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Working in Zurich

GG Zurich
GG Zurich posted on December 1, 2011

We all know how important the first impression is when applying for a new job, but do all cultures hold the same values as professional?

What is expected in the Swiss workplace? We’ve asked women from different cultures and professions who are currently working in Switzerland what their opinions about this are. We hope to help you feel confident as a Professional ‘Girlfriend’ in Zurich.

When it comes to professional values, our “experts” feel that the Swiss maintain “older values”. Qualities like punctuality, trustworthiness, accuracy and also the ability to work in a team or have communication skills are considered very valuable in the workplace. Having a university degree, language skills and strong work experience can also give you a leg-up in the application process.

The application process can be tricky with all the cover letters to write, different documents to be attached and preparing an appropriate curriculum vitae (CV) or resume. There are a few personal facts that are expected to be on your CV including your full birth date, marital status, visa/living permit, nationality/citizenship, a picture of yourself and a list of your hobbies. For many of us, this may seem like a list of facts we’ve always been told to never include on a CV. But remember, here in Switzerland, this is the norm and if you want to make a professional impression, it’s good to provide the customary info.

This website offers a good example of a CV. You may also want to consider mentioning any additional languages you speak, any outstanding certification or diplomas relevant to your field, and providing names and contact information of references.

The interview process can vary from company to company, but it is always wise to come well-informed about the company, know the names of your interviewers (if possible), have a short list or idea of questions you could ask and a few extra copies of your CV. We recommend being a bit over prepared rather than under prepared. The main point is to show your interviewers how well you’d fit with their company – both with your job tasks and with your work team. After the interview, it is customary for them to contact you about their decision.

Congratulations! You’ve got the job! You can relax a bit and enjoy your success… until you get the “first day on the job” jitters. You may now be thinking, “What time do I have to leave to get there on time? What to wear? Will I have to work long hours? Do my co-workers socialize after work?” Don’t worry, we have a suggestions for each one of these.

Getting to work can be very easy with public transportation, but may also take a long time. It’s best to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time on the first day to find your way. If you plan on driving and parking your car, be sure to check with your company’s parking policy. There may be assigned or private parking that you need to request access to first.

Dress codes can be assigned by some companies. Banks and other international firms may have defined dress codes for what is sometimes considered “smart business attire”.  In general, the Swiss workplace has fairly casual dress standards. Nice jeans and a top with a blazer are just as appropriate on a Monday as casual Friday. We recommend dressing conservatively while you get the vibe of your office.

We’ve heard it said that the Swiss usually work long hours. Some of our “experts” claim that working 10-12 hour days is normal. While this can be true of a lot of cultures, there are also those who work a perfect 8-5, with a one hour lunch break. This is again something that can depend on your company, nature of your job and your personal style. In any case, it’s always best to give your best efforts while on the clock. When working for an hourly rate, you can expect to get a little extra compensation for those extra hours. Salaried employees may not always have the same advantage.

Vacations and holidays can be expected after all the hard working hours you’ve put in. In Switzerland, it is typical to have four weeks paid vacation. Holidays are also another reason the office closes. These holidays vary canton by canton (Catholic vs. Protestant) so it’s important to check. Another great part of working in Switzerland is that you don’t have to earn your sick leave. If you are sick and need a day off, that’s just the way it is. Doctor appointment? No problem! Just be sure to let your boss know and provide any documentation your company requires. NOTE: While accident insurance is covered by your employer, health insurance is typically not covered by your employer. It is every resident in Switzerland’s responsibility to have their own health care policy.

Socializing with co-workers may not be the top reason to have a job, but it is an important one. When working in an international environment, it is important to remember that everyone comes from many different backgrounds. Slang and cultural references may not always be understood and should be avoided. When working with native Swiss, it’s always appreciated when you know a little of the local language. Demonstrating you have an open mind and appreciation for other cultures is the key to having relationships with co-workers from different countries. Most of our “experts” felt the workplace is a place to socialize and make friends with those you see almost every day. Birthdays are celebrated with the birthday boy or girl bringing something to share with the others. It’s seen as a very friendly gesture rather than self-absorbed. However, not all workplaces are the type to go out for a drink after work or eat lunch together. You’ll find out what kind yours is. Otherwise, there are plenty of places for after-work meet-ups.

The benefits of working in Switzerland can be outstanding. At the moment, it is one of the most secure economies in the world with an excellent pay scale. To make the most of your Swiss experience, try to learn more about the country, language, people and culture while you are here. Our “experts” suggest that their happiest expat co-workers are those that immerse a bit more into Swiss culture rather than remaining in their comfort zone.

Working internationally may have its challenges, but it also has many rewards. We hope this short article gives you the tips you need to start your career in your new home.

Contributed by Zuri Girl: Ashley


Do you have any Working-in-Zurich tips or experiences you would like to share with our Girlfriends? Please comment below, or email us!


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