PWN Zug & Zurich: Building Networking Trust

One of the nuances when living and working in a new country like Switzerland, is understanding how to approach and position yourself in the local job market.  This can apply if you’re looking for a new job, or even in working out how to navigate your career trajectory within a company based in Switzerland.

PWN Zug&ZurichNow, I’m not an HR expert, but if we stop to think about it, the facts and stats seem to be pretty obvious – a hiring manager has 15 – 20 seconds to look at a CV, the unemployment rate is low at 2.9% making getting into the market challenging, temporary work has increased over recent years, and most people in metropolitan areas of Switzerland seem to speak 3 to 4 languages. Fluently. Pretty daunting if you come from an environment where you were comfortably proficient in one language that everyone operated in.

As President of PWN Zug & Zurich, focused on advancing balanced leadership in our community, we recently hosted an expert panel on ‘How to position yourself in the Swiss Job Market’ in collaboration with Badenoch & Clark Switzerland, which included Simone Solimera, Alessandro Giannone, Patricia Widmer, Women Back to Business (University of St. Gallen), Angie Weinberger from Global People Transitions and moderated by Ana Maria Montero of CNN Money Switzerland.

With a full house of over 70 attendees, this was clearly a hot topic!

My top three takeaways included:

  1. Get really clear on your focus: two or three skills that are easily understandable in the context of the role you want to get. This is truly a case of ‘less is more’. Catchy key facts need to capture the attention of the person (or machine) scanning your CV, to make them want to take a longer look at it. The same applies to your social media profiles across LinkedIN and Xing.
  2. Investing in hiring (or promoting) someone is a calculated risk: In an environment that can be known for being thorough and a little risk averse, the hiring manager will want to make sure they are making the right choice. This can include multiple interviews with different individuals, meeting in person over a coffee or lunch. If you’ve arrived from a country which has a fast recruitment cycle on ‘hiring and firing’ and is therefore able to make quick decisions on appointments, this can feel frustrating. On the upside though, you also get to know if this is a company that you really fit into as it’s not just about getting a job but also finding a job with the right chemistry for and with you!
  3. This brings me to networking: Of course, we all know about the importance of networking. But do we? This isn’t just about a LinkedIn connection. This is about showing up. Meeting people, engaging – face to face. Lead with offering something, sharing insight or perspective relevant to the person you engage with. Give before you take and as you ask for suggestions and help, you may also be building relationships that are not only an investment in your career, but also help with your integration into the local fabric of Switzerland. 

Follow up and perseverance is required – without being irritating. People work for and with people, which is fundamentally built on relationships and a sense that you would be a good fit in a particular company’s culture. 

There is no magic formula to finding a job. There are so many dynamics at play and it takes effort. It is quite normal to look for a job for 6 to 12 months in the Swiss market (with the exception of requirements for interim management positions which need fast turn arounds). 

In the engaging conversation between the audience and the panelists, nuggets of wisdom, experience and advice were forthcoming from our four experts:

  • 'There is no standard CV, tailor it for every application you make to call out the key facts pertinent to that job. Apply the principles of CAR in your experience overview:
    • Describe the Content of your role?
    • Which Actions did you apply?
    • What Results did you achieve?’
  •  ‘Do your research – know the company you are going to be interviewed by or about the role you are applying for. Don’t just wing it, you are also there to see if it is a good fit for you – and first impressions count. Bring your energy and passion into the first 10 minutes of an interview.
  • ‘If you are a generalist, look at smaller companies in Switzerland. Larger companies will look for the deep industry or functional experience required for the role and not take a risk on a generalist'
  • ‘More than 75% of jobs are not advertised in the Swiss market – networking is critical’ (see some of the great research published around this by Kanton Zurich Amt für Wirtschaft und Arbeit: Wie transparent ist der Arbeitsmarkt? - German publication)
  • ‘There are jobs that don’t require German – but it is useful to have some basic language skills that help interact with colleagues over coffee or informally’
  • 'Around 80% of senior roles are more likely to require some deeper knowledge of German, depending on the sector’
  • ‘Always be authentic and honest in your profile – a break is more understandable these days, be it for parental leave or sabbaticals. Don’t cover it up. Besides if you are unemployed – you are also immediately available for interim management positions’.


Less is more… except for networking. Networking can be a job in itself and is the foundation to building trust. It is an ongoing process, not a once off occasion and success flows from consistently making new, relevant contacts, following up and keeping in touch. It’s also not about who you know, but who knows you. That might lead to the right door being opened for you to realise your dream job. Be ready for it.

Author: Janice Mueller, President, PWN Zug and Zurich


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