More and more expats are attracted to the prospect of earning a salary in Geneva, and these days the picturesque city is filled with foreign workers from every corner of the globe, and a host of foreign languages can be heard on its streets and in its office blocks.
Job market in Geneva
Geneva has a range of industries that expats can expect to work in. The primary employers in Geneva include major corporations such as DHL, Cargill, Ernst and Young and Carrefour.
The UN and its respective agencies and missions are prominent employers too. NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International also have a strong presence in the city, as do media organisations like the Swiss Press Agency and CSR Newswire.
Geneva is one of the foremost financial centres in the world, and those with experience in banking, finance and international trade will find good opportunities here. There are also more than 100 banks based in Geneva and a strong financial services sector.
What's more, the city has a strong service-oriented economy; tourism and the hotel industry are major employers, and they generate a significant share of the region's wealth.
Finding a job in Geneva
The majority of expats hired to work in Geneva are recruited into high-level positions and, as such, they are either headhunted or transferred from offices of the same company elsewhere in the world.
Those looking for jobs on their own should consult local publications and various online job portals.
The best place to start for those who wish to move to Geneva but don't yet have a secure job offer would be online. Many local newspapers also have job listings and some of these publications have online versions available, which enable expats to begin the job search before relocating. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn are also highly useful. Individual companies often post vacancies on their websites, so it's worth surfing sites relevant to one's industry.
Work culture in Geneva
The city's work culture is formal and task-focused – despite its international character. The Swiss are famously punctual, and arriving late to a meeting or being unprepared will be seen as disrespectful. It's always best to arrive early and confirm appointments ahead of time.
Hierarchy is important, and people receive respect based on their rank, education and achievements. Even though executives make the decisions, they look for a broad consensus. Managers are expected to guide their teams, and cooperation is valued.
Business environments in Switzerland tend to be merit-based, but trust is still essential to negotiations. The Swiss like dealing with people they know, and often expect long-term commitments from their associates. Negotiations can be prolonged by the trust-building process and the Swiss eye for detail and respect for procedure.
While it is not always necessary, the ability to speak French will certainly be advantageous when it comes to working in Geneva, as this is the predominant language in the city.
Expats working in Geneva must also ensure that they have the correct documentation and visa for Switzerland.
►See Working in Switzerland for more on local business
"The job market here is super competitive. If you’re looking to work in a big organisation, you need to have not only the right degrees, but also speak several languages and have international experience and connections. Most young people start out as interns, usually unpaid. My suggestion would be to brush up on languages and apply to anything that even remotely resembles your profile. After that, it’s all about networking. Don’t be afraid to contact either someone you know or someone with an interesting profile to discuss what you’re looking for."
For more about American expat Melissa's experiences in Geneva, read our interview with her.
Are you an expat living in Geneva?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Geneva. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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