Advice on a career change

Hi there. I’m looking for some advice on a career change and wondered if any of you could help me.

I have lived in France since 2003. I am looking to work full time in a field, preferably people based, that allows me to speak French and English. I wouldn’t say I would be proficient enough to do a translating job, but my standard of French is pretty good. I definitely could work where it would be necessary to help people and liaise between the French and English. I have recently written to Brittany Ferries and I am awaiting their response. I have also tried local hospitals but was told that the secretaries/staff are already being trained to speak English.

Quick resume of work experience: worked for the civil service (MoD) as a clerical and financial officer for 20 years, then moved to France and passed my CAP in cuisine traditionnelle. As my English qualifications were so old, I also did geography, physics, chemistry, history, maths, French and English (lol). I have worked in restaurants and presently I am working for the Mairie as a cuisinière in a school kitchen.

Thank you in advance to any of you out there that could give me some ideas of where to look :-)

Hi Claire, I'm a VA/transcriptionist working from home. If you register as an AE find the codes for "services" and "secretary" or "document production" (sorry, I can't for the life of me think what I was now). Anyway, they seem to cover it. With the accounting background, it could give you a slight advantage in terms of the online agencies. I used to do "bits" for and a couple of others. Depending what type of work you're looking for, you need to bear in mind that with these agencies you will frequently be bidding against hundreds of other freelancers some of whom can work for, say, €3 per hour. If you need to make a good income from this, you'll need to bear that in mind otherwise every waking hour will be spent working to make very little which (hmm, that sounds familiar). Also, for AE status you need to have more than one employer so definitely register in more than one place. I'm trying to think what else but I have brain freeze - just moved 4 cubic metres of firewood and a hungry, squawking 10 year old. If I think of anything else, I'll be back.

Wow thanks Helen for that :-) I will check them out!

Hi Claire we have lots of virtual assisatants in the facebook gropu Ladies In Business In France , I'm sure they'd give you some starters

Hello Susan...... what a great idea.... I would never have thought of this :-) I have read the article in the entrepreneur which was very interesting... now I will go onto the sites straight away and check what's it all about! Thanks :-)

Thank you véronique :-) my ATT diplomas didn't count here so I did actually get the reconnaissance des acquis de la vie professionnelle just for the hell of it! I have been on the the Greta site and not much help there, but the other site you suggested is really interesting. I've signed up with EPSO for careers with the European Union... having a problem with the 'start your application' section but I'll get there!! Thank you so much for giving me this idea :-)

Hi Claire

With secretarial/accounting skills have you looked into setting yourself up as a Virtual Assistant. "Most virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who do their jobs from home and focus on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary. Websites that specialize in contract workers, such as and, have thousands of listings for virtual assistants" (info lifted from !! ) There is lots of information on this - you can choose as much work as you want and work from home but you have to be pretty organized. Just a thought........!!!! Not sure about the French legalities but would assume some sort of Auto Entrepreneur standing - I am sure someone on this site will bump in with advice on this.

There's no age for retraining, and while it is available & subsidised GO FOR IT! It might also be worth getting a certificate acknowledging the UK qualifications you already have (or if there's no direct equivalent at least a reconnaissance des acquis de la vie professionnelle, a bit time-consuming but worth it).

Thank you for replying :-) I'm actually a qualified accountant, but couldn't stand the stress of the job... that's why I decided to change and become a cook lol...... I will go and look on the Educ.gouv site as you suggested, it's a very good idea. I will also look into the BEP/BAC idea too via Greta. If I had my dream, it would be to work as a secretary for a french/english company. I forgot to say, I actually did go to Pole Emploi to ask if they could help me to become a secretary (what courses available etc) I found the woman to be one of the most un-supportive, rude, racist, demeaning, unkind person I have ever met since I've been out here.... she laughed and told me to go and find a course to learn french first. I allowed her to make me feel totally useless and to be honest, I've lost a lot of confidence in myself since that horrible experience

I think as French people are so stuck on qualifications, you need to show any potential employer that you aren't 'just a cook' by showing what else you are qualified to do & play that up like mad - the problem here is that people will see CAP cuisine & think you can't do anything else, because the vast majority of people with a CAP don't have any other qualifications. Usually for secretarial stuff you need a BEP/Bac Pro/BTS - you may be able to do the BEP or the Bac Pro via the GRETA in your local Lycée Professionnel/Technologique. If you look at the Educ.gouv site you may see more useful information, there's a bit where they show you which level of qualifications you need for which type of job - they are categorised level I, II, III, IV, V etc and you can see what possibilities there are. It is worth getting as highly qualified as you can while the state still subsidises it, as while it is possible to find a job you like serendipitously it is much more likely that people will look at a cv & bin it straight away if the diplômes don't fit with the job they are advertising.