Besides the questions “How much did your house cost? How did you even afford a house at such a young age?” (to which I respond “Too much. I’m 30, I’m not that young”), one of the most-asked questions I get is “How did you find work in Italy.” And this is probably not the best way to start a blog post about the ways to find work in Italy, but you need to know that I might be the worst person to ask about jobs in general and the juicy topic of “finding a job in Italy.” But I thought it’d still be helpful to share my personal experience!
I’m going to be honest with you — I wouldn’t describe myself as ambitious. I know today’s society wants all of us to be job hungry and earning thousands per month, but that’s just not me. I want to get in, get out, get paid and pop open a bottle of red wine in the backyard at the end of the work day. I don’t care that I’m not a Founder and Owner of some invented company on LinkedIn. Also, let’s be real, I could literally change my title tomorrow to Founder and President of Almost Fiorentina LLC and be THAT GIRL. But I digress.
That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in hard work, I just DON’T CARE ABOUT MY JOB. IT DOESN’T DEFINE ME. I think that deserved caps. I’ve had a job since I was 14. I started my career at a tiny snack bar at a Montreal hockey arena — I know I know, very Canadian — and I can still smell the sweaty boy hands reaching for blue Gatorade. Then, like most, moved on to bigger and better things like pilates studios, grocery stores, restaurants, bars and for the past 2-3ish years, I’ve worked in International Education. That kind of happens to a lot of — not all, but many— expats when they move abroad. Teach English, work at some sort of international school, become a tour guide, work at a vineyard, etc. You get the picture.
When I decided to move to Italy, I didn’t have a great CV. Ok ok ok, my CV was terrible, but I’ve always believed in “the universe will GUIDE ME to where I need to be” which is a lazy way of not working on your CV and praying that someone will see your potential through the bright blue squares and Pacifica font on your sad resume.
While I was waiting for my citizenship to go through, I could work, but I needed a special kind of Italian work contract. So I dabbled with different jobs. I made Powerpoints for an English school, logos and flyers for a food tour company, I did a little bit of online booking work — nothing paid well, but I was living with someone who was letting me live rent free so I got through it. I wouldn’t have survived my first year here if I was paying for my own apartment. Let that be known.
Then, when I finally got my citizenship, I started to get moving on the job hunt, but not in the way you’d think. At first, I did the whole thing of checking LinkedIn and The Florentine and applying to jobs, but it wasn’t getting me anywhere. Maybe that’s because my resume was sad? YEAH MAYBE. But, let’s carry on anyway. My applications weren’t working, so I decided to start sending my CV to companies I wanted or thought I could work for. I knew I could easily work at a bar or a restaurant, but I also knew if I got into that world again, it would be impossible to get back out. If you’ve worked in the service industry, you know. The only difference with Italy is that tipping a thing here, so I wasn’t about to go back to the late nights and horrible customers and not be rewarded with epic tips at the end of the night. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but an average one-month salary in Italy is probably equivalent to working busy weekends part time at a semi-decent restaurant in Canada. I think — no I know— that I made more money working 4 nights/week as a shitty server who dropped sangria on elegant West Vancouver girls. But I just didn’t want to do that forever. But remember, phone plans cost like 8 euros/month here, health care is basically free, vegetables are cheap and in cities like mine, you don’t even need a car. You gotta decide if it’s worth the fight.
I know tour guides who make incredible money (put Covid to the side for a moment because it’s been so tough on so many) in the touristy months and expats who have their own companies. I’ve never wanted to open the famous “Partita IVA” to work for myself, but I know people who do and they’re doing fine. I also know of expats who’ve opened companies in their home countries and work from Italy without a Partita IVA because the company is based elsewhere, but I don’t want to get into the logistics of that or if it’s ethically correct to use the services of a country you live in and not pay the taxes. I’m just sharing what I know, don’t attack me!
But back to me. As I said, I started sending my CV to companies who weren’t necessarily actively recruiting. But they got back to me! Not right away. I think the first time I did it, they wrote to me two months later because they’d kept my CV aside after I refused a job they offered (because there was a 24/7 emergency phone involved that I had to carry around, and my anxiety said GIRL NO). And the same thing happened the second time I found work. I went in to interview for a completely different position and said no to the follow-up interview that they offered because I didn’t want to do the job. But then, they told me something else had opened up and it was a little more creative and depressed me a little bit less. So in both cases 1)I applied when the company wasn’t actively recruiting 2)I went in to interview for a completely different position 3)When the job I didn’t want was offered to me, I said no 4)Both companies called me with alternative positions a few months later 5)Everyone hated my CV and told me to my face.
Lessons I learned about finding a job in Italy
1)Job classifieds and LinkedIn might be where you find work, but it also might be where you never find a job so don’t get discouraged.
2)Send your CV to the places you’d like to work, not the places that are necessarily hiring.
3)If you don’t like the job, trust the universe (unless you can’t pay your electric bill, then just take the job and we can look for a job we actually like later on) and say no.
4)Companies here tend to keep your CV lying around (if you’re fluent in Italian or speak English or other languages, you’re definitely an asset in a lot of Italian cities where tourism is bumpin — not now DAMN YOU COVID, but usually) so don’t lose hope.
5)Know that you can always change your mind and leave. Nothing is permanent. HOWEVER, also know that if you change jobs during the year, you have to do your “730” (your income taxes) and you pay a fee for every job change. If I understood the accountant who did mine, you will get back the fee you paid the following year if you did everything correctly. And if you don’t do your 730, you will get a fine. So if you don’t know what I’m talking about, GET ON IT because nobody tells expats about stuff like this. Also, some jobs here offer a “tredicesima” and if you’re lucky —I am not— a “quattordicesima,” a thirteenth and fourteenth payment in July and December to help you pay for summer vacation and the holidays. If you’re looking for a job, asking about this would be important.
6)Some people will ask you interview questions that you might not be used to. Here a few memorable examples: Hi Lisa, do you have a boyfriend? Do you want kids? Do you live with your partner? How old are you? I lied every single time and came up with a variety of creative answers during my job search. Someone tell my imaginary boyfriend Federico that I miss him dearly.
And so I’ll end this thing with a quote from one of my favorite writers Cheryl Strayed:
“You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”
So there you have it. Am I doing work I am super passionate about? No. Can I pay my electric bill? Yes. That’s all that matters.
Good luck on your job search! Thank you for being here. I BELIEVE IN YOU. PS. THIS IS MY INSTAGRAM.