The CEMS Global Alliance is a purpose led organization, powered by our beliefs that great leadership starts with self-leadership and societal progress requires continual exploration. In this series of interviews, we take a look at CEMS students and alumni that are contributing to make this world a more open, sustainable and inclusive world.


Humans of CEMS: Overcoming the challenges of finding a job in Europe as a non-European

Today, in our Humans of CEMS series, we spoke with Daniel Crossley, a CEMS Student Board Representative for UAI in Chile and a Digital Transformation & Innovation Intern for a large FMCG company, about his experiences finding a job in Europe as a non-European. In this interview Daniel shares his journey as well as insights on job search for those trying to find a job right now.

1. What does a day in the life of a digital transformation & innovation intern look like?

No two days are the same! I work on different projects and hence, I have project-based teams, as well as some days of the week blocked for each project. In each project, we develop a new business model for Nestlé, either for one of the categories or cross-category. We seek new trends and new ideas every day and we are working on building new digital, sustainable and social responsible business models for the company. We take the responsibility of bringing innovation and a start-up mindset closer to a very big and traditional company. Hence, design-thinking and agile working methods are the core of what we do daily, so we work on sprints and always with a test & learn mindset. Every single day we are asking ourselves, what can we do better? What do consumers want from a FMCG company?

As drivers of innovation and digital within the company, we have mostly consultants and ex-consultants on the team. However, even if our core team are mainly consultants, we have a broad network of colleagues throughout the organization with whom we work very closely on a daily basis. From all corporate functions to all categories. We all work together under the motto: “Connect 2 Grow”. 

2. Why did you want to work in Europe?

I had the privilege of being educated by Swiss teachers both in Colombia, where I was born, and in Chile, where I grew up. Attending a Swiss School abroad gave me the opportunity to realize from a very young age, that if you want to achieve great things in life, you have to work hard and persevere. From my point of view, the Swiss, and the European culture in general for that matter, have internalized both of those qualities, and I have always admired that. Developing a vision and working hard, step-by-step, towards it, is something I have been able to find in the European culture. That being said, I wanted to professionally grow in Europe, while always being proud of representing the flexibility, spontaneity, joy and passion of the Latin culture in all the teams I join. 

3. Which platform(s) were you using to find european internships?

I leveraged all CEMS platforms, as well as LinkedIn. I was fortunate enough that one of the interviewers at Nestlé, and my current supervisor, is actually a fellow CEMSie and posted the position in one of our Facebook groups. CEMSies not only went through the same challenges and experiences, but they also value international teams and are more than willing to support you, even if you are not from the country or region. I found the skill seminars and corporate events more challenging in finding a job, as they targeted mostly Europeans. Hence, being strategic with what resources you have and using our Facebook Groups would be my suggestions. 

4. What was the largest challenge of finding an internship in europe as a non-european?

I think the challenge is to accept that you will need to apply more than an average CEMSie, and to positions that might not be exactly what you want. However, think in the long run. The more you apply, the more chances you will have. Consider this, as the more rejections you get, the closer you are to getting a job. 

If you need to get a sponsored visa, I would suggest you stop thinking about “I want to work for company X” and start thinking about “If I get any sort of job, I will be a step closer to working for company X at some point in my life”. It is a bit unrealistic to dream about a job, a company or an industry, when you need a visa. If you are too picky with where you apply, you will open fewer doors throughout your journey and hence, fewer opportunities. As long as you have a sense of direction, i.e. a North, you will get there. Maybe it takes a few months, a year, or even longer. The question is if you are willing to take the risk of not getting exactly what you want in the short term, to build for what you want in the long term. 

5. What skills do you think non-European CEMSies should have in order to make finding an internship or job in Europe easier?

Languages are by far one of the most important assets. The majority of Europeans speak a second language, and in fact usually 3 or 4 languages. Having as many languages as possible on a work-proficiency level will increase your chances of getting a job in Europe. Moreover, most companies in Germany, Italy, France and Spain work in their local language, and that is why entering the UK market is also twice as hard. 

Case-solving skills are also something you can prepare in advance. Most companies in Europe are looking for people with a structured problem-solving mindset, and if you don’t have it, you can develop that by exercising with materials you can easily find online. In general, despite what you are applying to, if you can structure a difficult and complex problem, in a simple framework or concept, you will stand out. 

6. Was it difficult to obtain a work visa in Germany?

Every country is different. For Germany, It is not difficult as long as you have the following: (1) A binding contract with at least minimum wage (EUR 1.470/month for 40 hrs/week) that ensures your financial solvency, and (2) proof the internship is a required part of your studies. The latter, is a specific and very important part for the visa. 

However, in Germany mandatory internships are the only ones that can be unpaid or paid under minimum wage. Hence, the difficult part is to find an employer that is willing to take you as a mandatory internship and still pay you at least minimum wage. Usually, big corporations are the ones that do so. For full time jobs, the story is a bit different. 

Finally, remember that in order to apply for a visa, you always need to be a resident of the country from where you are applying to. If you are doing your CEMS exchange in the UK, for instance, on a student visa (and not a Residence Permit), you will need to fly back to your country of origin (or residency) to apply for the new visa, and this can take months of processing time. 

For additional details regarding German student visa including requirements and application procedure, which most foreign students would need prior to entry into the country, you can refer to this page

Feel more than free to drop me a private message if you have any questions. I will be more than happy to support you in the journey. @daniel_crossley

Daniel Crossley