Work experience is often considered a means of opening doors into the job market. And it looks even better on your CV if you do your work experience abroad. If your training centre or regional authorities don’t offer you any mobility opportunities, why not take the initiative yourself?
You should know, however, that the notion of work experience differs from one country to the next. Let’s have a quick run through.
In France, work experience (called « stage« ) is considered as part of your training. It is a compulsory period undertaken by pupils and students in the frame of their school or university studies. To this effect, a tripartite internship agreement is signed by the trainee, the training Institute and the host organisation. Another way of gaining work experience is to sign a work contract for example for a limited period of time (contrat à durée déterminée or CDD). In Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Austria, Belgium and Denmark, the notion of work experience is well established. As in France, an internship agreement or contract must be signed and offers you social cover and sometimes a form of indemnity.
But this model cannot be transposed everywhere. In the United States and Canada the notion doesn’t really exist. Your first steps into the professional world don’t come under a specific status but are considered with as being within the legal framework of the labour laws.
In the UK, the terms used are internship, work placement and work experience and cover the same notion as in France, although the system is less widespread.
When the work experience is carried out at the student’s or young graduate’s own initiative, (outside a compulsory course component), the host country’s legislation and provisions apply (agreement or work contract).
- In your letter of application for a work placement, highlight the skills you’re offering the enterprise, your goals and how long you want the work placement to be. To be fully operational, and according to the nature of the work placement, it is preferable to speak the language of the country fluently.
- Look for your work placement as if you were looking for a job: consult websites with job offers, business directories, draft your CV , send off unsolicited applications, reply to offers and prepare yourself for interviews. The CV and cover letter must be written in the language of the country.
- Spread the word on your network: friends, teachers, social networks (viadeo, Linkedin, and why not Facebook).
- Find out about your country of destination, its economic situation, culture and lifestyle.
- Don’t give up too easily. You should write lots of application letters. It is estimated that one unsolicited application out of 150 receives a positive answer.
When you have found a work placement
- Get your internship agreement signed – it gives you a status even if the work placement is unpaid. It is very useful for obtaining insurance and a repatriation certificate.
- You may need to take out an additional insurance policy to cover any costs linked with accidents on the workplace of your host enterprise.
- Apply for your European health insurance card from your health insurance office. This means you will benefit from health treatment during your work placement.
- For the first few days, think about booking in at a youth hostel while you look for a place to rent or share.
- Your workplace or colleagues may give you tips and addresses when you get there.