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Old 12.01.2020, 09:28
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Focused Degree For Customer Service?

Hi, I'm new here. Sorry if this gets long. It's half past 2 in the morning here in Florida and I can't sleep so I get long-winded.

We are currently planning our move to Bern. My husband is Swiss and lives in Bern and my children and I will be joining him in the next year or two. This should, if we understand the process correctly, give me the ability to work in Switzerland for any company that would like to hire me and they wouldn't need to sponsor my visa.

I generally work seasonal positions year-round, as odd as that sounds. I'm a retail manager in autumn and winter. I work in a kitchen at a K-8 school in Spring. I take summers off to be with my children and travel.

I have no degree, but am 1 class away from my Associates in Arts degree for transfer to a Bachelors program. Here's the problem. Moving to Switzerland, I have no idea at all which program to pick. I struggle so much with my German that I can't fathom ever being fluent enough to work retail. I am not a huge fan of the kitchen work. My husband believes I'll be able to find employment as a customer service representative speaking English for international companies who have offices in Switzerland. While actually looking for employers with listings for such things, I've found very few that don't require at least one national language. I'm working on it, but it's not coming to me easily. lol.

So.... to increase my chances of finding employment as a native English-speaker with terrible German and zero French/Italian, I want to focus my degree on whatever will give me the upper hand in my job search. While I would absolutely LOVE to just study Anthropology, I know that isn't realistic. Business Administration is likely the best option, I believe, but a Communications degree may be equally as useful? Is there something better that I'm not thinking of that could help me find a basic, entry-level type job in a customer service field?
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Old 12.01.2020, 09:52
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

I would say any client-facing position here would need you to be fluent not just in German but perhaps another Swiss language.

With no degree and no language you will be low down in a market with fierce competition from local people with mother-tongue German, already fluent in English.

With just English you might fare slightly better looking for back-office jobs in International companies. They probably won’t offer jobs with the school holidays off, though. If you find one - I’ll join you...

If I were you I’d put your full effort into learning the language and trying to acquire some additional skills.

You say you held some positions in schools? Maybe try international schools here, too. You might have more luck finding just seasonal work there.
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Old 12.01.2020, 11:02
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

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If I were you I’d put your full effort into learning the language and trying to acquire some additional skills.
This is excellent advice.

Customer service means that you have to meet the customer's needs - the most fundamental of which is speaking the customers' language(s).

Many customer facing positions will likely require not only the local language but also at least another national language. English skills are a dime a dozen here, not a significant advantage unless combined with another hard-to-find skill. In this multi-lingual country the customer service rep who speaks English - your competition- will likely speak three (or more) languages.

To be honest - it's largely highly skilled degreed employees or those in executive positions who can get away with English only. An example: At OH's international company where English is the official language the IT folks might only speak English - but the office assistants must be tri-lingual at a minimum because they have to cover for their tech bosses' lack of language skills.

An international move means that couples have to be realistic. Will the family be able to get by with only your husband's income?

Think of the long term - you would be far better off taking intensive German classes when you arrive. Plan for at least a year, likely 2+, to get up to speed. Dive into local culture, get involved in your community, whenever you are not in the classroom. Then once you have reached work-level functionality, look at what skills you need to acquire to set you on your way to a fulfilling work life.

There are jobs where you could get away without (much) local language - childcare, household help, etc. These are in high demand. Many people without language or professional skills do these when they first arrive (pay isn't bad, ca 20-35 per hour, depending on your skills) simply to bring in needed income. If you worked as self-employed you might be able to keep a schedule similar to what you had at home. A downside, however, is that you would likely be hired by an English-only family, and as these jobs are solitary you would not get the exposure to German that you need to help you learn. You could find yourself stuck.

With eyes on the long term - take a year or more off and put your energy into bettering your language skills.

Wishing you all the best.


ETA: You have one huge language learning advantage - a partner who is a native speaker. If you haven't done so already, ask your husband to speak to you only in German. It can be frustrating at first, but this is one of the fastest ways to develop proficiency.

Last edited by meloncollie; 12.01.2020 at 12:08.
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Old 12.01.2020, 11:28
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

Have to agree with the previous posts. Customer service won't just be dealing with people who speak English, no matter how international a company may be. You may well be expected to answer in German, French and possibly even Italian as well as English, depending on who the company deals with.

There's a sticky thread here on the forum which might point you towards some companies as far as employment goes.

https://www.englishforum.ch/employme...itzerland.html

The following websites will also give you an idea of what might be expected in your field.

www.jobs.ch
www.jobup.ch
www.monster.ch

On a different topic I see you have 6 kids. What are their ages and how are their language skills? This is something else you need to consider since private/international schools here are very expensive.

Also have a look at your continuing US tax filing obligations if you don't know about these already.

https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-publication-54
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Old 12.01.2020, 13:24
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

I would second, third and fourth the excellent advice that has been given by these very senior and seasoned EF members.

I had a quick look at your profile. SIX kids !!

There is no way that you will be doing anything professionally for the first two years as you get your kids up and running in a VERY different environment (language, schooling and culture) than they are used to in Florida. If your husband is suggesting anything else, or letting you believe anything else, he is smoking the wrong stuff.

As a suggestion for a flexible "career" that does not depend on a high level of German/Swiss German, I would suggest you, as a native English speaker, get a CELTA qualification from Cambridge University that will let you teach English as a second language. There is certainly a market for this.

Here is a link to get you started: https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/tea...cations/celta/

Good luck with your move.
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Old 12.01.2020, 14:40
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

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My husband believes I'll be able to find employment as a customer service representative speaking English for international companies who have offices in Switzerland. While actually looking for employers with listings for such things, I've found very few that don't require at least one national language. I'm working on it, but it's not coming to me easily. lol.
International support desks that require English only is done out of Asia or Eastern Europe, it is too expensive to do out of Switzerland and local support jobs will require at least one and more likely two of the national languages. Which is why you’re struggling to find positions.

Now I know this is going to get some people’s backs up, but a Bachelors degree from some random college in the US is not going to impress many employers in Switzerland unless it is from an Ivy League college or comes with a Masters.

My advice would be to finish up your Associate degree and then concentrate on learning the language, it is the only realistic way to broaden your employment options.
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Old 12.01.2020, 18:52
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

Thank you for all of the input. We definitely can afford to live without my income, but I just do better, mentally, when I'm working. lol. I suppose I should rethink it though and plan to not work for a year. My mom will be following us to Switzerland 6 months or so after we are there and she's retired so will also be pretty hands-on with getting the kids settled (she's lived with me since my dad died 11 years ago so she's very well-versed in their needs as well). I've taken German 1 and 2 at the community college here in Florida and can't find any local classes past those. Perhaps I can find some online courses somewhere at a more advanced level.
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Old 12.01.2020, 19:01
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

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On a different topic I see you have 6 kids. What are their ages and how are their language skills? This is something else you need to consider since private/international schools here are very expensive.
16, 14, 13, 11, 10, and 9. They all have a lot of German vocabulary but nearly zero grammar. They have a tiny bit of Swiss German. They definitely won't be attending any private or international schools. Our goal is integration as we are moving permanently.
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Old 12.01.2020, 19:37
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

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16, 14, 13, 11, 10, and 9. They all have a lot of German vocabulary but nearly zero grammar. They have a tiny bit of Swiss German. They definitely won't be attending any private or international schools. Our goal is integration as we are moving permanently.

Have you researched how the differences in the Swiss education system will impact your 16, 14 and possibly 13 year olds?
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Old 12.01.2020, 19:57
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

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16, 14, 13, 11, 10, and 9. They all have a lot of German vocabulary but nearly zero grammar. They have a tiny bit of Swiss German. They definitely won't be attending any private or international schools. Our goal is integration as we are moving permanently.
I expect the 16, 14 and 13 may struggle and could well need to repeat a year at school. 11, 10 and 9 may stuggle as well, but could pick up the language a bit easier. Schools here are pretty good at providing extra language tuition.

You or your husband also need to check on whether it would be possible to bring your mother to Switzerland. For non-EU nationals it isn't; only spouses and children under 18 can come as part of family reunification, but I don't know if your husband being Swiss might change that.

https://www.ch.ch/en/family-reunification

If that isn't possible then she's unlikely to be able to come here permanently unless she's wealthy enough to get a permit of her own.
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Old 12.01.2020, 19:57
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

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Have you researched how the differences in the Swiss education system will impact your 16, 14 and possibly 13 year olds?
And moving with mom might not be possible, either.

OP - not to discourage you, since your question was different, but it will not be easy for the kids due to the streaming process here.

As per your question, you might find a job at your community in a local school for the lunch service. I would otherwise suggest you to study German intensively (every day) and what ever your heart needs at online uni. Anthropology is great.
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Old 12.01.2020, 20:03
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Re: Focused Degree For Customer Service?

Any reason you're delaying moving for the next 2 years? The longer you leave it the harder it will be for even the younger kids to do well at school here.
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