Spend a year in California setting up the subsidiary of a French company or go to Hanoi to test the market for a major car manufacturer; these are just some of the V.I.E. assignments that interns dream of. Civiweb posts hundreds of assignment announcements of this type on its website. However, it would be a mistake to think that a simple click and search is enough to get you your dream assignment. You don’t choose a V.I.E. assignment as you would a holiday destination; “Applying to the V.I.E. programme is a serious professional undertaking, which must respond to the specific requirements formulated by the company”, explains Julie Garde, Head of V.I.E. Recruitment at Business France. Many employers consider completing a V.I.E. assignment as the first step to offering the intern a permanent employment contract. Therefore, you should not take applying for an assignment lightly. “
What is your value added?
To have a good chance of being selected, your application must demonstrate that it is part of your career plan as it would in a traditional job search with the international aspect a plus...“It is a question of launching yourself into a market,” confirms Sophie Domenech-Vindex, HR consultant at Apec. “It is not only a question about what you want but also about defining who you are and what you could immediately bring to the company and how you wish to develop your career in the future. The best way to convince a recruiter is to demonstrate that the assignment fits perfectly into your career plan.” Therefore, the process requires a certain amount of introspection. Think about what you have done so far, assess your personal and professional skills and demonstrate your value added to the company. Dissertations, theses, internships, significant achievements, etc. all give meaning to your profile as well as arousing the interest of the recruiter. Also try to project yourself into the future as your V.I.E. assignment will influence your future career path. For example, do you see yourself working for a large company or in an SME? Do you see working overseas as a career step or a long-term commitment?
An international experience overseas
Your experience overseas will heavily influence your choices and the interest of your application for the recruiter. It would be difficult to envisage a mission to India or Africa if you haven’t already had some experience of these destinations. A company would only risk sending you to a remote location if it were sure you were capable of adapting to the local professional environment and way of life. And in this respect, there is no better argument than first-hand experience even if this is only a three-week backpacking trip! The same applies to your language skills; a V.I.E. assignment is not an opportunity to learn a new language. Successful applicants must be immediately operational i.e. speak the local language or, in certain cases, the language used in the workplace. While it may be difficult to find a job in Argentina if you don’t speak Spanish, it is perfectly feasible to find a job as an engineer in a major company in Hamburg if you have a good level of English and an average level of German.
Analyse market needs
In all cases, there is no question of targeting a certain country before you have thoroughly analysed its market needs. “Many candidates are seduced by exotic destinations such as South America or Anglo-Saxon countries but without considering if their skills are required in these countries”, explained Julie Garde. What is the value added of a French tax specialist working in New York or a young human resources graduate being assigned to work in Mexico? Looking for a faraway or exotic location is no less likely to result in an assignment as almost 50 % of V.I.E. assignments are in Europe or in neighbouring countries.
To analyse the market, Sophie Domenech-Vindex recommends reading Apec’s business sector files: “This is a good place to start as French market trends often reflect international market trends. Then you need to focus on particular countries.” An in-depth study of the requirements indicated in announcements can also be highly informative, as can reviews and websites which give information about French companies operating overseas. Finally, just like a classic job search, remember that your personal network can also be a source of an invaluable information. Don’t be afraid to ask!
A must: be proactive
Once you have defined your career plan, you will be in a position to target your job search. Consulting Civiweb is a key step. The is the leading site in terms of V.I.E. assignments and groups all the available offers. But you can be even more proactive as certain companies, often the largest, do not always post their vacancies on our network. They recruit V.I.E. interns via their own network or from their in-house pool of potential candidates. In fact many students decide very early on to include their future V.I.E. project into an internship or work/study programme. “Also, you shouldn’t hesitate to propose a V.I.E. internship to companies,” highlighted Julie Garde. For example, SMEs are not always aware of the benefits and may be more interested in an applicant, who in addition to his/her skills and motivation, can provide financial aid as well as support. “