A search with the keyword “French” on Careerbuilder.com for the entire United States returns 468 jobs (Monster.com returned only 327, Linkedin.com, 148… these are the same jobs, by the way, only a smaller sample of them). That’s 136 jobs as customer representative, 112 in Management, 92 in Sales, 70 in Accounting and 63 in Finance.
Just in case you are already dreaming about those whopping 63 jobs in Finance, just take a closer look and note that most positions are entry level financial sales professionals paid under 60K a year. Oh, wait, these are not particularly for native French speakers either, since it says everywhere: “Working knowledge of a second language (preferably Spanish, French, German or Italian) desirable”. Ah, yes, that’s not exactly the same as a job opportunity that would make your Frenchness a strong selling point or even – let’s dream a little – the single most important condition for getting the job.
Let’s see “Management” jobs, which sounds alluring as well (112 of those! Yeehaaa!) Hmmmm, yes, you have “Benefits manager”… well, in that one already, you are not managing people, you are managing things… and you are the guy in charge of telling people that their things got shrunk again. Ok, it is still a job. Oh, wait, requirements say nothing about the fact that being French will help you get it… how did this one show up in the results? I see: the location is a community called “French Lake”. That’s why… the search engine just picked that up. Scratch this one. So the “Finance” thing is no good. You want to be paid like a manager? What are the 112 opportunities? Project Administrator-French speaking. That sounds better already. Let’s see: Job description. Classification: Secretary/Admin Assistant. Huh?! Compensation: $14.00 to $17.00 per hour. Yeah… Oh, oh, here is one title that can’t possibly be misleading: “Vice-President of Sales”. Ok, this one is for a shop in the… French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana. They don’t need you to be French.
There’s a number of false positives you might encounter. It will be the location, the name of the company, or even one of the company’s basic attributes (French restaurant for instance). There are the false positives coming from a boiler-plate, non-essential and mostly irrelevant requirement. It will state: “a second language – Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, German… throw in French, why not? – always a plus but not required”. In the end, most search results will have nothing to do with the fact that you are French. Most employers who actually mean it when they write “French is a plus” will be 10 times more likely to recruit an American that can spit out 3 words of French than any French national actually bilingual in French and English. When a command of the French language is an absolute requirement, it’s mostly for receptionist, customer service representative, or French language instructor gigs, paid by the hour.
So, as of today, we have less than 500 jobs for a country with a population of 309 million.
What is this telling us? No jobs for the French? Absolutely not. There are plenty of desirable jobs for the French out there. It’s just that you won’t find them in the newspapers, on the internet or through any placement agency. Sorry, you can’t just fire up your résumé to a machine and expect a successful career. Nobody is Waiting for you out there. Everything will be about your talent, your understanding of the culture, your ability to cultivate relationships and your networking know-how. You will have to create your opportunity and adopt the right mindset.
Excerpt from chapter 8 – Work (Don’t Panic!) in Make it Big in the USA Just Because You Are French, Jean-Pierre Ledauphin, 2012. Translation by Wallace B. Thompson