Job Search: How to Bridge the Cultural Differences

As soon as I moved to the US, my husband`s company offered a series of meetings with a career coach, during which I discovered some unexpected differences not only in the job market but also in the job search.

I stepped into the first difficulty as soon as my career coach asked for my resume: “Sorry, my what?” “Your R-E-S-U-M-E, that piece of paper where you write what you have been doing so far?” “Oh, yes, you mean my CV?” Things were going to be harder than I thought!

So, I wrote my resume and gave it to her. While reading my 5+-page CV, her expression changed: “Ok – she said – lots of work, here!”

In brief, this is what I learned:

1. US Resume vs EU CV. A European CV is something more similar to a biography. Candidates are supposed to list almost every activity they`ve been doing during their career. In some cases, candidates may even be requested to indicate their non-professional interests. A well-written US resume is exactly the opposite: the applicant is supposed to include only what is really relevant to the job and to skip the rest. Recruiters will only spend 1.5 minutes of their time reading it, so it is extremely important to be brief, interesting and convincing. The ideal US resume would include:

  1. Your professional definition, in one sentence
  2. Your brief professional profile: Elevator Speech: imagine you are meeting a CEO in an elevator and you only have one minute to introduce yourself and be hired!
  3. Skills: list of all relevant skills
  4. Experience: list of the most recent and relevant jobs
  5. Education
  6. Also, in order to prevent illegal discriminations, avoid including personal data like gender, place, and date of birth, family, and relations, etc.

2. I want this job vs I deserve this job: It is not uncommon to see American movies where very young men are hired for executive positions, or where very rampant workers use the most incredible tricks to be noticed by managers or CEOs. Well, apart from fiction, the truth is that in most cases, those who can prove to really want the job, actually get it! This is when the incredible list of volunteering, presentations, internships, follow-ups, thank you notes, phone calls…and so on begins!  On the contrary, in Europe, a greater importance is given to seniority, experience, and educational background.  A significant number of positions, particularly within the government or the EU, are filled through open calls and public selections. Insistent behavior could elicit a very negative impression.

Networking is key to job search success, networking meetings in a coffee shop/restaurant

Networking is key to success.

3. Networking:  Here comes the real difference between networking and nepotism. While it is globally accepted that connections are one of the best ways to boost your job search, the USA has made networking an organized, widespread and even vital activity. Everybody networks: from alumni from different educational institutions, to national, religious, political, and sport associations. Knowing people and being known is considered the basis of every job search. People network to be updated in the business area, to become aware of new opportunities, to learn new information and to give/receive suggestions. In European countries, on the opposite, professional networking is limited to very strict clubs, associations or lobbies: people tend to get closer to a small number of professionals in the same business field. They are usually ready to commit to each other in a wider and deeper way, but this kind of personal commitment often evolves into nepotism: it is not uncommon to find people coming from the same family following the same career.

Macbook on a desk displays google search

The key to job search success, stop searching, start networking!

As a result, my coach`s suggestion was: stop the job search, and start looking for people! Apparently up to 80% of the jobs available are filled this way! 

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