Master’s student at the Taylor Institute in Lugano, Switzerland, junior analyst at The North Face, and gorgeous RSJ Contributor Jeannie Vaughan shares her experience as a working expat. From securing an opportunity to making the most of it, Jeannie answers the most common questions we receive about landing international experience on your resume.
If your professional mantra is reminiscent of Miguel’s club smash hit “Pay Me,” (yes, the chorus actually goes “gimme £ gimme £ gimme € gimme ¥…I’m international, pay me”) then triple-threat Jeannie Vaughan is your ultimate guru. As a junior business analyst for The North Face–and you can thank her for your warm winter coat later–Jeannie builds financial reports, performs analysis, and gains exposure to all aspects of corporate management. How did she land this stellar opportunity in the paradise of Lugano, Switzerland no less? We sat down with this California beauty in between river cruises and African adventures to get the low down.
RSJ: How did you begin the search for an employment opportunity abroad?
Jeannie Vaughan (JV): Long story short, my future graduate program (also in Switzerland) suggested I intern prior to getting my master’s degree. Basically, I told them my interests (fashion, fitness etc) and they helped me to get an interview with the company I am currently working for. In other words, networking is key! If you take advantage of your connections, you are sure to find something.
RSJ: What did you think were the attributes international employers most wanted to see in your application?
JV: The funny thing is that I submitted a traditional resume instead of a standard CV. I’m not sure if I would suggest doing that if you’re also looking for a job in finance, as it isn’t the most professional thing. It ended up working out in my case, as my current bosses were vastly intrigued by ‘sorority life’ and debutante balls…
Additionally, in order to get hired in Switzerland I needed to attain qualities that set me apart from current Swiss residents applying for the same position (literally, they had to prove that they could not find any one else with equivalent qualifications when applying for the permit). Just as you would make yourself stand out in a college resume, you should do so in your international interview.
RSJ: How was the interview process different than your experience?
JV: As VF Corporation is an international company, my initial interview was fairly standardized (reviewing my resume, qualifications, and meeting my future employers). The second interview was more of a congratulatory deal, as we just toured the building and I was presented my future desk.
RSJ: Would you mind giving a few tips about the work permit process?
JV: Patience is key. It can take months for the permit process to be completed. Also, don’t hesitate to contact HR when you have questions, which you will.
RSJ: How did you feel on your first day of work in a new country, and were there any cultural differences you had to account for (i.e. how to dress, how to act in a professional setting)?
JV: More than anything else, I was excited. Generally speaking, I think the work culture in Europe is more laid back than in America. Despite potential cultural differences, I was much more relaxed my first day at North Face than my last job at a private bank in downtown Los Angeles. Also, the fact that it is in an international company means that there are employees from all around the world. People are used to working around their differences, and to be quite honest, it makes it more fun.
Concerning dress and professionalism in general, my advice would be that it is always better to be safe than sorry. You should always dress for the position you are working toward, not the one you have-that way people take you more seriously.
RSJ: What has been your most rewarding/exciting experience to date at North Face?
JV: One thing about North Face that I really love is how accessible upper management is. There is a young vibe with lots of energy. That being said, I have many opportunities to communicate my ideas to managers and directors. So I would say that contributing to the growth of such a fantastic company has definitely been the most rewarding thing for me.
Jeannie Vaughan is an employee for The North Face, based in San Leandro, California. It is one of many brands owned by the VF Corporation. VF has offices throughout the world, including in Lugano where she is currently positioned. After the internship, Jeannie will be going on for her Master’s in International Management through the Taylor Institute at Franklin College Switzerland.