Any advice on how to get a software developer job in Europe?

Am a senior at college, going to graduate this summer. My plan is to get about 1-2 years of work experience and then try to find a job in Europe or hopefully if I work for a big company, ask for a job transfer abroad. Now my question is this, is it really possible with just 1-2 years of work experience? Always wanted to work and live in Europe, whether I end up actually liking it is a different story but I just want to give it a try.

I see no advantage in going to Europe for work if you can work in the USA.
If you live in a city in central Europe and work as a junior developer, you probably can save ~500€ per month.

I’ll start by putting a big caveat which is that my career has been largely based in finance, and post the financial crisis => so your experience with tech firms today may differ.

With that said I’ve worked from Orlando > Brussels > Singapore. When I moved to Europe in 2010, the opportunities were far greater than they were in the US from a business perspective. This was offset by the European approach to compensation where you work to live, not live to work. Belgium has some of the stiffest tax rates in the world, paying up to a 62% marginal tax rate, and I’ve seen reports which say your company pays 100% of your salary on top in taxes and social contributions. As a result you absolutely cannot compare your take home income potential to a system like the US with 10,000 pages of loophole ridden tax code.

Now that I’m in Asia, I’m in an even more favorable business environment than Europe or (I believe) the US today. Better growth, with less taxes than Europe, and the same entrepreneurial spirit I saw around the year 2000 in the US dot come era. With that said, the cost of living is breath taking, and the job market is extremely competitive. You are NOT special as a foreigner, and the skilled labor market is … interesting (very cheap, with a large variation in skill compared to western markets).

In the end, I’m a big believer in the benefit of a varied experience. I don’t consider myself to be a ‘career’ banker, and simply found myself fortuitously working for a large multinational firm at a critical time in history. That firm has been kind enough to give me opportunities to work around the world, has seen me meet my Belgian wife, start a young family, and now relocate to Asia all with a reliable and reasonable salary.

If you are young, cast a wide net and consider all opportunities. Build your network, and don’t discount the investment and difference that a few seniors can make in your life and career if you are reliable and deliver solid work. Dream big, but also ground your dreams in a healthy dose of obsessive and detailed research. While the US remains the epicenter of technology and business in many ways, also understand that that epicenter will almost certainly shift to Asia for many (most likely irreversible) reasons. I believe everyone can benefit from experience and travel, but without knowing more about your motivations I can’t say much more.


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I agree with you that the U.S. is still the epicenter for technology and business and that Asia is most likely the next epicenter. When I mean Europe, I mean first world countries like France, Spain, U.K., etc. I been fortunate enough to visit a few European cities, I think it comes down to this, here in the U.S. you can make a lot money as a software developer while in first world European countries it’s the lifestyle that makes it up. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some countries in which you can earn as much as here in the U.S. but many people like Europe because of the lifestyle and quality of life, which is probably my main motivation, I want to try a new environment, get out of my comfort zone(which is NYC, can’t complain). I been trying to get in touch with some developers in the specific countries am interested to get more information and to see how life is as a software developer in those specific countries.

As for me, I guess I have time on my side since am a young man. I know eventually I will work in Europe, it’s one of the perks of being a software developer, it’s a skill you can take anywhere in the world. Rob thanks for your response, I didn’t expect such a detailed response from someone.

I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, but I think that ship has already sailed and the US isn’t the center of the world anymore :slight_smile:

So it sounds like you are making a conscious lifestyle choice and that’s hard to argue against. Just mind my points about the grass not being greener on the other side. Hey, I’m married to a French speaking woman, and have 10 years of irreplaceable memories across the European continent and cultures, so I get it. From Italy to London to Prague. From the Alps to the French Riviera. From learning what ‘old’ and ‘foreign’ cultures really look like, to cycling through cow shit in a sport they call Cyclocross :smiley: All those experiences, are just different. Not good or bad or better, and I probably would have had just as interesting experiences, but different, if I had stayed home. So try to not overly-romanticize your decisions and enjoy the ride.

In terms of mechanics I would try to be pretty strategic in your move and how you do it. Yes a big multinational will transfer you in 1-2 years if its in their interest. My transfer negotiations started before my 1 yr anniversary, and I moved somewhere around 28 months. But big companies are big companies, and if you want to get a truer European experience I’d encourage you to dive into the deep end of the pool with local, smaller experiences. The #1 question there will be what are your language skills…and I’m not talking about Javascript. While English is the lingua franca, that actually becomes a severe handicap when monoligual anglophones are trying to integrate in cultures where the norm is 2-6 languages (Belgium is 3-4!). Integration will greatly change your experience.

Also think hard about where your initial experience will be. Moving can be very expensive, and time wasted on a poor choice (company or business fit) is very expensive as well. Take nothing but the bare minimum and try hard to find the right fit the first time. London (and to a lesser extent Paris) have a lot of Venture Capital money. Germany has probably the deepest pool of engineering talent in the world outside of the US/Japan (now I am really risking some feathers). Switzerland has a lovely international, technically skilled, and innovation driven dynamic I haven’t seen elsewhere in Europe (my first hackathon was in Zurich). I’ve heard bubbles of youth driven entrepreneurship in Spain, Italy, and even Greece, but those economies are all still very depressed, so they seem riskier bets to me.

Wishing you good luck and interesting travels!