Culture Magazine

Anomalies of French Life: the Narrow-minded Employer

By Sedulia @Sedulia


Looking for a job is not much fun in France these days. Along with the economic problems, the French unemployed face the extreme narrow-mindedness of the French employer. Basically, in France, if there's a job, there's a degree for that. And if you don't have that exact qualification, you will never get hired for that job no matter how well you could do it. Choosing bright employees and then training them? Très peu pour moi!

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I was sitting with friends in a cafe the other day and a phone rang. "I'm not answering that," said the woman whose phone it was. "I'm on vacation!" But she picked it up and looked at it, then put it down without answering, looking upset. "They've called me every day," she said.
"You should leave," someone else said. "Get them to fire you! Won't you get two years of chômage [unemployment benefits-- all of us expats talk franglais]?"
"I'm too old," she said. "I'd never get another job." (She's not that old. But in France, this is true. You're only basically hirable between about 28 and 45 or so.) "And if I get another job here, all I'll ever get is exactly what I'm doing now. Once a [her exact job], always a [her exact job]."
Another woman chimed in with the tale of someone she knew here who had had a job selling clothes and then applied for a job in a bakery. The bakery said they couldn't hire her because she only knew how to sell clothing.
An Englishwoman among us said, "I studied history at university and then worked for [several banks in the U.K.]. When I looked for a banking job here in France, no one would hire me even with all my experience, because I didn't study commerce at uni. They even said I must be lying. Obviously a history major would never be hired by a bank."


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