Working in Rome

Finding steady work in Rome isn’t easy. Although the Italian economy has displayed some robust growth in recent years, it's still recovering from the impact of the global financial crisis and even Italians find it hard to find jobs in particular professions.

Italian employers also seem to have a natural preference for hiring Italian residents, or at least EU residents, as this means that they won’t need to bear the burden of completing work permit paperwork. In fact, expats dreaming of employment in the heartland of ancient civilisation should note that securing that first job in Italy is reasonably difficult thanks to the country’s very tricky work permit and residence procedures which are required of non-EU residents seeking employment in Italy.

Job market in Rome

Rome also has the highest concentration of expats in Italy, so foreigners should expect additional competition from their peers when it comes to landing a working position in Rome. Speaking English is no longer enough for expats looking to get secure work in Rome and many companies will not consider hiring an expat until they are reasonably proficient in Italian. 

That said, expats who aren’t fluent in Italian can still find employment in Italy, especially if they have a desirable university qualification. In Italy, qualifications are revered and having a degree and experience in one’s home country will impress most employers.

Those with marketing and communication degrees will have the most success in finding a job in Rome, as well as those who have worked in the business side of the hotel and tourism industry. Additionally, those who can demonstrate expertise in the digital realm, as in professional social networking, marketing, and English SEO (search engine optimisation) also fare well.

Large companies and multinationals that work frequently with international business partners and clients also remain keen on hiring English-speaking expats. 

As for non-skilled professions, such as waitressing, bartending and reception positions in hotels, resorts and hostels, these are still available but are less common than they used to be in Rome. Expats applying for these types of positions will require basic Italian language skills if they want to put themselves ahead of the competition. Being proficient in an additional language, such as Japanese, French or German, can also be a serious advantage when seeking employment in the tourism industry in Rome. 

A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate from an accredited agency is almost always necessary for expats looking to teach English in Rome. 

Finding a job in Rome

Many Italians disregard CVs or any written documentation and are more likely to hire an expat once they’ve met them in person. For non-EU residents, the best course of action is to obtain a position before leaving their home country. Intra-company transfers provide a number of opportunities, as do multinational companies that regularly hire foreigners. It’s best for expats to pinpoint possible companies that they’d like to work for, and then consult the 'jobs' section of the individual companies' websites. 

For those looking for something a little less corporate, there are a number of online and storefront recruitment and volunteer agencies that will secure expats their first job in Rome – usually in language schools, au pair positions or within the tourism industry. Expats going this route should ensure that the agency is accredited and trustworthy before signing up. These agencies usually require some sort of financial contribution from the applicant for their services.  

Expats can peruse the job sections of local newspapers, a few of which are in English. Online job portals are also a good place to search, while registering with a job centre in Rome can also be a good way to get a foot in the door.

It’s often easier for an expat to secure a lower-skilled job, like cleaning, where a proficiency in Italian is not required than to find employment in the traditional expat industries. 

Work culture in Rome

Rome is a big city and there are more expats than jobs in most industries. As a result, employers have been known to take advantage of expats, especially non-EU residents. Accepting a position without a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno) is extremely unadvisable as it is impossible to seek any legal assistance if the employer underpays, abuses employee rights or refuses to pay altogether.

In Rome, more than anywhere else in Italy, it is important to be charismatic and enthusiastic during job interviews. Romans are very sociable and are more likely to overlook formal education or Italian language proficiency if the applicant is someone who they think they can become friends with, and who appears to have admirable and interesting reasons for wanting to work in Rome. 

Expats should be mindful that Rome still has a relatively high unemployment rate for a European city, and friends and family often take precedence over foreigners when openings do become available.

Elisa Scarton Our Expat Expert

Elisa is an Australian journalist who came to Tuscany for a year, and fell in love (how cliché?), and decided to stick around. Cutting her teeth in frenetic-paced Rome, she now writes a Tuscan travel blog and online travel guide about her new home, the infinitely beautiful Tuscan Maremma, so that others can get a taste of la dolce vita.

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