Saturday, July 17, 2010

Working in France…. Chapter 2: The Search

So, I had been working hard on my French skills since September and I was ready to take the plunge.  I had heard, over and over, from my ASEP teachers that I wasn’t ready yet – my French was just too weak.  I decided that I would give it a try, and, if I failed, I could always try again later.   They seemed a bit mystified by this attitude.   André thinks they try to discourage me since, if I achieve my goals, they will be out of a job.  (I am one of the only two people in the class, and they are telling the other guy to go for his PhD).

The day I met with the prefecture, the wait to apply was over.  I started dropping off resumes the same afternoon. I figured that with the French I had now, I would be competent enough to teach English, at the very least – so I would start there. The next day I researched to find other local places teaching English and sent out more resumes.   I heard back from three establishments within a day or two.  They wanted to interview me as soon as possible.

To say I was scared would be a major understatement.  The last paying job I had before children began the summer of my junior year in college.  So that meant I hadn’t interviewed in any capacity at all for about 13 years.  Plus, I’m in France, and they’ll want me to speak in French….when I am nervous. This is not good.

I had my first interview only a few days after I sent them my resume.  I practiced answering in French and was terribly nervous that I would make a fool of myself.  I got to the interview, and, to my great relief, he wanted me to speak in English!  So, that worked out well.  The first establishment had been experiencing some staff turnover recently and was actually hoping to train me and hire me as a staff teacher starting in the fall, with an eye towards me becoming full time when my children got older.  When I explained that I would probably not be living permanently in France, he was very disappointed.  It turned out the thing he was most attracted to in my resume was my ‘obvious maturity’.   I just about fell out of my chair laughing when he told me that.    Mature??? Me????  “Well,” he went on, “You are married, you have children, you are settled in your life.  Usually I only get applicants from young students.  I have read your blog and it’s obvious you can write and you can think.  This is the kind of person I need.”    Very flattering, I would say, but not a source of immediate income.

The next week I flew home to visit Mom, postponing my other interviews. 

I went to my ‘goals’ class and told the teachers I had already scored 3 interviews and had another upcoming.  I also told them no one had asked for my diploma (which they insisted I would need) and lack of French wasn’t a problem.  In fact, I was a bit angry that they had been holding me back for so long when, obviously, the world was my oyster!  Their response was lukewarm congratulations and a disparaging statements about the places that wanted to possibly hire me.  “They do not teach language, they just want to steal your money.’’  My response?  “I don’t really care. If they pay me, I will work there.”

I headed off to my next interview and, once again, it was all in English.  I told them I was interested in starting very soon and would only be available part time.  There was no problem with that.  In general, we had a lovely conversation and I was told I would hear from them soon.

The next day was my last interview.  At this point, I was becoming rather blasé about the whole interview thing and strolled in filled with confidence.  Of course, I should never have let myself get so relaxed since it turned out that this interview was conducted entirely in French!  I rose to the challenge and did fine (I know since I asked).  They said they were probably interested in using me for future projects and would get back to me.

Well, by the next day, I had an offer to work!  I told my new potential employer the situation at the Prefecture and they quickly had the contract drawn up.  I signed it and was ready to begin.

Now all I have to do is go back to the Prefecture and switch my carte….

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