Fast Track: The European dream

You've just graduated, you want to see a bit of the world and gain some useful work experience, but what are the options? And are you really ready for Euroland?
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"Europe is like the new frontier," says Simon Parker, a 22-year- old graduate from the University of London who dreams of working in Berlin. But while it's one thing to long for the vibrancy of Berlin, the peace of Provence or the lush landscapes of Tuscany for a couple of weeks' holiday, it's quite another attempting to set up your career there.

Consulting a Euroadviser is fast becoming the most popular option. For five years, the European Union has been running a scheme called Eures (European Employment Services) in its member states. It's a network of 450 Euroadvisers who help job-seekers to find work in other European countries. The problem is that you'll have to join a pretty long queue. There are only 16 Euroadvisers operating in Britain - an unimpressive number given that France alone has 32. "Eures has played a rather accidental role in Britain so far," admits Michael McDadd, one of six Euroadvisers who act as job consultants for London and the South-East. But numbers are growing.

The European Commission's freephone service Europe Direct should be your first port of call. You will get details for your regional Euroadviser from whom you can then gain information on living and working in Europe and help in seeking out vacancies in your target country. All Euroadvisers have access to a database which lists jobs Europe-wide.

Before commencing your job-hunt, however, it's important to bear in mind that the EU unemployment rate is about 11 per cent, almost twice that of Britain. Some sectors make better options than others. "There is still a big demand for IT experts, especially in Northern Europe," says Jose Vigo, a Euroadviser in London. "A number of big companies such as Microsoft, IBM or Nokia advertise through Eures." Financial services, management consultancy and telecommunication firms also recruit Europe- wide.

Teaching experience and a TEFL diploma is particularly effective in opening doors. "There is a big demand for English teachers in Spain and Italy," Vigo says. If you are fluent in at least two EU languages and have a background in law or international politics, you might consider working for the European Commission or for another EU institution in Brussels or Strasbourg. Your Euroadviser can help you with your application for a five-month graduate traineeship. If your ambition is to become a full-fledged Eurocrat, there is information on the annual competition for jobs in the Brussels administration, where Britons are insufficiently represented at present.

So how well-prepared are British graduates for Euroland? Language skills are still an issue, says McDadd. "Many British graduates have no second language. If you are looking for work in a country such as Germany, that may be a real problem."

"Our students are very keen to get to Europe," says Bob Porrar, head of Careers Services at the University of Edinburgh. "However, most of them lack work experience and need a stepping-stone to get a proper job." The problem with Eures, he says, is that "many employers prefer to target institutions such as business schools or engineering faculties directly. In fact, most jobs abroad do not even enter the Eures database."

But Sandrine Anjou, a 24-year-old customer services manager, has found Eures extremely helpful. After graduating in marketing and English from the University of Caen in Normandy, she found her first job with a French company in London. She now wants to return to Paris, and has been in contact with her Euroadviser. "I was expecting Eures to be more like an employment agency, where you leave your CV and they call you back as soon as they have found a job for you," she says. "But I meet my Euroadviser on a weekly basis and discuss job-offers with him."

Finding a job in Europe is clearly no holiday. "You have to be very well organised before you go," adds Anjou. "Research all facets of the country you want to go to - and don't forget the cost of living." Only then can your journey to the new frontier be a truly enriching experience.

Europe Direct 0800 581 591, website: