews with or did you partake in a course, where they do mock interviews?


Hi and thanks for your input! My first interview here was for the bank position which I was offered. Considering I made it through to the 3rd, 4th and also 'probe tag' rounds for some positions, I am fairly confident in my interview skills. However, I agree with you that job interviews in Switzerland are much more formal than in Australia, and I always prepared for that.


I agree with some of the commenters here that my age could be an issue but also I've had a few strange reactions from some interviewers when they found out my parents' Slavic heritage. I had one interviewer at a reputable business school in Eastern Switzerland ask me whether I think like an Australian or like a Slav...


In some interviews, I have also felt like it was a 'quota' interview, and I was just there to fill a number in their hiring protocol list.
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