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Are bright young Italians stuck in the fast food job trap?

Love them or loathe them, fast food chains are spreading their wings across Italy, and the thousands of new jobs they bring are likely to be fiercely contested by young Italians.

Are bright young Italians stuck in the fast food job trap?
Thousands of jobs in the fast food sector are set to be created in Italy. Photo: Marco papale/Flickr

Burger King alone is promising to employ a whopping 5,000 workers across 300 new outlets by 2021.

And by 2020, rival McDonald's has plans to open a further 250 restaurants. 

But they are not alone.

KFC ventured into the Italian market in 2014, opening its first store in Rome, with plans to open its third in Milan later this year.

Meanwhile, the coffee chain, Starbucks, said in February that it is finally taking the plunge in Italy, and will open its first store in Milan early next year. 

Once upon a time, such announcements were met with fierce opposition: in 2000, as McDonald's expanded, riot police had to be called in when protesters marched through 20 cities. 

But nowadays they quietly flourish as young Italians compete for jobs with some of the country's most prolific employers. 

When a McDonald's outlet opened in the Mestre train station in Venice in 2014, 1,749 people applied for just 30 positions.

It all comes down to Italy's moribund economy: the county's youth unemployment rate of 39.1 percent is one of the highest in Europe, and despite Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's work reforms, the job market remains volatile.

“The fast food sector is a big employer and a lot of young Italians, also graduates, panic about not being able to find anything else and apply because they see it as a way to get experience in the world of work,” Valerio Tabascio, a senior consultant at Hays recruitment in Rome, told The Local.

Luigi, the 34-year-old manager of a Burger King restaurant in central Rome, said he receives “lots of applications, mostly from youngsters”.

“The application process is all handled online now, but a couple of years ago I would take in between 10 and 15 CVs a day.”

Unlike in other countries, where workers in the fast food sector are often stigmatized for doing what are perceived to be unglamourous and dead-end jobs, Italians view things differently.

“I know that in American films it's always the losers and ex-prisoners who wind up in fast food jobs, but here it's quite different,” Luigi, who has worked at Burger King for the last 14 years, added.

Laura Dal Prà, a 25-year-old who is currently finishing up a masters in psychology at Turin university, agrees.

“I'd definitely work in a fast food restaurant,” she said.

“I perhaps wouldn't want to stay there forever, but where's they shame in it?”

In Italy, a stable fast food job can be a safe choice, even for graduates, who often struggle to find fixed positions and end up working as freelancers.

The average freelancer takes home just €515 a month, according to worker's rights observatory XX Maggio. If a freelancer wants to earn €1000 a month after taxes and accountancy fees, they must gross a whopping €4,000.

“Sure I make a bit less money than my friends, but I have a permanent contract which has allowed me to get a mortgage and raise my child without worrying about next month,” Luigi said.

But according to Tabascio, who worked for a fast-food chain while at university, graduates risk getting “too settled” in the sector and forfeiting the careers they studied for.

“If they spend three to five years working in McDonald's, then they will struggle to be taken seriously in their chosen field,” he said.

“Fast-food jobs should be the kind of thing you do for earning money as a student or something that's just temporary while job-hunting.”

He admits that Italy doesn't make it easy for graduates to find steady work, especially as the labour market is still so rigid, but says that graduates could be more proactive.

“Part of the problem here is that they don't know the resources that are available to them – such as employment agencies or online job sites – universities do not do enough to prepare graduates for the world of work,” he added.

“There are many companies struggling to fill professional positions – the problem is finding the candidates, and part of that is due to graduates taking a job in the fast food sector because they worry about finding another job or aren't fully aware of the resources available.”  

But while fast food jobs are not stigmatized, they do go against the grain of the country's 'slow food' culture – something which is close to many young Italians' hearts.

“I don't eat fast food or believe in its philosophy, so the job isn't hugely gratifying in that respect,” Luigi said.

“For the past 14 years I've brought a packed lunch.”

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WORKING IN ITALY

EXPLAINED: How to write the perfect CV for a job in Italy

If you’re job-hunting in Italy, following Italian CV etiquette will increase your chances of impressing recruiters and give you a head start over other applicants.

EXPLAINED: How to write the perfect CV for a job in Italy

Whether it’s your first time looking for work in Italy or are simply planning on polishing up your old CV to test the job market, there are a few specific quirks and features you should know about before writing your Italian curriculum.

From personal details and photos to references and privacy clauses, knowing the ins and outs of Italian CV etiquette will give you better chances of standing out from the crowd and impressing recruiters.

Italian CV basics

Your Italian CV shouldn’t be longer than two pages and should be clear and simple to read, making all of your relevant professional experience and qualifications readily available.

Creative resumes may look amazing, but recruiters in Italy tend to prefer a standard chronological CV using fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman to facilitate quick reading and scanning.

English or Italian? 

If you’re applying for an English-speaking position, either option will work in most cases.

But if you’re not very confident in your Italian skills, or don’t know any native speaker who may be able to proofread the text for you, it may be best to stick to English: well-written English will always give a better impression than mistake- or typo-filled Italian.

READ ALSO: How many foreigners are overqualified for their jobs in Italy?

If, however, the job advert is in Italian, and/or there’s an explicit request for applications to be sent in Italian, then you should definitely go for a CV in Italian. 

In this case, it’s strongly advisable to get the help of a native speaker or even a professional translator to make sure your CV is faultless.

Personal details

Applicants are advised to include their personal information and contact details at the very top, ideally organising them into a header.

Besides the usual details (full name, email address, telephone number including country code), Italian employers will expect you to include a little more personal information than you may be used to.

Personal details should include your date of birth, nationality, and address (city and street name are usually sufficient).

Foreign nationals are often advised to seek the help of a native speaker or professional translator when crafting their Italian CV

Foreign nationals are often advised to seek the help of a native speaker or professional translator when crafting their Italian CV. Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

If relevant, you can also include links to your social media accounts or personal professional websites in this section.

Photo or no photo?

Unlike in countries like the US and UK, many recruiters in Italy will expect you to attach a picture to your CV.

The photo should be a passport-sized headshot with a neutral background, and should look professional (meaning no blurry or grainy pictures taken at social events for instance).

‘Personal profile’

Some applicants like to start out their CV with a summary (usually under the headline of profilo professionale, or ‘professional profile’) giving a clear description of who they are, what they’re looking for, and their key skills.

READ ALSO: Why English teachers say working at Italy’s language schools is an ‘uphill battle’

This is optional, but if you do go for it, keep it to a maximum of two to three lines and make sure to grab the reader’s attention quickly.

Work experience and education

As with CVs in other countries, you’re expected to present your experience in reverse chronological order, working back from your most recent job to your earliest relevant position.

You don’t need to include every single job you’ve ever had, but only the positions that are relevant to the job.

For each position, list your job title, company, and location (city and country), as well as the relevant dates. Bullet points outlining key tasks, responsibilities and skills are not an essential step in Italian CVs, but are a popular choice among applicants.

As for the education section, you should include all the relevant qualifications in reverse chronological order. 

For foreign qualifications, it’s advisable to indicate their equivalent in the Italian system if possible. While you may be asked to produce official translations at a later application stage, this is usually not necessary at this time.

If you are listing any degree, it’s a good idea to indicate the exact grade you achieved. This is common practice in Italy as it’s often assumed that candidates not stating their exact grade didn’t perform well.

Additional skills and languages

Italian CVs generally feature a separate section for other relevant professional skills, including any IT systems or software you may be able to use, as well as any known languages.

When it comes to describing your ability in each language, you can use madrelingua to describe your native language. For additional languages, you can either use the European Language Framework or stick to general descriptors such as basic (elementare), good (buono), intermediate (intermedio), advanced (avanzato), fluent (fluente). 

If you have certificates testifying to your language skills, make sure to list them. 

Most Italian employers will not expect you to list interests and/or hobbies, which is why it’s generally advisable to keep this section extremely brief or forgo it altogether.

References

Employers in Italy are not as demanding as recruiters in other countries when it comes to references, but including a couple of referenze (ideally, past employers) and their contact details can work to your advantage.

Italian CVs often feature a clause allowing recruiters to process their personal data

Italian CVs often feature a clause allowing recruiters to process candidates’ personal data. Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

Privacy clause

Though it is not a legal requirement, job applicants in Italy are advised to include the following clause at the bottom of their CVs:

Autorizzo il trattamento dei miei dati personali ai sensi del D.L. 196/2003 e dell’art. 13 del GDPR (“I agree to the processing of my personal details according to law 196/2003 and article 13 of the General Data Protection Regulation”)

READ ALSO: Nine of the best websites to search for jobs in Italy

This allows hiring managers to lawfully use your personal data under Italian and European privacy regulation in order to move your application forward or save your profile for future vacancies.

Not including the clause may delay your application, according to Italian work advisors.

Online submission

Pdf is considered the best format for electronic CV submissions. 

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to ensure that the size of your file doesn’t exceed five megabytes to avoid upload or download issues.

Do I need a cover letter?

While employers in many English-speaking countries may not even consider a candidate unless they attach a cover letter, in Italy this is often optional.

Italian recruitment experts advise applicants to attach a cover letter only “if you want to underline a specific point – such as why you want to apply to a particular firm”.

If you do decide to attach a cover letter to your CV, it’s advisable to keep it concise and sharply focused, highlighting why you’re the right fit for the position at hand expanding on experiences and skills already outlined in your CV.

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