“At first, my unemployed adviser didn’t want to hear about my new professional project: he kept telling me to apply in finance.” Emilie* is 31 years old. She knows that the reorientation, now often presented as a “must pass” in life, is far from always obvious.
After a fairly general bachelor’s and master’s degree in French-speaking Switzerland, she did, somewhat by chance, a very specialized internship in finance. A job that he likes moderately. But when she finished school, that line on her resume is the one that really matters to companies. She ends up accepting a position, telling herself that she can always change later. But Emilie is increasingly sad at work.
“I locked myself in”
“I realized I was locking myself in and wouldn’t be able to move if I continued in such a specific position. At the same time, I discovered communication by seeing what a colleague was doing,” she says. She then took evening classes for a year and quit.
But in the sector that interests her, all jobs require several years of experience and when she gets an answer to her application, it is only to be told that they have preferred a profile “closer to the one requested “.
A testimony that does not surprise Claudia Jonczyk Sédès, director of the Management Institute of the University of Neuchâtel and professor of strategic management. “With a more specialized education system, this observation is quite widespread. The Swiss job market has an excellent apprenticeship and degree system to educate and train people for specific professions. The downside is that there is less tolerance for completely changing lanes afterwards.” She adds that the reaction of employers can be a mixture of fear – will this person be able to learn, to perform? – and complacency. “If I have candidates who already have the training, skills and experience, why invest the extra time to train someone with a different background?”
Despite a medical certificate which certifies that her previous job affected her health, Emilie’s unemployment counselor continues to initially guide her in this sector. What she refuses to do: “It would have marked a new step in the direction in which I do not want to go.” Today, Emilie’s horizon is brightening: she has obtained a temporary assignment as a communication officer thanks to the PPE + program in Geneva (Preparatory program for employment for qualified or minimally experienced people who need an initial or additional experience). And thanks to the network created during this experience, she landed a fixed-term contract.
“If there is a medical restriction or an inability to practice the profession due to changes in the labor market, the personnel adviser must take this into account, reacts Caroll Singarella, director of the Employment Measures Service. in Geneva. Counselors will see where there are the most job opportunities. People’s aspirations are taken into account, but the reintegration project must be realistic and quickly achievable. If this is not the case, we try to find an alternative that allows us to go as far as possible in the desired direction.
The shortage as a trigger?
One element could change the situation for profiles like those of Emilie: the shortage of personnel from which Switzerland suffers. “Today we combine a very low unemployment rate with very high staffing needs,” observes Laurent Vacelet, director of French-speaking Switzerland at Manpower. Human resources must therefore lower their level of requirements. Of course, not all companies are in this trend, some do not have time to train or are waiting for a very specific path, but the shortage accelerates this process. Claudia Jonczyk Sédès joins him: “Without wanting to be cynical, sometimes the pressure on the labor market has to be strong enough for employers to be more willing to examine less conventional profiles.”
Antonina Munafo, human resources manager for the Platform 10 museum center, formerly HR for the banking sector, encourages recruiters to broaden their horizons in any situation, even if there is no shortage of talent. “This is also where our job becomes interesting: when we become aware of our cognitive biases which can lead us to dismiss someone unfairly because of their age, for example. We must be open to different profiles, whose rich background brings added value to the institution. We recruit people, not resumes. Human resources are moving in that direction.” She points out that there are also great stories of successful conversions.
The importance of the network
The candidates themselves also have their role to play, recalls Antonina Munafo. First, by being aware of and accepting the risk that a reorientation can represent and by documenting the sector well upstream. “You also need to be able to identify the skills acquired in your first professional life that can be transferred to this new field. Giving concrete examples of achievements that illustrate these skills is important. Building a network, in particular by going to conferences, is also essential,” she adds. “It makes a big difference if you can mobilize someone in the company you are targeting who expresses confidence that you will succeed in such a transition,” adds Claudia Jonczyk Sédès.
But does a newcomer really stand a chance against someone who ticks all the boxes? For Laurent Vacelet, this is more the case today because “companies attach more importance to soft skills, human qualities, resistance to stress”, these famous soft skills. Provided, he says, that the candidate can put them forward during an interview.
Interviews in the sector she is targeting, Catherine, 48, fails to obtain. After his schooling, professions such as journalism and communication gave him the impression of being reserved for a certain elite. “So, even if I was more of a literary person, I entered a business environment, as a sales assistant. I also spent ten years in London, in particular in sales,” she explains.
Thousands of francs spent
But in 2012, Catherine lost her job and questioned herself: it was journalism or possibly communication that she dreamed of. She then carried out remotely – maintaining a professional activity requires – a year and a half training in France in journalism via an organization recognized by the State, which allows her to obtain a certificate. She does other continuing education, opens a blog. “You can’t say that my training brought me much, except for my personal interest, and I spent thousands of francs on it,” she confides. I was never given my chance, I have no answer to my postulations.
Catherine denounces a certain hypocrisy between the speech on the reorientation and the possibilities of concretizing it, “but perhaps it is more so for other professions”, she notes. She plans to drop her reorientation and continue writing as a side activity. She is having an interview this week… in her “old” domain. “I feel like I’m paying for not having chosen the right path at 18,” she laments.
* Assumed first name.