There are more qualified workers in Italy, than there are jobs to place them in. For this reason you’ll often find that the man who serves you coffee in the morning has a university education, and is supporting his family with that job. However, Italians are shocked at the idea of the American minimum wage worker. Living wages are an important aspect of la bella vita.
To start with, don’t expect to get a job in Italy that you couldn’t get in the States. At the same time, use your American background and American skills to get work in Italy. Look at your language skills, which will serve you much better if you are bilingual, than English speaking only. Also, the high tech industry is a good place to put your focus. Just expect the Italians in the same business to have a very elitist attitude; the attitude comes with the business, you’ll be surprised to find that a more casual approach simply doesn’t convince.
Italian companies have to bend over backwards to get you a work permit, so you have to make them believe that you are the one person they need to do the job. It won’t happen over the Internet or over the phone. While permits must be applied for while you’re in your home country, employers are extremely unlikely to take you up on the job without having seen you in the flesh first.
There are a lot of American companies in Italy, but standard procedure usually includes taking someone whom is already working for them in the States and relocating them to Italy. Sound like the thing for you? Find a company, which you feel, fits the description, and make clear your goals when originally applying. This may take longer, but it may be the most secure way for you to make the transition.
If you continue to work for your home country while living in Italy, you can bypass those pesky work permits, and focus on just getting a permit to stay. The Internet is a fantastic tool for this, and continuing to work for the U.S. means taxes as usual (mailed in) and everything’s fine.
Working for yourself is another option. You will need money in the bank to prove that you either have a thriving business or that you have the means to create that business, and to thus get the appropriate visa. Freelance journalists and artists will find special rules applying to them, and after the usual mess of red tape, may find the independent work visa to be their ticket to Italy.
Unskilled work is not the type of thing to count on. Labor unions make a lot of jobs that may seem unsavory, like street sweeping, highly sought after. You would have to get on a waiting list to snap up that sweet job. Bar workers are considered a kind of specialist in their own right, and should not be seen as a prime summer job. The tourist industry does provide, however, bilingual positions, and openings come up where native English speakers are preferred to help tourism sales. This type of work would generally be done under the counter, and wouldn’t be a way to get that coveted work permit.
Teaching English often calls for native speakers. There are always English teaching positions open, but while high qualifications are often required, pay can be outright pitiful. Even so, most schools will only hire European Union teachers to avoid the work permit hassle. Others will go al nero, in the black, but hours often run around 20 a week; hardly a way to make a living. University positions are almost impossible to snag. Check out the playing field before you count on teaching as your means of survival.
Au pairs and babysitting are other low pay jobs that could be picked up on the side. Babysitting is generally done by the family, but parents may want their children exposed to a foreign language at a young age. Au pair positions are plentiful, but as always, open to debate as to the fairness to the young foreign woman (almost always young women) who often finds herself taking on more responsibility or hours than was originally agreed upon. If you’re out to find any way possible to get to Italy, then more power to you. Be aware of the agency’s policy on switching families; most of them are quite open to relocating unhappy nannies. Then you can look at it as a window into other Italian possibilities.
Excerpted and adapted from the ebook "Living in Italy" by Shannon McGrath.