Are you looking for a local job in Switzerland and don’t know how to start or what to expect? This is my story about my personal journey to find a local job in Ticino, Switzerland – which took a total of 1 year and 5 months. This is fully based on my own personal situation, which is based on myself having EU nationality and with a professional work background in Human Resources. I also did not speak the local language of Italian, but I am a native British with EU nationality.
One thing that I will recommend straight away to you is to not move to Switzerland without a job. But at the same time, it will be a struggle to find a job if you do not live here. Read on to understand this struggle as well as my journey, challenges and wins throughout.
BackgrounD: Why We wANTED TO Move To Switzerland
Together with my boyfriend, we decided that we wanted to move to Switzerland. Why? well, we wanted and needed a change from our previous life/work balance in the Netherlands. During the time of the pandemic, this opened our eyes to how we wanted to live… and more importantly where!
Our first idea was to actually move to Luxembourg, as that it was not far from the Netherlands where our friends were, but had things that we were lacking in the Netherlands.
However Luxembourg had the same weather as the Netherlands, which in our opinion is depressing for at least 300 days of the year. Hence looking further South, to Switzerland with Lugano in Ticino as the chosen location. It’s the sunniest canton of Switzerland, surrounded by beautiful mountains and a great base for exploring, as well as it not being far from an international airport for travels.
More Expat Posts about our move and experiences in Switzerland:
Crossing the German to Swiss boarder: our self-organized move abroad
Our first 2 months in Ticino: From Airbnb to Home Sweet Home
Our First Year Living In Switzerland: The ups, downs and everything in between.
The Real Cost of Living in Lugano, Switzerland.
EU Driving License to Swiss Driving License: Exchanging it within 12 months!
British Products In Switzerland: Where to find, order and buy!
Entering Switzerland With A Job
When moving here in July 2022 from the Netherlands, I was actually employed by an international company with their headquarters based in the Netherlands. With this company, I told my manager that I was planning to hand in my notice and start fresh with looking for a new job in Switzerland. They however wanted to keep me a little longer, and had approvals to exchange my permanent Dutch contract to a Swiss fixed term contract.
The reason for this was so that instead of leaving straight away from my role, I could have 6 additional months, supported with a new Swiss entity contract to transfer my knowledge to my team and stakeholders. With this, I could also relocate to Switzerland with the boyfriend (financed fully by ourselves) without having the stress of finding a new job as well as a new home at the same time. So it was a win-win for me and my previous company.
However since this headcount was fully positioned for the Netherlands office, supporting all the colleagues in the Netherlands and realistically not a high paying position, it was decided that they could only offer me a fixed term contract for Switzerland – and not let me keep my position permanently. So that’s how I ended up in Switzerland with a job already, on the basis that I knew I had to find a local job within 6 months.
As for the boyfriend, his company was supportive to switch him from a Dutch permanent contract to a Swiss permanent contract, so one of us was secure and financially stable with this move choice from the start.
FYI: With this 6 month contract, it allowed me to successful have a Swiss Ticino residence permit for the same dates as my contract. This was the L permit for Ticino.
Job Search In Switzerland
I have to be honest, within the first 6 months of this Swiss contract, I did not really prioritize looking for a job until I had 2-3 months left of this contract. I think this was because we were staying the first 2 months in an airbnb as our first base, then moved to a temporary accommodation for longer in Lugano in the 3rd month. So our priority was focused more on finding a long term home for us (and our kitty) than looking for a local job.
During this time I did sign up to many local websites and search results on LinkedIn, so I was seeing and reading what the market was like for my expertise. This also let me research more what companies were available within the local area. But I definitely wasn’t applying to many. I suppose I was also being a bit ‘too picky’ with what I wanted.
Difficulties Of Finding A Local Job In Switzerland
Right from the start of taking it seriously, I knew the difficulties for my job search for a local job in Switzerland. There were three main barriers for my situation:
Firstly, it was the language barrier. Lugano and the canton of Ticino is one of the Italian canton’s of Switzerland – so 99% of the jobs that I liked and wanted to apply for, required you to speak fluent Italian. Which I am not fluent in, so this was my biggest and first barrier.
Secondly, it was my profession as the barrier. In my previous position in the Netherlands, I was within the HR team. So for me to find a local job in Human Resource was even more of a struggle due to the lack of local language again. All HR positions that I found all required a good level of Italian, which makes perfect sense of course given the nature of the role. So my profession was barrier number two.
Thirdly, it was the location. Once I broadened my scope to search also for jobs in other cantons, such as Zug and Zurich (since these were commutable from Lugano with a direct train), I ran into more barriers. There were definitely more HR roles and positions I could apply for in the northern cantons of Switzerland, but then they often required you to be full time in the office. This was barrier number 3, since I could not commit to commuting for 5 days a week through the tunnel from Lugano to the North. This would have ended up with really long days and ultimately I know I would not have been happy.
What Happened After The First 6 Months?
So my first Swiss fixed term contract of 6 months was ending in January 2023, to which I was lucky to get an extension of another 6 months. This was again simply due to them wanting to hold on to me a little longer to transfer even more knowledge over and support with some final internal projects. My manager was a genuine angel and my team fully supported the decision that I could stay longer with them.
So I got extended for another 6 months with a new end date of July 2023, which also allowed me to extend my Swiss residence permit L for another 6 months.
So Now What?
In the 2nd extension of my new 6 months, I took it more seriously to find a local job in Switzerland. But with no luck.
I was applying weekly to positions like crazy, both in Ticino and other cantons in Switzerland in the hope that some of them were hybrid. I did have a few interviews but none turned out to be successful or suitable.
The 6 months ended again and (somehow with lot of luck!) ended up being extended one last time with another 5 months, with the final and officially confirmed end date of my previous company turning into December 2023. There would be no more extension after this so I really felt the pressure to find a new local position in Switzerland.
I Found A Local Position!
By August 2023, I was feeling the stress to know I would be without a job at the end of the year. I was putting on weight from comfort eating and at the same time as losing motivation with all the ‘Thank you for applying but we have found another candidate” emails. It was also stressful to find some amazing positions and not even get a response at all, shame on them!
So anyway, the pressure was still on to push myself and find a job, even if that meant for a lower salary, a different position than my profession or if it involved commuting more than I wanted.
With a bit of luck, and having a small connection to a local company in Ticino, I finally found a position that was absolutely perfect. My interviews were back in late July/early August 2023, so a few months before my contract was ending in December 2023. I had impressed them with my knowledge and skills as well as having that feeling of the perfect fit for the company values and environment. Even better, I didn’t need to be fluent Italian! (since after all this time I’m still not that good, scusa!)
So that is where I am at now – 1.5 years later I have a wonderful local job in the Ticino canton of Switzerland. I am not speaking that much Italian, since it’s not needed, but I am in a role that I am very passionate about and with a company that values me and supports me like I’m family. I have a warm-welcoming, friendly international team and look forward to staying a long time together!
Did I expect it to take this long?
Realistically no, but the location, language and profession barriers were clear very early on. So I knew I’d be in for quite a challenge to find a local job in Switzerland.
Did I give up looking?
Many times, yes actually. Especially when all I was getting back were the standard, non personalised rejection emails. When you put so much time and effort into it, but don’t have what they need, it was quite heartbreaking and I definitely lost my motivation at times.
What Kept me Going?
For me, it was the passion to live in Switzerland as well as the love and support from my boyfriend. Throughout the whole process, he has been the biggest support. He has helped search for positions that are suitable, helped with my motivational letters, helped review my CV changes and was there for me with every disappointing rejection email. Living in Switzerland has been together a dream that we wanted to make more long term.
And he was there for me when I found my perfect job, celebrating together the new milestone. A big thank you to him <3!
Tip On Finding A Local Job In Switzerland
If you want something, don’t give up. My situation was sort of unique since I was switched to a Swiss contract by my Dutch company in the beginning. So I already had a wonderful and supportive way in to the country before living there.
If you already speak German, Italian or French, consider moving to one of the cantons with the one you can speak in. Speaking one of these will already benefit you to find a position in Switzerland, since most do require you to speak the local language.
Since living here, I see daily via FB expat groups that so many people visit Switzerland within the 90 days visa-free moment, but struggle so badly to get a local position. You have to keep in mind that companies in Switzerland are required to follow specific guidelines, such as employing those who are Swiss and from EU first, before employing those from third-national countries – due to visa requirements. So if you come from a third-national country, this alone will be one of your barriers to find a job.
Some great places to look for a local job in Switzerland include:
- LinkedIn – many companies use LinkedIn as their main tool for sharing their latest jobs. Sign up with the job search functions for your profession and location.
- Local job boards – each canton has a job page sharing local positions, so if you know exactly where you’ll be living, this is helpful to narrow down your search
- English Job Search website – englishjobsearch.ch
With all the love, motivation and support (from previous company and boyfriend), I was able to find a local job in Switzerland after 1.5 years of searching. And it’s truly a great job to be in, yay!
Did I think it would have taken this long? No, but with the love and and support I did not truly give up. So to have that motivation not to give up is also something worth having. Aim for your goal of living and working in a country like Switzerland and at one point I’m sure you can make it happen!