Psst! Wanna job in Moscow?
Why work? It is way more fun to play!
Getting a job in Russia is very simple. Just get off the plane, answer
your cell phone and pick your dream job, complete with penthouse suite, driver,
cook, maid, and obscene salary. Nutting to it if you are fluently
bi-lingual, intimately knowledgeable in all aspects of high finance, and
your friends have armored Mercedes.
For the rest of us, getting a
job here is a challenge. Every day another expat is replaced by a Russian,
at half the salary. I get quite a few emails from people who are looking
to get a job here, and I am not all that positive on the job market.
Russia is a hard place to find a job, you have to be persistent, inventive,
and lucky. Not to say it is impossible. Two of my friends got
nice jobs here in the past month, one with PW.
The best way to get a job here is by transferring here with your current
company. This is not an option for most of us, so the usual means of getting
a job apply; friends, classifieds, and luck. If you know someone, or
know someone who knows someone here, ask them to keep an ear out for job
Don’t be afraid to tell random strangers of your desire
to work in Russia, ya never know who they might know. The Moscow Times
publishes the main job classifieds in Moscow, but more and more advertisers
are looking for English-speaking locals (The “good English” requirement in
the job ad is a hint.”).
Uncle Sam (or your government) is usually
the largest employer of expats of a given nationality, so if you like paperwork,
give them a try. PW is the largest employer of expats in Russia, and
we are hiring all the time (though mainly Russians also). If you want
to join us, you need to have some Russian language skills and be in Moscow
first. PW does not recruit outside the firm if you live outside of
Overall, I say you have to be near the acton to play the game, so sell your
junk, pack your stuff, and get over here if you want to work here. Once
you get in the market, be careful. Western companies usually pay more
and more reliably, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Russian
companies are more adventurous and you’ll have greater responsibility, and
less financial security.
Moscow is the main expat employment center,
but you can get jobs in the provinces, just don’t expect to make more
than a few thousand a year, if your lucky. Check out what working for
a Russian company in Vladivostok is like:
The Moscow Times, March 5, 1998
Getting Paid in Far East Is Often an Adventure
By Russell Working
This week at a staff meeting of the Russian daily that publishes the biweekly
newspaper where I work, our publisher announced the news. A recent court
case held that taxes must be paid before worker salaries, and so our salaries
will be delayed in March.
we have moved to a new brick building with a banya on the ground floor and
toilets that flush when the water is turned on every day for an hour or so.
This is a vast improvement over our former location, where the cleaning lady
draped a carpet over the dysfunctional toilets after the third week in an
autumn without water.
A swank Moscow office tower
But registering our new building will require 56 documents from various regional
and city agencies, said our publisher, an iron-haired man who offers a look
of profound pity whenever I address him in Russian. Little inducements may
be offered to civil servants to encourage them to quickly locate the needed
documents. That may add to our periodic financial troubles until May or so.
When I moved from the Seattle area to Vladivostok last year, I had no idea
how close to the edge a Far Eastern company operates. True, my salary dropped
from $36,000 to $6,000 a year. But I was far better off than my Russian
colleagues, because the company also provides me with an apartment. (Even
in domestic companies, you see glimpses of that economic apartheid so common
in foreign firms.) In a region where the average annual income is $2,400,
I knew I could survive, despite the occasional month without pay.
But working for a Russian company gives you a roller-coaster ride through
the cash-and-barter economy that has developed here. Russian provincial
newspapers are inclined to trade advertisements for, say, cell phone service,
or airplane tickets to Thailand. Thus if your lucky, the boss might reward
you with a ferry trip to Korea, but that doesn’t mean you will get your salary
When you are paid, it’s akin to robbing a Latin American bank. You line up
at the cashier window a day or two after the computer geeks get their salaries
-for some reason they always go first. The cashier shoves out bundles of
cash, often packets of the old 500-rouble notes (I’m hoping redenominaition
won’t mean we’ll get paid in 50-kopeck coins). You stuff your trouser and
coat pockets, and hope nobody pickpockets you on the tram home.
Strangely, the system actually encourages me. Somehow, newspapers and their
advertisers are exchanging services. Workers are getting paid, if occasionally,
a little late. If only there was enough trust to make the transition to paychecks
and bank transfers. But then I’d have to stop lobbying for that trip to Thailand.
Russell Working is editor of the Vladivostok Times
** Post-Crisis Job Scene Update**
The job scene has changed a bit since I first posted this page. Here
is a concept of the job market these days:
Johnson’s Russia List, Sept 7 1998
Nice work if you can get it for victims of Russian bear market
-Redundancy came as a rude shock for Sasha. A year ago the young trading
floor dealer was riding crest after giddy crest with a leading Moscow securities
brokerage, part of a buoyant financial community bobbing merrily on the high
seas of an optimistic market.
Now, lashed by an unprecedented financial storm, the economy is shipwrecked
and the life rafts are few and far between. Sasha is just another victim
of Russia’s economic implosion which is taking thousands of bankers, brokers
and businesses under with it. “Now of course it’s going to be really
hard to find work,” said Sasha, who did not want to give his surname. “I’m
ready to take a cut in salary because I know the market is really bad. But
I still can’t find what I want because I want the same sort of work. I won’t
settle for just anything.”
Statistics and forecasts merely give Sasha and his fellow highly-qualified
unfortunates the cold comfort that they are not alone. Russian banking
association chief Sergei Yegorov estimated recently that the crisis could
affect 20 percent of the 750,000 financial sector jobs, rendering 150,000
clerks, cashiers, dealers and managers out of work in just a few short weeks.
While this is still a drop in the ocean compared to the estimated 11 percent
unemployed cited by the International Labour Office (ILO), it would deal
a telling blow to Russia’s embryonic, emerging middle class. Like Sacha,
many of the dispossessed will be experiencing the vicissitudes of the capitalist
labour market for the first time. “A lot of people are going through
this for the first time and it is quite a shock,” said Teri Lindeberg, Moscow
representative for Antal International, a British recruitment agency. “Most
of the banks here have cut down by 30-60 percent.”
Added recruitment executive Peter Afanasyev: “The flow of resumes has at
least doubled, possibly tripled, and 50 percent of them were from people
who used to work for banks and investment companies. “We will not be able
to help those people in the coming months, as it is clear that most (financial
companies) have stopped all recruitment,” he added. “Eight out of 10 have
decided to put things on hold for a while.”
Scarcely a day goes by without whispered rumours of the latest lay-offs.
As banks merge to form islands against the rising financial tides, so ‘synergies’
create a few more victims. The Menatep bank let go some 30 percent
of its staff — at least 1,000 people — last week. DialogBank said it shed
a “small number” of its 700 staff in July with a second round of downsizing
imminent. Alfa-Bank reportedly laid off 40 percent of its staff late last
week. Some institutions are resorting to the popular “technical unemployment”
option to ride out the storm under which staff are put on unpaid holiday
until things turn around.
“About 20 of our staff are on ‘vacation’ and will come back as soon as the
situation improves,” said Alexei Kondratyev of the Rinako Plus brokerage,
which employs around 150 people. “They are mostly from the back office with
one or two analysts as well. “If the market situation does not improve, it
would not be sensible to rule out the possibility” of further lay offs, he
added. “Everyone is being affected by this and anyone who says otherwise
is a liar.”
Indeed, the redundancy disease is not necessarily limited to the financial
sector but is slowly infecting other industries exposed to the plummeting
ruble, galloping inflation and drop-off in demand.
And companies don’t always let their staff down easily. “We arrived one morning
to find gates to the building shut and two lists on the wall,” said Igor,
an employee of pharmaceutical company Ecohelp Pharm. “One for those who were
staying and one for those who were laid off. Those dismissed were not even
allowed back in the building.”