My first American job, a great slap in the face!

After a year in “sports studies” and travelling, I was more than impatient and happy to return to an active professional life. I am part of this “group of women” for whom work has always played an important role in their lives and personal development. Therefore, upon receipt of my “legal” documents, I “bombarded” the area with resumes and cover letters. I tried everything, I didn’t want to wait, I just wanted one thing, to work as quickly as possible. Active on job search sites, I quickly received by email a lot of requests from companies specialized in the sale of health insurance or financial products. The emails were attractive, they promised to reach very attractive salaries from your first year. Due to a lack of knowledge of the local employment market and this type of organization, I naively went to an interview in North Los Angeles for a group specializing in the sale of life insurance. The office located in a huge and modern business park, gave a very flashy effect. I immediately said to myself, “Oh, it’s much more important than I imagined”. My interview took place in a glass office with a magnificent view, a person close to my age in an impeccable suit and sitting in a minister’s chair. I first introduced myself, then he did and I answered his “basic” job interview questions. I would like to point out that I was still very far from the level considered bilingual in business English. During the interview, the recruiter really emphasized that he started at the first level in the company, his parents did not speak English well, his dedication had allowed him to climb the ladder, he had very quickly reached the “six figures”, his life was comfortable and he had achieved his American Dream. This speech was at the same time inspiring, destabilizing, but above all new in its form (I had never experienced this in France or New Zealand). Honestly, I had not been convinced, especially after the job description. It was a sales position paid only on a commission basis (no fixed salary) after a period of training in products and sales techniques on their services (1h45 from home by driving). I wasn’t seduced at all! A sales position where you have to make “cold calls” with a strong French accent, I honestly think it would have taken a very long time before I got my first dollar. During my first week of interviews, I was confronted to the same situations and job offers in a lot of companies. The speeches were similar, we were still many candidates in the waiting room and I always left with the same disappointment. Given my limited ability to express myself by using a business English in face-to-face, it seemed impossible for me to sell a “financial” product by phone. There was no sense and sincerely calling a list of 100 numbers per day and getting hung up on me wasn’t motivating me at all.

In the lot, only one interview had “intrigued” me, it was a position of “Events campaign manager” for a Marketing group. The offer was once again attractive, describing more an entrepreneurial mindset, an opportunity for training and development rather than a mission statement. The company’s website was “professional” but remained “unclear” about the group’s activity. The office was “surprising” because of its small size, there was only one reception hall, and two doors. Strange! The first interview conducted by the CEO who was to my great surprise a young woman of my age was very short (about 15 minutes). It was more a “presentation” interview of the company, the evolution opportunities, the “training” aspect or even the possible salaries, than a job description and specific missions. To learn more, I had to go to a second interview located in a huge American hypermarket in a nearby city. I had never been in these types of stores, I didn’t know what to expect and I had nothing to lose, so I went there out of curiosity. On the spot, a campaign manager of the group received me. A young woman who after asking me about the differences between direct and indirect marketing, explained to me once again the evolution system offered by the group. You started at the lowest level as a “Marketing Assistant”, then you could access to the second level in less than a month, then go through 2 more steps (on a total of 12 months) to reach an “Executive Manager” position. The specificity is that this last level offered you the possibility to open your own agency, to be “independent” and to duplicate this same system, in order to access to new levels within the organization. I don’t hide from you that it was a lot of confusing information in a short period of time. Everything became clear very quickly when the “recruiter” took me to the field which was inside the hypermarket and showed me what the job was all about. The campaign manager set up behind a small booth, put a food cap under a cap and caught the attention of each customer very directly to propose them to taste a “natural juice” whose objective was of course to sell it. So how do I tell you this? Cold shower when I discovered what was the American direct marketing. In two seconds, I told myself, no, it’s not possible, I’m leaving, no thanks, not for me, out of the question, and the food cap never! Out of courtesy, I stayed until the end of the demonstration. Then we debriefed and concluded the interview by discussing my motivation to take the position. I obviously played along. When I got out of the interview, I think I was stunned for fifteen minutes in my car, thinking. On one hand, it was undeniable that I was absolutely not attracted by it and that it was not the kind of job I had thought of when I came to live in the US. On the other hand, after a first week of disappointing interviews, zero American experience on my resume, approximate business English and a strong desire to work quickly; I told myself that I had nothing to lose, that this type of experience would allow me to be in an American professional environment, that I would have to speak English from morning to night, that it was better to be active than inactive during the research period, that I had to start somewhere and that it would be easier for me to sell myself on the job market later. I accepted the offer after a last interview with the CEO from whom I left with the “Marketing Assistant” guide containing sheets on sales techniques, general marketing principles to be learned by heart. After approved medical tests (yes, this was also new to me), I started this position very quickly, fifteen days after receiving my work permit.

My first day was shocking. Arriving at 8:30 am, I was able to discover what was hidden behind this second door. A very simple room with paperboards all over. The first half hour was devoted to the rehearsal of these famous sheets given during my last interview. Under the supervision of a “campaign manager”, you had to copy word for word the theoretical concepts you had learned in order to validate them (twice for each “sheet”) and to have the possibility to go to the “field”. The second part of the morning was oriented towards the teaching of a theoretical concept related to a subject of work ethic, sales, or managerial principle, led by one of the “campaign managers”. After that, we moved on to the part of announcing everyone’s goals for the day. All in a circle, the group would repeat an introductory sentence such as “Hey Guys, I’ve got goals! ” and then everyone would give his description with a crazy excitement. I couldn’t stop telling myself, “Where the hell am I? is the situation normal?” The third part of the morning was the application of sales techniques or rather systems like they would called them for each of the products promoted by the group. It could be food products, cosmetics, for the home… The last part, led by the CEO, was a speech about the organization of the group, the opportunities to grow, leadership, “work ethic” again… I was shocked to discover that these “training” meetings would be part of my future morning routine from Monday to Friday. The rest of the time was spent on the field to sell, but before you could have access to it, you had to learn and have the systems validated. I guarantee you that learning texts that are not in your native language word for word takes a long time. Therefore, my first few days were entirely devoted to their learning. After 4 days, I reached the field and very quickly discovered endless shifts with 30 minutes break, during the week and weekends with the bonus of installation / uninstallation of booth sometimes late in the evenings. I suspected that the pace wasn’t going to be easy, but honestly not like that. I had developed a “taste” for morning meetings, but it was “backwards” that I went out into the field. Depending on the products, some promotional campaigns were more “fun” than others. For example, it was clearly more lively to offer “natural juices” than to sell expensive microfiber sheets.

In the lot, a range of products had caught my attention and I very quickly worked in parallel on a personal report proposing strategic recommendations in order to optimize its volume of retail sales. Not wishing to move up the ranks (beware I will say the forbidden word) of a pyramidal organization, I decided to leave the company and take my business license offering me the opportunity to work on my own in consulting. As in the good old days, it was with my power point presentation that I set out to meet the founders of the brand for which I had just completed my study. If you don’t try, you will never know.

This first professional experience in the United States was “painful” but formative. The system of this type of company is very well organized and proven, which is normal because it is driven by a parent company making millions (if not billions) of dollars throughout the country. During these two months I attended the meeting of the founding father of this organization. Organized at the headquarters of the parent company, in flamboyant premises, this man explained his career path, his key stages, his moments of doubt before reaching the position of powerful business man. The speech was interesting and inspiring, it was clearly a typical example of “The American Dream”, a man from a very modest social background, who started with door-to-door selling and who over the years and many sacrifices built a real empire. Following the speech, there was also a round table discussion, where each “collaborator” included in the system had to briefly introduce themselves and explain in two words what their “Big Goal” was. Despite the difficulties encountered, some were very grateful for the opportunity to experience “a so-called entrepreneurial adventure”. This part of questions/answers had made me uncomfortable, I found the atmosphere was “too much” and close to a TV show (it must be probably my French side). From my point of view, some of the members present gave the impression of drinking the words of a “guru” and being entirely dedicated to the organization. I perceived the approach of this meeting as “I know that you work hard, that you make many sacrifices, but at the end of the day success is possible and if it is not for you it is ok, it was an experience”. Of course it is ok! But as a human being you project yourself, you compare yourself, and you have the example before your eyes that it is possible, so at the end, you can say to yourself: “I can do it too, I can do it!” In short, it was all very strange to me and the walk was unknown. There was certainly an attractive side because from the first day we talked to you about the possibilities of career development (reaching an Executive Manager position in 12 months), people who have succeeded in a few years within the organization, their salaries (90K after one year, 500K in five), that in the end it is a system based on “meritocracy”, if you work hard you will be rewarded, that it is possible! And on the other hand, there was obviously your daily life, the other side of the picture, a minimum wage + commissions (almost non-existent), no “benefits” (retirement, health insurance, mileage and fuel costs…), you used your car to go to events, endless shifts… is that really the goal of a lifetime? That is another debate and belongs to everyone. I think that this type of system does not have only bad sides and can be very formative and “successful” for some. If I had met this type of organization at the end of my studies, I would probably have gone head down, but with a little more professional experience and hindsight, at 30 years old it was clearly not the type of career I was looking for. I had already experienced “this dedication” for mass distribution 10 years ago and I really didn’t have the motivation to go through this step again.

WORKING IN THE US: A SHOWER OF SLAPS!

As I explained earlier, I quickly took my business license to have the opportunity to carry out missions on my own in “Marketing and Communication”. Through “unexpected” meetings, I started to develop different projects (website diagnostics, translations, recommendations for visual communication strategies, promotional actions in retail, or the implementation of a potential store in Orange County) for various companies: (cosmetics, food industry, fashion). It was a pleasure for me to return to the type of work I was doing in the advertising agency I worked for in France.

At the same time, I was still very active in research, because I had really made it a point of honor to work for an American company. I continued to send many applications, which sometimes required a lot of preparation time when translation work or “creative” videos were asked. When I reached a second stage, I felt hope but each time the door closed or I remained unanswered. The telephone interview stage never ended, the recruitment agencies did not want to submit my application because I was under visa and not a green card holder, few local companies were interested in a bilingual French/English profile, my experiences and diplomas were not “recognized”, and I must admit that my ability to speak English was not the most fluid. In short, I quickly understood that finding a job in my branch for a local company would be a real obstacle course or an illusion. From one slap to another I was beginning to be discouraged! I quickly realized that I was not going to have the same experience as my local “expatriate engineers” friends, who had been present on the territory for a few years (or even graduates) or the one I had naively imagined before my departure.

In my French resume, everything had always gone quickly, I had been very lucky and I had never experienced these moments of successive searches and refusals. It took me a little time and many slaps to understand that history was not going to repeat itself on the American continent. The essential point was to accept the fact of starting from scratch, starting at the first step and “erasing” these last ten years of experience. It was a new life, a new country, and although Americans love Paris, our French accent and our culture, no one is waiting for us. You have to fight to make a place for yourself.

=> Do you want to read the next step of this US journey? It’s here: WORKING IN THE US : A POSITIVE ANSWER, FINALLY!

Working in the US: a positive answer, finally!

Still developing small projects on my own and between a few applications, I decided to hand- deliver my resume to a few shops in the area. Luckily, a brand of French origin based in a very chic mall was looking for a part-time sales representative. The “shop manager” interviewed me on the spot and on the following week I did two more interviews with the brand’s “district manager” and then the “mall manager” to finally get the job. It wasn’t my business, but I was very happy with the “finally positive” news! The idea of a part-time job (up to 31 hours a week in California) was perfect for me to link my freelance activity and try to develop it. Moreover, knowing that the brand’s corporate team was going to move its offices from New York to Hollywood, I thought there would be potential opportunities in the medium term. Therefore, it is with great enthusiasm that I started this new adventure. At the end of my first month, the brand offered me a promotion with a full-time position still in sales with benefits that I of course accepted. The “benefits” (health insurance, pension plan…) are very valuable benefits in the US. That is, if your company does not offer them, health insurance, for example, is expensive (about $360/month for a basic contract subscription). It is unthinkable not to be covered, because in case of a problem, the bill is very expensive (that’s when you remember how lucky we are in France). After this rapid promotion, I continued to invest myself assiduously in my work. The pace was intense, I closed many times in the evenings and worked for two shops due to a lack of staff. The constant and consistent receipt of new goods in large quantities was physically challenging. The most difficult thing was to be on a different pace compare to my husband or friends (close until 9.15 pm, not to have weekends or just two consecutive days of rest). After 3 months of effort and ranked at the top of the West Coast sales associate rankings, I got a new promotion as assistant manager of two shops. I obviously seized the opportunity and continued until the end of my American adventure with this company. I never thought I’d do this type of job or imagine that this part time would have taken this turn so quickly, but I had an opportunity, I took it and I gave myself 100% until the end.

As a “French”, these successive promotions in “so little time are surprising and motivating”. If you invest yourself, if you have results, it is “possible” to evolve very quickly in the US, it is undeniable. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but this notion of “possibility”, “envy”, “hope”, “positivism”, “involvement” with “the company” seems clearly more present in the US than in France. The notion of entrepreneurship also, here many people dare to start and want to become independent. “The “general enthusiasm” for business creation is quite “crazy” and sincerely this last point is really appreciable.

CONCLUSION

As we approach a change of life following a refusal of our “green card”, I wanted through this article to share with you as honestly as possible these 2.5 years spent in Orange County in Southern California. I came to the US because I followed my partner’s now husband’s dream of living in that part of the world that was so important to him. Beyond a couple’s project, I made it a point of honor that I could also lead a personal and professional project in which I could invest myself and develop. Studies, internship searches, marriage, work permits, slaps, work, promotions, blogs, a new start for a trip around the world… I really hadn’t predicted so many developments in such a short time! Before I left, I had never thought I would find it so difficult to adapt to this new way of life, to learn English “correctly”, to find a job, to create a new circle of friends, to clearly leave my comfort zone. It was my first experience abroad where I didn’t know when I would return, where I had to potentially plan to stay for a little while. This aspect is very destabilizing, because unlike travel, you identify the negative points and you know that you will have to accept them, because you will not go home at the end of the holidays. No, your new home is elsewhere and you have to adapt! If you intend to leave and follow your partner to the US, know that not everything will be so easy. Unlike “real expatriates” and for having experienced it, the language barrier, starting from the first step and rebuilding your skills in the professional environment is not easy, but you have to hold on to it, believe in it and your efforts will eventually be rewarded in one way or another. As I said earlier, except if you have “technical” or “exceptional” skills, no one will be waiting for you. You have to be determined to make your place, work harder than others and be patient. I do not wish to discourage you, just to inform you. Not all French people who move to the United States live “The American Dream”, it’s an utopia. From a personal point of view, this American adventure has not always been easy, but I have the feeling that I have lived it 100% and that I have achieved the objectives I set myself. There were ups and downs, great challenges, discouragement, small victories, failures, encounters, frustration, misunderstanding, then joy again. A real emotional elevator. In any case, it is impossible to clearly describe all that this experience has brought me, but it was a hell of a POSITIVE TOUCH! No regrets, goodbye green card, a beautiful chapter ends waiting to write the next one while travelling the world.

My American Dream was to have shared this crazy experience with YOU (husband)! With YOU (friends)! Thank you and see you soon America!

Kathleen

Story of an atypical academic and professional career

INTRODUCTION

Recently stepped in my thirties, approaching a new turning point marked by the end of a life experience of more than two years in the United States, it’s time to take a first look at the situation because “YES” it’s frightening, but at 30 years old we start this kind of reflection. Through this article, I retrace my academic and professional career since obtaining my high school degree (freedom ticket) in 2006 until today, October 2018. Decryption of my choices of post high school, year of break abroad, multiple changes of companies and freelance jobs, to finish with a new project of a world tour in January 2019.

The message I want to convey in this article is that no matter what roads we take, each of us has the potential and opportunity to do something exciting and meaningful. Sometimes we are the only ones to set our own limits, for fear of failure, of not fitting into a mold, of not being suitable for a group or for multiple personal reasons. It is important to step back, listen to yourself, follow your instincts and give yourself the means to achieve your goals. Everyone is the master of his life, of his choices, you are the only captain on board and it is up to you to find the courage to dare and to undertake if you want change in your life.

This type of written exercise is new to me and as you will discover later, I have never been the best student in French (or English for that matter). All this to say that I have no pretension other than to share with you a feedback on a course marked by many 180 degree turns. I just hope that this story will be inspiring and motivating for some, disconnected for others, utopian or even revolting, simply that it will arouse an emotion in you.

OBTAINING THE HIGH SCHOOL DEGREE

The first part of my life was devoted to sport, more precisely to the basketball. Leaving the family cocoon at 13 years old to join a sports-study and then a training center, basketball has punctuated my life until I graduated from high school. Changes of clubs, colleges, high schools, teammates, boarding schools, these sporting and nomadic years have given me the “love” of being in motion! After obtaining this famous high school degree and these years exploring the gymnasiums of France on weekends, the big question of higher education came up. Ouch! What to do? What job? I had never really taken this question seriously before. I was clearly not talented enough to break through as a professional player and above all I no longer had the desire or pleasure to play. My objective was to get out of this bubble, to discover other things and experiences than this sport. So, I had to find a direction, a plan B, a school or a job, in clear a project.

MY CHOICE OF POST HIGH SCHOOL STUDIES: 2 YEARS WORK AND STUDY TRAINING PROGRAM

Apart from the PSE, the courses up to the high school degree had not fascinated me much and did not have the aim of integrating a specific school in order to access a defined position or sector of activity, it was difficult for me to choose a direction. Passionate about sports, I thought to integrate a sport university but I wasn’t enough academic, I needed a minimum of management. After several researches, I oriented myself towards a BTS MUC (Business Unit Management) a working and study program. The best formula for my profile; two days at school studying more technical subjects than in high school and three days in a company. The training lasts two years, the company for which you are doing your work/study program pays your school and give you a salary corresponding to a percentage of the minimum wage (450 euros/month at the time). In concrete terms, you are considered as a part- time employee with 5 weeks of paid annual holidays (yes, my American friends, in France we do have 5 weeks of paid holidays). As a result, I started my professional career “relatively” young at the age of 19 years old as a saleswoman in a group specializing in sports equipment. These two formative years and with a high dose of personal investment allowed me to obtain my diploma with notes that exceeded my expectations but also a job offer as an executive in this group. I passed into the good student category and above all I discovered that I had a certain ease in oral exams during my presentations of projects conducted in my company. I had gone a long way since the French oral on Les Fleurs du mal of Charles Baudelaire, which had given me a monumental belly in high school. Concerning this job offer, even if it’s true that at 21 years old it sounded a bit like an “El Dorado”, I decided to refuse it for fear of locking myself up so young in a sector of activity. I wanted to push my education to the maximum in order to open as many doors as possible and as always try new experiences.

A BACHELOR DEGREE IN A WORK STUDY PROGRAM

I continued with a new year in a business school that offered the possibility to validate a Bachelor degree in ” Business development and Marketing” in 1 year after a post high school degree +2. From a professional point of view, a 180-degree turn to integrate a start-up company specializing in the development of industrial-scale renewable energy projects. My role was to clear and draw up an inventory of the methanisation market in France in order to understand the creation of a future commercial offer for this industrial process. A radical change since the sale of sports equipment to the participation of meetings of local authorities, visits to slaughterhouses or farms to try to quantify the organic waste generated by these activities. This atypical professional experience has earned me an unusual subject for the writing of my thesis and to obtain a A+ for my final oral presentation in front of a jury of seven professionals.

At the end of this second cycle of education post high school and in all honesty, I had no more ideas about the “definitive” profession to which I could aspire. I was thinking, “You’re going to have to choose a position or a company for the rest of your career. A completely crazy idea when I think back to it today. However, I had discovered affinities with certain classes, I was very attracted by Marketing and its specificities such as diagnosis, research, analysis, or even the creation of commercial offers but I also liked financial analysis, sales, or even business law. It was clearly impossible for me to choose a specific branch and I still hadn’t decided to go 100% into the job market. I had to find an orientation, a plan B, a school or a job… In clear, a project!

In the blur of the moment, I turned to the possibility of continuing my Master studies to acquire new knowledge and give myself a little more time to reflect on my professional future. I have taken private business school exams that I failed because of my written results. In parallel because you always need a plan B, I had prepared many files for the integration of Masters in University (finance, entrepreneurship, international trade, purchasing…) I tried everything! In parallel application (off a classic university past), the places offer are “very rare” and I have only had refusals except to access at one oral selection for a Master degree in Management and Strategic Communication at the University of Lyon, France. For information, my TOEFL was bad, my GMAT worst, 13 places available for 800 applications, the person who received my application read my cover letter and wanted to meet me. Thank you! During my oral, I would always remember these two very emblematic university professors who told me: “but sincerely, you will be bored, you will be sitting next to academics, you have been working for 3 years, why you want to do a Master? ” Whatever their comments, I wanted to access it and was overly motivated by this possibility. A few days of endless waiting, a positive response, an immense joy, the planning for the next two years was drawn up. The integration of a Master degree at the University of Lyon, France with the discovery of new subjects, the completion of two internships or the possibility of an exchange in a university abroad.

THE MASTER DEGREE: THE END OF STUDIES

The university was a new concept for me, I would always remember my first strategy course in the amphitheater. I wondered if the teacher was speaking French because I didn’t understand anything about these theoretical concepts. The first semester, the “core curriculum”, the study of generalist subjects alongside very good students from all specializations was difficult. I was discovering studies, the real ones! Books to read, exams, assignments to give back, papers… A big challenge for a profile like mine, which until then had been a little academic. I spent hours making revision sheets, learning theories or working on endless papers. An investment rewarded by the close validation of this year.

At the end of this first academic year, I had to do an internship. By chance or by destiny and following a Facebook post from a friend I met a passionate entrepreneur who was looking for a person to help him in the organization of the first edition of a trade show specialized in mountain decoration and design in Méribel in the French Alps. The character and his project seduce me and it’s without any hesitation that I decide to embark on this adventure for these few months. After a few meetings to understand the overall business strategy of the event, I worked very quickly and independently from his office based in commercial premises shared with other companies. My missions were polyvalent, such as managing exhibitor registrations, sales follow-up, prospecting, accounting, writing press releases and radio spots, or managing press releases… The keyword was adaptation. Every day was different and unpredictable, I waited for the entrepreneur’s brief and adapted to the needs that the project required. This first edition, which was certainly a little bit rambling, was a success and an incredible professional experience. I loved that internship! A written report and an oral presentation later, I was ready to start a final year of study.

The last year of this 2-year university course was divided into 2 parts: one at school focused exclusively on classes related to my specialization: communication and the other by a final internship in a company. The final step was the redaction of a thesis and an oral presentation. For this last internship, I had the opportunity to work again for the entrepreneur for whom I had completed my Master 1 internship but I wanted to challenge myself on another project that allowed me to have a potential post- internship visibility that clearly marked the arrival this time on the 100% job market. Consequently, a new 180-degree turn to integrate a global construction engineering company with no Marketing and Communication department. Everything had to be done, the missions were diverse and the projects undertaken offered me the creation of a position of Communication and Marketing Manager within this group.

THE JOB MARKET: THE BIG JUMP

After a year spent in this engineering group, the end of my contract was approaching and I didn’t want to continue in this sector of activity, although the conditions were favorable, I had to turn to another project. I was divided between looking for a position in Marketing and/or Communication in a large group offering attractive conditions, career opportunities and the “passion” project in a start-up. It was hard to position myself! One thing leading to another, my path crossed over that of the entrepreneur for whom I had done my internship 2 years earlier and I decided to set off again for a new adventure at his side to develop the 4th edition of his event in France but also in Switzerland. Based in Lyon, I worked remotely as a Project Manager for this entrepreneur and at the same time I developed projects in events and communication on my own. The story had been repeated by a new end of contract and the desire for a new project but this time internationally.

ONE YEAR ABROAD WITH A WORKING HOLIDAY VISA

After these years of twists and turns, school and business changes, I decided to take a year off to explore a part of the world and improve my English, which I must admit was deplorable. I opted for a “working holiday visa” allowing me to work and travel to New Zealand for one year. I will not go into the details of obtaining this type of visa, but it is very easy for French citizens under 30 years old to obtain it online for many countries (the cost varies depending on the destination). After a month exploring in a van the Australian east coast, I headed to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, to start this new stage. First in a youth hostel, then in shared accommodation with roommates from all over the world, I quickly found a work in a catering company (the job of all the backpackers in the area) and then a short replacement in a web start up. Perfect opportunities to cover both my local expenses and to be flexible and travel whenever I wanted through this sumptuous country. New Zealand is breathtaking, as much for its beauty and diversity of landscapes as for the kindness and generosity of its inhabitants. After this New Zealand year and on the way back to France, I took the opportunity to explore for two months some South East Asian countries (Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand) in backpack. Youth hostels, meetings, discoveries of countries, foods, incredible places, for me it was life, the real one, and I didn’t want to waste a minute of these precious moments.

I encourage and recommend anyone who is hesitant to take the next step to experience this type of adventure abroad. Dare to launch yourself, get out of your comfort zone and confront other people, cultures, and customs… A year is nothing at the end in a life, a career, it’s just a break that will allow you to bounce back on other projects that you might never have thought of. I cannot describe the many positive aspects that this type of experience will bring you… And in the worst case if it does not suit you, you will still have the opportunity to go home, but at least you will have experienced it. Last important point, forget the idea that you have to be “rich” to be able to live this type of adventure. If you leave without first finding a job, it is obvious that you will need to have some money set aside before you leave to finance the three basic needs once you arrive on site: housing, food and transportation. There is no precise amount, it will all depend on the costs related to these three basic needs depending on the selected country and the time it will take you to get your new job. Keep in mind that there are solutions (woofing, au pair, internships, VIE…) to anticipate your departure and get you there by limiting your costs on site.

THE RETURN TO FRANCE: CLEAN SHEET

Returning to France early following a failed proposal for a business takeover, my goal was to find a job quickly in order to bounce back on a new professional project and hope this time to settle down somewhere. With my updated resume and cover letter, I started applying for Marketing and Communication positions in many local companies. Passionate about many sectors of activity (sport, travel, fashion, food, cosmetics…) and with a polyvalent profile I was not closed to a type of company, a sector of activity, a position or even a salary. I was “simply” looking for a structure where I could be challenged by a project, missions, and where I could invest myself daily with enthusiasm. To my great surprise, I quickly obtained interviews locally for large groups and small companies to finally accept a 6-month fixed-term contract as a Business Developer in an advertising agency based in Annecy, France. In terms of “conditions”, it was clearly not the most attractive offer on paper, but the agency’s development project, the business sector, potential assignments, as well as a good feeling after several interviews with the CEO made the difference. It took me 2 months after my return to the territory to start this new activity, which was fortunately a quick rebound. After a 6-month trial period, the time to get started and prove myself, my adventure continued on permanent contracts (like following my instincts was the right choice). I spent two excellent years with this agency with a team, clients and shock partners before leaving it (and leaving everything for that matter) for “a personal project”, that of following my partner in California. I will go into the details of this experience of living in the United States in my next article.

CONCLUSION

When I look back and make a first analyze, I’m proud of this atypical journey. I never thought I would be able to get a Master degree in Business, travel that much, meet so many people, or work for a dozen companies and on my own in France, New Zealand and the United States. These 10 years of hyperactivity have allowed me to live incredible personal and professional experiences across the globe and I am grateful to the people who have accompanied me for one step or during the whole way.

As we approach the end of an American life stage of more than 2 years that will mark a new turning point, I’m already looking forward to write the next during a world trip scheduled for January 2019. It’s on the blog “Slap This Life” that I have just created that I will share with you with passion and sincerity my adventures, these moments of life, these encounters that are close to my heart.

I hope that this “academic and professional” retrospective of the years since the high school degree will show you that even if you take different paths, the result can be positive. Trust in yourself, follow your instincts, work harder than others and go to the end of your projects. This combination is a magic formula that I have tried to follow (trust has been earned over time, I grant it because it was not earned). The most important thing is to be active and not in expectation, to undertake and try things that make sense to you and not to others. You are the main actor of your life, it is up to you to slap her to make her look and feel good. If you think it’s possible, that there will always be a solution, then go ahead, listen to yourself and give it all! Keep in mind that there are no failures, just experiences that will make you stronger, more mature and prepared to undertake new projects later. Taking “measured” risks, wanting to surpass yourself, challenging yourself, persevering is better than many diplomas or elitist careers, so go for it! You may not have the standardized path that some companies are looking for, but don’t worry, your atypical profile will always open doors, here or somewhere else!

Thank you for taking the time to read me.

Last thing, if you have reached the end of this article, I owe you a coffee: )

Kathleen

 

Travel in the American West

After living in Southern California for the past two years and passionate about travel, I took the opportunity to explore some mythical places of the American West. From its cities to its magnificent national parks, I can assure you that the American West is a breathtaking destination. The diversity of its landscapes, atmospheres, or activities will guarantee you an unforgettable trip whether you are alone, in couple, with family or friends.

Through this article, I will share with you some of my “favorite” spots and tips that may be useful for your trip organization.

TIPS: BEFORE THE DEPARTURE

  • First of all, I recommend to make a list of the “must-see” places that you want to visit before booking your round-trip flight tickets and car rental from the same airport. This precious list will help you plan your itinerary and choose the best means of transport between each step according to your “time and budget” constraints. Let me clarify this: because of the distances, it is not necessarily wise to make a “loop”. For example, you can arrive in San Francisco and leave from Los Angeles, or Las Vegas… Compare the car rental prices from a point A to A or a point A to B and keep in mind that it can be interesting to opt for a flight (depending on the period, Jet Blue offers attractive rates). In short, take the time to research and compare the different options before booking your round-trip tickets.
  • Before validating the reservation of a rental car company and if you do not have a credit card (credit), make sure that the selected company is able to accept a credit card (debit) on site. I also recommend to take the “insurance” service for all car rentals on site and not on the website as most of the time it is managed by a third-party company and you won’t be getting the same coverage as you would if you get it once you pick up your car.
  • Take an (international) health insurance for the duration of your stay in the US. If you are not covered, the smallest trouble will cost you a fortune (personally, I always travel with Avi International and I am satisfied with it).
  • Don’t forget to apply for your travel authorization (ESTA) online to be able to travel to the United States.
  • Learn about the main features of the American Highway Code and its parking rules to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
  • Each entry into a national park is subject to a fee (between $25 and $35 per car and not per passenger), if you plan to visit more than three, I recommend to purchase the “annual pass” at ($80) directly at the entrance of the first park you will visit. Please note: depending on the time of year, some parks may be closed (check their openings before your arrival).

TIPS: ON SITE

  • I recommend to use the app Waze for your car trips.
  • Keep your ID with you in case you want to access a bar, restaurant and get an “alcoholic” drink.
  • Hotels are very expensive in the American West, so don’t hesitate to look at hostels, motels and Airbnb (I recommend Airbnb as you might meet locals that will give you great tips on where to go and what to do).

MY RECOMMENDATIONS

To help you with the planification of your itinerary, I have created an interactive map (see below) including the “mythical” spots of a part of the American West. I would have liked to introduce you to more of them, especially in the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Texas, but I haven’t had the chance to explore them yet. I hope so on a future trip:) One thing is for sure; the American West is full of amazing national parks. If you are a nature lover, I encourage you to visit as many of them as possible. Utah will remain my favorite place. Absolutely unavoidable and grandiose! There are no other words! I encourage everyone to make the detour from Las Vegas.

 

I hope you will enjoy this part of the world as much as I did. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Have a good trip.

Kathleen

3 days in LA

Unlike the many favorites for New York City, opinions are still very disparate on Los Angeles, the city of angels. The city is very large, so is its traffic! Don’t worry, some areas are very cool and I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay in this gigantic city where the sun shines all year round.

TIPS :

  • Moving from point A to point B by car can quickly take you time due to traffic (to be considered if you book activities).
  • I recommend using Uber for your travels.
  • If you rent a car, download the Waze app to navigate (or another GPS) it is a must in LA.
  • Keep your ID with you, you will need it to access bars, restaurants…

MUST SEE :

Venice Beach & Santa Monica (½ day) :

  • Stroll through Venice and soak up the Californian vibe. You will discover the excitement of its original inhabitants (green doctors, body builders of Muscle Beach and many others…)
  • Take a trip to the canals of Venice or the cool district of Abbott Kinney.
  • Rent a bike from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica pier (20 min) and walk down its pedestrian and shopping street. If you are slightly hungry, you will find many possibilities to eat on site.
  • Back on Venice beach by bike, a quick jump into the ocean and chill by the beach will really be enjoyable.
  • After this short trip, a good cocktail is well deserved in front of a magical sunset from the rooftop High of the Hotel Erwin.
  • For your evening, direction Downtown LA, nothing beats a roof top in the heart of the city with a 360-degree view of the sparkling buildings. I recommend the Standard or the Perch.
  • If you want to continue the night and set the dancefloor on fire, the lively neighborhoods of West Hollywood, Hollywood and Downtown LA will offer you many options in terms of bars and nightclubs. I really enjoyed le Clifton’s for a friend’s birthday party. A huge club with a gigantic tree in the entrance hall, composed of several atmospheres (50’s, hip-hop, Latin…).

Continue reading “3 days in LA”

What to do in Orange County?

Orange County is a “chic” microcosm located in South Los Angeles where I have lived for 2 years. Composed of coastal cities, you will find what you are looking for if you want to spend a few relaxing days at the beach or if you are passionate about surfing. For each of the cities presented below, you will find ideas for activities and places to eat that will allow you to fully enjoy your stay.

Laguna beach: THE PRECIOUS

Laguna Beach is what Monaco is to France, a coastal city where you will find some “amazing” houses built in rocky hills with ocean views. The small-town center is very charming with its shops and art galleries, its beach a stone’s throw away but above all the best glacier in the area, Gelato paradisioBe careful, the city is Smoke Free!

  • Crystal cove state park: ($15 parking per car for the day): depending on the length of the hike you want to do, you will have the choice to take different paths in the canyon with the possibility of finishing with a very beautiful view of the ocean.
  • 1000 steps beach: my favorite beach in the region (don’t hesitate to walk along the beach to discover small isolated coves).
  • Take a brunch at the Rooftop Lounge, you will have a magnificent view of the ocean (no reservations, first come, first served).
  • If you like basketball, you will find a beachfront field right next to the city center (you can’t miss it).
  • For the French, if you are in a terrible need for a bakery, stop at Moulin for a butter ham sandwich or a pastry like at home.

Continue reading “What to do in Orange County?”

Where to eat in Orange County?

Keep calm, YES, it’s possible to eat well and for affordable prices (if you don’t drink wine) in Orange County! As a Frenchwoman and a lover of “good food”, you’ll find in this article the list of my favorite restaurants and small spots in Huntington Beach and around. Feel free to test one of these addresses and share your experience with me. Enjoy your meal!

BREAKFAST :

Banzai Bowlfor lovers of acai and fresh fruit, this is the must-see spot in Huntington Beach (also located in many cities in Orange County). On the spot or to take away for a tasting at the beach: ) I recommend you the Maui Sunrise which is a delight!

Moulin: French-style bakery based in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach with pastries as well as at home. The atmosphere is warm and the decoration plunges us back into a revisited Parisian bistro.

Milk & Honey: a small café with a charming atmosphere and a very good Wi Fi where you can serenely work. Special mention to the Hot Green Tea latte and the warm welcome of its Huntington Beach staff (also based in Costa Mesa).

IHOP: Yes, I must admit, I love their pancakes! Plate size local version: XXL.

BRUNCH & LUNCH :

Roof Top Lounge: my favorite address for a brunch in Laguna Beach with an amazing ocean view. The poke is delicious! No reservations, first come = first served!

Mozambique: roof top located in Laguna Beach, the Mozambique restaurant is a nice place for a brunch and forall Benedictine egg lovers. Reservation is recommended.

Zinqué: located at the Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach, the Zinqué restaurant with its stylish decoration and terrace overlooking the marina offers a pleasant setting for a brunch. Special mention for the carpaccio.

Greenleaf Gourmet:  located at SOCO in Costa Mesa, this place is perfect for lovers of “healthy food”. Fresh vegetable juice, organic drinks, a varied menu, all in a “natural” atmosphere, this restaurant has many advantages.

FAST LUNCH:

Perfect for lunches where you don’t want to waste time, those three addresses prove to you that fast can be synonymous of good.

Le Pho: small located restaurant based in Huntington Beach where you can enjoy an excellent Pho.

North Shore Poke Co: located in Huntington Beach, this spot clearly offers the best poke in the city. Special mention for the Poke salmon and its spicy sunset sauce.

Kebab Grill Restaurant: located in Westminster, this small restaurant offers very good Mediterranean meals.

DINNER:

Mint Leaf: a small Thai restaurant in Newport Beach offering delicious Pad Thai and a incredible mango rice sticky. Very good quality/price ratio with the option of bringing your alcoholic beverages for free. Reservation is recommended.

Ayce sushi: for all sushi lovers, this restaurant offers an “All you can eat” package for $32 only in Huntington Beach. Unbeatable quality/price ratio. Reservation is recommended.

25 degrees: if you want a tasty homemade burger and excellent sweet potato fries, I recommend this restaurant based in Huntington Beach. Wine is affordable which is rare in an Orange County restaurant.

Mo Ran Gak: located in Garden Grove, this restaurant offers a delicious Korean Barbecue. If you are a meat lover and have never tried this type of experience, I recommend it at 100%. The staff is very friendly and will not hesitate to help you in your choice. No reservations, first come, first served.

Basilic: small French restaurant based in Balboa island. The place is welcoming and the meals prepared by the French chef are delicious. Reservation is recommended.

Salerno: if you are looking for a good Italian restaurant with a varied menu, go to Salerno in Laguna Beach. Special mention to the Fettucini Alf which are succulent. Reservation is recommended.

Habana: very friendly Cuban restaurant located at The Camp in Costa Mesa. The terrace with its many lights is charming and the meals are good and generous. Reservation is recommended.

LiTTLE PLEASURE !

Godiva: if you have a sudden desire for chocolate, I recommend the Godiva shop located in South Coast Plaza. Special mention for its chocolate covered strawberries and its swirl Vanilla / chocolate ice cream.

Gelato Paradisio: the best ice-cream maker in the area based in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. 

Shuck Oyster Bar: oyster bar based at SOCO in Costa Mesa. The prices are high but the quality is there.