When your studies have finished what will you do next? Why not take some time out and work your way across Europe.
You’ve made new friends, gone out, stayed in, had an excess of partying and some great laughs – and somehow found time to get your degree as well. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it! But now what?
You could put on your smartest suit and start knocking on the doors of all those companies desperate to get their hands on bright graduates like you.
Before you know it you’ll be sucked into the exciting, work-hard/play-hard world of employment, meetings, power lunches, regular money and earn the general respect and admiration of your friends and family.
But if the grown-up world of work doesn’t quite appeal and you’d like to carry on having fun, making new friends and enough money to fuel your social life while, who knows, doing something vaguely meaningful and bolstering your CV at the same time, what are the options?
Whether you like the idea of spending the summer as an assistant in a Euro-camp; putting up tents, looking after kids and organising games; teaching English in the Mediterranean; doing conservation work in Scandinavia; Euroland is simply bursting with excitement and opportunity.
So where to start?
The college library or careers office can help with some initial inspiration. Those with internet access will find themselves at a distinct advantage when it comes to research, so if you don’t have a web-linked computer, use a friend’s or drop in at a convenient internet cafe. There are also various books and guides which offer advice and inspiration.
Do you know anyone who has had a working experience abroad? What did they do? Was it a success? If not, why not? What mistakes do they feel they made, or in hindsight, how could they have improved the experience?
These are the main categories available.
Camp site operators across Europe offer tens of thousands of jobs. Couriers and reps, tour guides, tour managers, people to put up tents and take them down – these are some of the more obvious jobs – but there are many more, including a whole range of work involving children. Then there’s cooking and cleaning, catering and maintenance.
Cycling holiday companies need people to maintain bikes. There are barge and other boating holidays – jobs include crewing, catering and cleaning. Then there’s the sports and entertainment side of things.
Sports and activity supervisors and instructors, singers, dancers, magicians and a host of other entertainers are needed, as well as casino croupiers, hairdressers and shop staff.
The work is poorly paid but board and lodging is usually provided and it’s more fun than spending the summer stacking shelves in a supermarket.
You will stand a better chance of getting a job if you have some basic skills since there are ten applications for every vacancy. Enhance your chances by getting some basic certificates in such things as childcare, first aid, swimming and so on.
There are dozens of companies and your starting point should be your local travel agency. Pick up an armful of brochures and you will quickly find out who the big operators are.
Like summer work, the pay may not be great but there’s a lot of fun to be had. However, languages are often required and the level of skills required can be more demanding.
Options include: chalet girls (you need cooking qualifications), resort rep (you definitely need an additional language), bar staff, chambermaids, waiter/ress, chef, plongeur (washer up), odd jobs man, ski technician, ski instructor/ guide (you will need a recognised qualification), entertainer, etc.
Jobs with resorts run by major tour operators have to be arranged in advance as they recruit staff well before the start of the season.
As with summer recruiters, one good way to assemble a list of potential employers is to head for a travel agent and get an armful of brochures.
Most jobs of this kind are at hotels, bars and restaurants, nightclubs and discos, on beaches and farms.
While finding work in these circumstances is often a question of being in the right place at the right time, there are ways to enhance your chances.
Have your CV translated, wear something half-presentable, have a shave (if applicable), learn some phrases in your adopted country’s language and generally smile, be polite and try to radiate your usefulness and enthusiasm.
If you’re prepared to get up early and come home groaning every evening, fruit and vegetable picking is generally available throughout the Mediterranean, particularly in Spain, France, Italy and Greece.
Au pairing enables young women – and in a very few countries men – to spend up to a year living with a family abroad looking after their children while improving language skills and experiencing the culture of another country. There are opportunities in most Western European countries and beyond.
It is a unique and time-honoured relationship where the au pair benefits from a spell abroad within the care and protection of a family environment while the host family has access to economical childcare and home help.
Au pairs can expect to work about five hours a day and baby-sit for a few evenings a week. The rest of their time is free including at least one full day a week.
Costs include travel, insurance and visa or entry requirements.
Au pairs are expected to have a driving licence and smoking is frowned upon.
Most au pairs find work via an agency or through word of mouth.
Voluntary work/aid and development
Voluntary work can consist of almost anything where you give your time freely, from working at orphanages in Eastern Europe to helping out in your local charity shop on Saturday mornings.
Aid and development work is different. Here, skilled, experienced professionals – in fields including education, health, agriculture, business or technical areas – are paid a ‘normal’ salary.
Unless you hold a recognised qualification and relevant experience in an in-demand area, it is unlikely an international aid agency will offer you a job.
However, recognising that many idealistic young people want to get out and make a difference, various agencies have sprung up catering specifically to this need.
These programmes enable young people to have meaningful experiences abroad while learning more about themselves at the same time. Participants pay for the experience, which includes all travel, bed and board, insurance and so on.
Kibbutzim are a bit like working holiday camps. They are communities in Israel which share their land and resources among its members, usually earning its income through agriculture, food processing or light manufacturing – or a combination of all of these.
Volunteers come from all over the world and must be aged 18-32. While the standard of living varies from kibbutz to kibbutz, it is usually quite good. Volunteers can expect to carry out most of the more mundane jobs on the kibbutz and, in return for a six-day week receive meals, accommodation, a small allowance and the occasional organised trip.
Work can be anything from peeling vegetables, frying fish, trimming hedges, picking grapefruit, packing vegeburgers, planting cotton or transporting beehives.
If you speak and write English fluently then you are already partially qualified to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). With millions of people around the world desperate to learn English, TEFL teachers can work virtually anywhere.
While it is possible to teach without a recognised teaching qualification, many schools now expect applicants to hold one. Additionally, a qualification also guarantees a reasonable income and the luxury of choosing when and where you work.
However, many schools accept degree-holders (in any discipline) and once you’ve proved yourself and got some valuable experience under your belt you may quickly find yourself in a stronger position.
This said, even a weekend taster TEFL course provides an invaluable grounding in educational materials and teaching methods and access to prospective employers.
The author, Dan James, is editor with Overseas Jobs Express, a fortnightly newspaper which carries international employment opportunities.