Business in Italy, Culture, Life in Italy

The Journey to Success-Job hunting in Italy

Southern Italy is a hard place to live if you moved here right out of college, like I did. Straight into an economic crisis, no real experience besides my 3 month internship that had nothing to do with my degree. No English, no running websites or social media avenues that’s comparable to the US, no career counseling fairs or anything convenient like that, you’ve got to be joking. This is Italy, where people get jobs because they’re in the family even though they suck at what they do and aren’t qualified. If they’re not in the family then they get jobs because they’re friends of someone who has a connection. No one gets a job just because they deserve it or are best qualified in the area.  I thought my solid résumé and skills were enough. Little did I know about how Italy works or about where success really comes from.

I thought hey, at least I’m not ugly as sin, maybe that will help. WRONG. On my second interview I was told that I was TOO pretty and no one would take me seriously. Never heard that one. Then I said, hmmm, well at least I’m young, that means I’m moldable. WRONG AGAIN. In Italy being young is a fault not a benefit. Great, now what. Résumé check, skills check, appearance check, adaptability check. All that’s left is me.

My New Year’s resolution 2 years in a row has been to land the job that I rightfully deserve and have worked really hard for. I have a degree in comprehensive economics and I love that stuff. I wanted to work for the UN and combat human trafficking, or work in the export/import business. I’ve never cried so much or been so down about anything in my life but this problem of not finding a job and not feeling successful. It’s degrading, humiliating, and frustrating to work as a teacher just because I fit the job when I hate teaching and never saw myself as a teacher in my life. The only thing employers see in me is Madrelingua…”we want you because of your English skills, now can you translate the website and teach our daughter English on the side?” “I have to think about it” is often my reply, but “did you even look at my résumé? I fit the job description, I’m not here because I want to teach English…” The parts that are left of me after 2 years of this nonsense are all the bad parts probably. I go to interviews with a shield now.

To not cross off my resolutions list creates resentment and doubt about myself and what I’m worth and have to give. Imagine your husband coming home and telling you about his awesome job that he loves, a Special Forces helicopter pilot is pretty impressive. After hearing about his perfect day at his awesome job how can you even start to talk about your day as an English teacher and how you taught “to be” in 5 different ways when you see yourself as an economist solving world problems?

Countless résumés sent, not even a reply. Countless conversations had, but the story is always the same “you know, the economy is so bad right now, we’re still in a crisis, most people don’t have jobs, you’re lucky you’re teaching, and you’re so young and without experience.” I reply in my head “Yes, I do know very well how I’m not lucky, I worked for what I have because I’m determined and not lazy.” But instead of saying what I think I just often say “I understand, thanks anyway.”

After this 2 year journey I started to look around and notice the successful people in my town. They’re all really determined people. They have what they have because they jump at opportunities, they’re very positive people, and have a vision. It’s then that I realized that I am successful because I have these qualities on the inside, it just hasn’t happened for me yet, in the order I had pictured. If I continue to be determined and keep trying something is bound to happen. Didn’t Thomas Edison try thousands of times to get the perfect lightbulb? That guy failed so many times and for some reason he just kept trying. If anyone was the master of determination it was him. I’m sure thousands of other people just gave up making the lightbulb, and so they weren’t given the credit. What’s the moral to the story? You don’t have to be the best at it, forget the other guy who always has straight A’s in life…you just have to have a bigger drive than him.

For me, the key factor of success is being determined, which down the line turns into numbers in which most people perceive success.When you’re in an environment that’s full of negativity and hopelessness in the job market you have to find a way to ignore it all and keep going despite what they say. It’s easy to quit or accept what you’re given, it’s hard to be determined. You have to do it for your own self-worth, not for competition between your peers, or to please your parents.

I’m now nearing 3 years of being in Italy. This year was a milestone for me in my job hunt. I was offered 3 opportunities at different schools, 1 opportunity at an engineering company, and 1 opportunity at an export company. All of this happened because I pushed and kept trying and made myself noticeable. I chose to decline all 3 school jobs, obviously teaching isn’t my field so I’m shutting doors. I tried out the engineering place and it didn’t work out, I’m now edging my way into an international exporting company. Even if it’s a slow process and there’s a chance it might fall through because, you know… “the economy” I still am happy and take it all as experience for the future.

So I’ve created a list of steps of how to be determined (which is a little ironic I know). I’ve never seen a list about being determined because it has to be something that comes from within. However, if you’re not born determined you can create a drive. If you want something bad enough you’ll do what it takes otherwise you never wanted it in the first place.


1. Figure out who you are and what you really want. You can’t be determined about something that you feel so/so about.

2. Figure out your top priorities, organize your thoughts.

3. Be consistent. Success takes work. Most people who are at the beach every day are not successful people. Stay home and get your stuff done. Being consistent is a habit and takes practice.

4. Surround yourself with positive people who are also determined.

5. When you don’t feel like being determined read a book for encouragement from other people who have made it. If you don’t read then find another medium.

6.When you feel like you’ve lost your determination find something that inspires you to get back on track. For me, it’s reading about world affairs and traveling. This reminds me of how much I want to be involved and make changes.

7. Remember that success is a feeling from within, not numbers. A lot of being successful is having the ability to battle yourself, figure out who you are, and know what you want. Once you can do that it’s easy to be determined and achieve your goals.

8. Keep up with current times because it will make you feel like you’ve got an edge and will help you express determination physically. Learning new things is a great way to see your progress as well, and how determined you are. It’s not good enough to have average skills if you want to be successful. You need to continuously learn about social media mediums, technology, and cultural fads in the business world. It’s hard if you’re living in Italy and don’t know Italian. I use a lot of online sites to learn about things that aren’t accessible in Italy. Webucator is a great savvy place to keep yourself updated in technology. They teach all kinds of things like Microsoft programs, Linux, Quickbooks…you can choose how to learn either through an online class that’s live, through a skype-like platform, or through a self-paced course. Check it out

I know this post may seem clichè, determination is pretty predictable for a success factor. But, when loads of people and books say the same thing it’s because it’s true-many people have lived to tell how basic but fundamental it is. Determination translates into may other character traits, it can be hard to put into continuous practice, but easy if you truly care about reaching your goal.

Please share about your success stories in Italy with job hunting, your struggles, and what in your opinion is the key factor to success!

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14 thoughts on “The Journey to Success-Job hunting in Italy”

  1. Shared this on my Facebook profile and it was a success among my friends from Salento and Apulia in general. I live close to your city and I know what you are talking about. We recognized ourselves a lot in your portrait of this country of ours.

      1. Despite the surname, I was born and raised here in Salento. I read your blog since August last year and I find it really informative. I like to see your point of view on things that are so familiar for me 🙂

  2. I’m glad you shared your difficulties in your job search. I’m also job hunting not in Italy but in Quebec, Canada. I’ve been searching for a while & I’m also questioning my self worth, and also doubting myself. I try to stay positive because as you said, “it’s easy to quit.” Reading your blog, was in some way, comforting to know that what I’m feeling is normal. I agree that determination will determine the outcome. Like always, I look forward to your blog. Keep on staying positive & never give up! Great List & Thanks for sharing the website “webucator.”

    1. Hi Mary, well then I’ll say I wish us the best of luck :). During my downtime in the midst of all the job chaos I just try to be thankful for having free time at all because people work their whole lives for the purpose of enjoying life. Living in Italy it’s easy to learn how to enjoy the simple things-so that’s what I do. And I have the time to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise if I were working so much, like blogging. Hope all is well!

  3. Hallo, my name is Mary Jo! I like your blog, it’s very interesting! I am Italian, I live in Puglia and I know what you mean! Finding a job is so hard and complicated in our area! But now, I teach English in a school and I’ m happy because teaching is my field!

      1. I live in Foggia! But I lived in Lecce for 3 years because my boyfriend is from Gallipoli 🙂

  4. I’m going to college for Business Administration with a minor in either Italian or Portuguese, and reading this post has helped my choice , with all the trouble you are going through I don’t think I would like to minor in Italian. Thank you so much for the much needed information, also keep trying you will eventually become successful . I was thinking of minoring in Arabic since lately that is where all the money is stadly coming from but considering I’m a girl I don’t think I would be taken seriosuly over there in the UAE

    1. Hi, well I’m glad I could help you. I also was going to minor in language while in college, I was interested in French but was advised to do Russian or Chinese as it’s really what’s needed. If you’re not interested in doing government work then honestly Spanish is really useful. I know it’s overrated in the US, but in Europe it’s depended on apart from English. I’d say the most important to know apart from English are Chinese and Spanish if you want a job related to international business. Even a few classes will greatly benefit you!

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