(Warning, this is a wordy one, settle in for story about my journey to employment. But I promise good photos too.)
After 15 months as a full time HausFrau, countless resumes sent out, plentiful self-esteem-killing rejection letters, I finally have a job.
It’s amazing how good it feels, after months of self doubt, to have someone recognize that your skills are worth paying you to show up each day. I now have coworkers again, people who I enjoy working with each day (mostly) and they me, I like to think. I’m part of a team again.
Getting here was quite the journey. Consistent with all of our experiences in Switzerland, it has been a perplexing, often frustrating experience but through a little determination and perseverance, I found success.
I should clarify, this challenge has been unique to me. Manolo has not found the same challenge. He has had 4 jobs here and other offers. He sees a posting, asks me to help with a resume and cover letter (because I write a mean cover letter) and gets a call back within the week.
It’s his Swiss-ness. And his Hiematort. (Remember, the Hiematort is the measure of just how Swiss you are.) I have neither.
After sending out resume after resume and getting no response whatsoever, I asked for a little advice.
“Well it’s because you don’t have a Swiss resume.”
“Clearly. I’m not Swiss. Have never worked here.”
“No, it’s that you don’t have your photo on your resume.”
“Correct. Because that is wrong, on so many levels.”
“Without a photo, no one is even looking at it.”
So I gritted my teeth and added my photo. The thing is though, it didn’t just require a photo. I also needed to include my age and my MARITAL STATUS!! (Including how many children we have.)
For the love of Pete! How does that have ANYTHING to do with my ability to do the job?
It killed me to make that change. Went against everything my considerable years of HR experience have taught me.
But if you’re going to play the game, you have to follow the rules.
There are loads of international companies based in Zürich whose business language is English. So a strong knowledge of German isn’t always necessary. Helpful but not necessarily a deal breaker. That said, the number of jobs I’d have been perfectly suited for if I had only spoken a couple more languages was truly humbling. Living in Europe speaking only 1 language pretty much makes you a ludite.
I wrestled with the decision of what kind of job I wanted. (Ha, like it’s actually my decision!) Did I go for a big, career style job, join the masses who commute to Zürich each morning in business suits and Louboutin heels? Or would a little parttime gig, with no stress, be the better choice so that I could still make lunch each day for the kids? A job that might help me improve my German.
I applied for both. I was rejected by both.
Always in the back of my mind I thought “I can always just go back to Starbucks.” Trouble was, even Starbucks wouldn’t hire me. They hired Manolo! I was a Supervisor there in 1997 for the love!
But back in June my luck shifted. I finally got an invitation for an interview! And for a GOOD Swiss job. For one of the big medical companies based in Switzerland.
A 30 minute interview over the phone. It went well. They requested I come in for a second interview. A 3 hour interview with 6 different people. Sure, not stressful at all!
Timing wasn’t great. Remember that crazy time when I was hosting repeated open houses to try to sell our apartment all the while packing for 5 weeks in Canada? This was all happening right at the same time.
Oh, and Starbucks called too.
When it rains it pours I tell ya!
The second interview took place the day before we boarded a plane, on a day I was hosting my third open house. No pressure.
I felt good about the interview. It went really well.
Notwithstanding the fact that I was a total train wreck that day. I arrived late. LATE!!! IN SWITZERLAND. There was construction which made my Google directions useless. Once I did get there I parked in a “wrong” spot so the HR guy showed me a new spot to which I circled the block to access. Good to go. Although he did point out that when I leave I should go out a different route as I had just driven the wrong way down a 1-way street. Holy-mother-of-God could this be going any worse!? Indeed it could…did I mention that I melted the only good interview shirt I had while ironing it when getting ready? Train wreck – fully and completely.
I was invited for a third interview. Miraculously. I explained I would not be available to continue the interview until after the summer. They said that was just fine.
I learned more about the job as well. It would be exciting, helping to market cardio-vascular intervention devices. Conferences in Paris and Rome. A really big salary. But I’d also be away from home 11 hours a day.
It was exciting and totally terrifying all at the same time.
I gave it a lot of thought while we were home. I eventually reconciled in my mind that the big job was not what was best for our family. This time in Switzerland was perhaps the perfect time for me to experiment with a different sort of career, to see if writing might be something I could pursue. After all, you’d all buy my book right!?
I decided it was the easy Starbucks job that was the right fit for us. Trouble was, even Starbucks had still not offered me one.
When we arrived back in Winterthur and navigated our move and getting the kids settled into a scary new school again, I was so very thankful that I wasn’t working. That I could be outside their classroom when the bell rang, and walk them back again for the afternoon at 1:45. Rushing off to a new job would have been wrong.
I heard nothing back from the medical company. No response to my emails. Bugger. Even though I had decided I didn’t want that job, I still wanted to be offered the job, for it to be my decision.
Is that entirely surprising? I was a hot mess that day. No matter how well I thought the interview went would they really hire someone who showed up late, drove down a 1-way street the wrong way and wore a blouse with a scorch mark on it to the interview? (Yes, I still wore the top! It was the only one I had – we were poor, People!) I wouldn’t hire that.
So I called Starbucks again. And this time they bit.
They offered me the morning shift, the shift that was always my most favourite when I worked there 20 years ago. (Good Lord, how is that possible.)
And I said yes. And then I promptly heard from the medical company…I tell you, the drama here is unrelenting.
They apologized for the total lack of response to my emails. The HR guy in charge of this hire took a month off of work as well. (Evidently out of office notifications haven’t made it to Switzerland yet.) They were still interested in me but had not yet proceeded to the third round of interviews. (For real?)
So that’s where I sit now.
I took the job with Starbucks and I await an opportunity to interview again. (On time with a new blouse!) I returned to the mothership so to speak. Funny twist of fate really, Starbucks is where Manolo and I first connected. We had known each other for 3 years but it was a fateful day when he walked into the Kensington Starbucks that I knew I had a crush. And look where we are now, days away from our 15th wedding anniversary and I still work for Starbucks.
Wait, what? Somehow that doesn’t sound as monumental as our life together has been.
Much has changed at the old Moby Dick inspired coffee shop in 20 years. No longer is coffee the most popular drink ordered. The amount of sugar-drinks has quadrupled since I was there in 97. And what was once a large is now just a medium. But I still love the coffee and I still love the people. It’s a good thing.
Less good is the fact that I start work at 5:00am. There is no bus running that early so I make the 8 minute commute on my bike at 4:45, in the dark. Most mornings that’s just fine but the days when it’s raining are a special kind of hell.
And it’s totally not weird at all that my employment contract required me to state my religion and my wedding date. I also needed to provide a copy of my marriage certificate, a copy of Manolo’s passport and the children’s birth certificates. Totally normal.
But I’m done by 11:00 and home to greet the kids for lunch and to spend our afternoons together when they have no school (two days a week). For that it is perfect.
And really, what better time to be working for Starbucks than Pumpkin Spice Latte season!
So I now have a new freedom to enjoy my days off. Sleeping in has never been so sweet!
This weekend we took in the annual pumpkin festival. I even ran into a co-worker on our way there!