We continue our three-part international careers series onBlackEnterprise.com, profiling professionals who found career fulfillment in the global landscape.
Janan Shakur aspired to live abroad to gain a different experience of life beyond U.S. shores. She decided to attend an American university in Switzerland which included opportunities to travel as part of its academic curriculum.
Influenced by her own culture and diverse travels, Shakur went on to become a fashion entrepreneur, founding Casa di Culture, an online boutique she runs while living and working in Vaud, Switzerland.
Check out Shakur’s insights on being a black professional in the country, navigating the job market, and the perks of working overseas. —Janell Hazelwood
WORKPLACE BENEFITS: “In addition to my online business, I also work at a multinational firm,” Shakur says. “The main differences I see between working in Switzerland and the U.S. is that the salaries are generally higher, the vacation days are more generous (at least 4 paid weeks/year) and most people are fluent in three languages.”
MORNING COMMUTE: “I have a 20-minute train commute and then a 10-minute bus ride to the office,” Shakur says. “Since I live in a different town from where I work, my train expenses amount to 5% of my monthly salary. I prefer to travel by public transportation—specifically by train—since they are clean, on time and centrally located.”
NATURAL BEAUTY: “I live with my husband in a quaint town near the lake. I love living here because we can walk everywhere and do not need a car. All of the commodities are within walking distance and the train station is a five-minute walk away from our apartment,” Shakur says.
MAKING THE GLOBAL PLUNGE: If you work for a multinational company, Shakur says, ask your employer whether they have assignments abroad. If they don’t, ask if you can take an extended break. During that time you can travel and explore opportunities.
Shakur says it’s also a good idea to learn as much about the country before moving as you can and tap into your social networks to find out the real story on living in a particular country. “Decide if it is the right place for you. If you are staying for a long period of time, try to visit the country first before making the big move,” she says.
FLUENCY & CULTURE: “Switzerland is a small country with a diverse population,” Shakur says. “There are four official languages (French, German, Italian and Romansch) and most citizens are fluent in at least two of these languages in addition to English. I like that the Swiss are patient toward visitors and expatriates, and they genuinely enjoy learning about other cultures.”
FINANCIAL PLANNING: Save as much as possible before moving, in case you are offered an unpaid internship. Also, Shakur advises you calculate cost of living (i.e. transportation, taxes, rent, food, permit fees etc) and currency rates of exchange. Use e-banking and make sure that your debit and credit cards work abroad.
LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS: Research the residency laws in the local country. Some countries allow you to work a certain amount of hours if you have a study permit. Look for continuing education courses, master’s programs or even a Ph.D in order to study for a fraction of the cost and gain professional experience in your field.