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Posts Tagged ‘Business English’

Growing Italy’s startup sector: private investment and timely government intervention combine to create fertile ground for growth in difficult times

30 Jul

Nurturing tomorrow's successful companies (Image: Theornamentalist via Wikimedia Commons)

With each day bringing ever-gloomier financial and economic news for the Eurozone and especially for Greece, Spain and Italy – bailouts, euro meltdown and the dreaded “spread” – this would not seem like the best time to start a company. Certainly not in a highly-speculative sector with few established precedents and even fewer proven business models. And yet the Italian startup scene is showing signs not only of life – but even of optimism and an excitement that flies in the face of the impending doom nearly everyone assumes is about to befall the Bel Paese (the Beautiful Country, Italy – not the cheese, of course).

Special report by Robert Dennis of the Milan Business English Network

Last month’s issue of Italian business magazine Capital featured on its cover Federico Marchetti, the founder and CEO of Yoox, the innovative online fashion retailer and the headline “Invent the future: How to become an e-commerce leader and beat the crisis”. Yoox is one of a crop of successful Italian startups that are bucking the downward trend in adverse business conditions – and providing an alternative vision for an economy in crisis.

In an upbeat feature article the magazine also described the recent visit of Corrado Passera, Mario Monti’s Minister for Economic Development and former CEO of banking group Intesa Sanpaolo to H-Farm, the Venture Incubator whose headquarters is located near Treviso in the lush countryside of northern Italy’s wealthy Veneto region. With an atmosphere that was ‘almost a happening, with an air of optimism and so much positive energy that it felt surreal, considering the times we are in’, the minister listened to the ideas and concerns of the audience of 200 mainly young entrepreneurs. The purpose of the event at the countryside retreat and embryonic tech hub, founded by Riccardo Donadon and Maurizio Rossi, was to send out the message that the Italian government is serious about its plans to support and incentivize startups. It aims to do this by working closely with industry figures who can bring their knowledge and passion to help foster the right environment for young businesses (especially high-tech ones) to grow.

Passera and Donadon at StartUp Italia Open Day (Image: italiastartup.it)

The visit was the highlight of the Open Day (May 26) organised by StartUp Italia, an independent association formed by six leading players from the startup sector to promote innovation in Italy’s digital economy. The founders of StartUp Italia – Riccardo Donadon, Giorgio Carcano, Paolo Barberis, Luca De Biase,  Enrico Pozzi and Mario Mariani – are also part of the 12-strong Startup Task Force assembled by Passera to identify the practical measures needed to create a favourable environment for startups in Italy. (The Task Force, whose other members are Selene Biffi, Annibale D’Elia, Alessandro Di Camillo, Massimiliano Magrini, Giuseppe Ragusa and Donatella Solda-Kutzmann is co-ordinated by Alessandro Fusacchia, Adviser to Minister Passera for European Affairs, Youth, Merit and Innovation.)

The recommendations of the Task Force will feed into a proposed package of legislative measures also to be called Startup Italia. This package of new laws will complement the existing government  “decrees” of Save Italy, Grow Italy and Simplify Italy (Salva Italia, Cresci Italia and Semplifica Italia). However, it should be noted that Italians will be choosing a new government in 2013, which could have an impact on the existing legislative framework.

Capital’s article also focuses on how Italy’s main Venture Capital funds are continuing to invest in startups despite of – or even because of – a generally unfavourable outlook in the wider economy:

• Startups that are not yet ready for investment can be nurtured by incubators such as I3P, Innovation Factory, Toscana Life Science, TechNest (University of Calabria), Polo Tecnolgico di Navacchio, Consorzio Arca (University of Palermo), Acceleratore d’impresa del Politecnico di Milano and the Technopolis (University of Bari).

• Budding startups that require seed capital of less than 1 million euros can then approach investors such as dPixel, Working Capital, Italian Angels for Growth, Annapurna Ventures, Enlabs, Digital Magics, Club degli Investitori and H-Farm itself.

• Early stage venture capital of more than 1 million euros is provided by funds that include Principia SGR, Innogest, 360 Capital Partners, Vertis, TT Venture/Fondamenta, Next Fund Lifescience, Atlante Ventures and Aladin Venture/Friulia.

Italian banking groups UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo (via its StartUp Iniziative) also invest in startups.

Another sign that Italy is being taken seriously as a good location for startup companies is the arrival of TechCrunch in Rome this autumn. A one-day conference on September 27th will bring together the leading lights of Italy’s digital media and technology sectors. The event will throw a spotlight on some of the country’s highly innovative and dynamic startups.

So, while the outlook for the economy as a whole may be grim at least there is a ray of hope in the form of some exciting and creative new ventures that could kick-start growth as well as provide a significant return on investment for those with a longer-term vision.

Startups could yield a good return on investment (Image: Sunflowers via Wikimedia Commons)

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From Cape Town to the Cotswolds: how EduVacation mixes a unique English learning experience with the holiday of a lifetime

15 Jul

Learn English in the Cotswolds, the UK's largest "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty"

NetworkMilan is always happy to talk to people who have started their own business – especially entrepreneurs that are finding innovative and unusual ways to teach English (such as Lorna Allen of Live and Learn Homestays Ltd, who we interviewed last year). Today, we feature another homestay provider: EduVacation a small, privately-owned English language company that offers full immersion courses in the Cotswolds region of England.  (They also arrange English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa.) The company was founded and is managed by Dean and Sue Erasmus, a married couple who are both qualified English-speaking school teachers with extensive teaching experience. (Both Dean and Sue love cooking and students can look forward to a barbecue – depending on the often-unpredictable British weather, of course!)

In this interview with NetworkMilan they describe the services they offer and explain why EduVacation is very different from studying at a typical language school. They also talk about their experience of welcoming Italian learners to the Cotswolds and discuss the unique benefits of being immersed in an English-speaking environment when you are learning the language.

Dean and Sue also agree to share their experiences and insights of running a business. They talk about what motivates them and describe some of the challenges they face as entrepreneurs. And they have some useful advice for anyone considering starting up a company.

Finally, Dean reveals that he once took part in a reality television programme on national TV in South Africa! Using his business skills, ingenuity and charisma, he had to compete for the top cash prize with a group of very determined contestants. Find out what happened in the end…

NM: Dean and Sue, welcome to NetworkMilan. Can you tell us about EduVacation?

Dean and Sue Erasmus

Dean and Sue Erasmus: We started EduVacation to provide learners of English as a foreign language with an experience where they can fully immerse themselves in the English language and enjoy a memorable holiday in the beautiful Cotswolds of England. If you don’t know it already, the Cotswolds region is situated in the southwest of England and is the country’s largest officially designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. A major tourist attraction, visited by thousands of tourists every year, the location is easily accessible by rail, road and air.

Most speakers of English as a foreign language have the basic skills to read, write and speak but lack the confidence to do so freely. Learners of English as a foreign language are often under pressure to learn English for various reasons and the process can become a negative experience. EduVacation uses a holiday format to provide a relaxed and friendly environment with lessons and activities designed to encourage our guests to feel at ease when practising their English language skills. Our courses are designed and presented to improve our guests’ fluency and confidence in the English language.

What services do you offer?

As an owner managed business, we are very flexible with regards to our courses and can tailor make a course/holiday to suit the requirements of corporate and private clients. We welcome prospective clients to contact us to discuss their specific needs.

We do, however, offer standard courses. These courses are designed according to the relevant English proficiency levels of each participant and group. They include:

Standard weekly English learning holiday in England:

• 6 nights with accommodation in Cotswolds holiday cottages including 3 meals a day

• Up to 40 hours of English lessons, related activities and daily cultural outings to popular Cotswolds tourist sights

• All coursework and the services of two qualified teachers

English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa:

• All-inclusive, guided tours combining a 7 day holiday with a tailor-made immersive English programme

• All meals, accommodation, daily sightseeing tours, English lessons and activities, all entrance fees, transport, services of a knowledgeable guide and English teacher

Extra services can be offered or incorporated into our courses including:

•  Corporate training

• Introduction to working and living in the UK

• Team-building

• Business English and skills

• Student summer courses

• Weekend conversational courses

All our services are explained in more detail, by the way, on our website (www.eduvacation.co.uk) including examples of the themes and activities for our standard courses.

Family life and comfortable accommodation will help you to learn English in a relaxed environment

What makes EduVacation different from conventional language schools?

When we established EduVacation, our aim was to provide a service and concept that differed from the majority of those on offer in the UK. Let me explain the main differences that I believe set us apart from the majority of schools and services on offer:

Firstly, we offer fully immersive and all-inclusive English learning holidays:

  • We understand that it is very difficult for people to find the time to attend language courses in a different country so we decided to combine our courses with an all-inclusive holiday so that our clients get value for their money. The courses are suitable for groups of friends, family, colleagues or students.
  • We want our participants to hear, speak, read and write as much English as possible during their EduVacation course/holiday. We therefore instruct, teach, discuss and chat in English and encourage our participants to do the same. We want them to enjoy their experience and have a positive attitude towards learning and practising their English skills.
  • Our guests are accommodated in beautiful holiday cottages that we rent according to each group’s requirements. This means that, although the group is fully immersed in the English language and culture, they still have their own time and privacy in the evenings after the final meal or activity.

Personal attention and a professional approach

Secondly, we own the business: we are hands on managers and we present the courses ourselves:

  • Our guests and participants get our personal attention during their whole experience
  • We know exactly what service and level of professionalism our guests are experiencing as we provide it ourselves.
  • It is in our personal interest to provide a memorable experience for our clients
  • We can be flexible with regards to our clients’ requirements and needs
Finally, from our personal experience we understand fully what our clients as foreign language learners are experiencing
  • Sue and I both have a TEFL qualification. We are also both qualified school teachers with second language training experience.
  • I speak 3 languages including Italian and understand the challenges involved in acquiring a new language.
  • Both our sons are studying a variety of European languages and we understand exactly what they are experiencing.
  • We are well travelled as a family and have encountered many different cultures.
  • I have spent 15 years in corporate management and therefore I have a wealth of experience in training and business.

Why would someone who reads NetworkMilan be interested in booking a course with you?

With EduVacation you will be on "on the road to success"

Dean: I spent many years working in a corporate environment and travelling globally for business. I was constantly reminded by colleagues and clients of the need and importance of learning English as a foreign language.

EduVacation aims to provide an environment where our clients are encouraged to be confident and feel at ease when practising and improving their English language skills with teachers that understand the challenges that this involves.

EduVacation provides courses that a group of colleagues could attend or a family that want to improve their skills together. Our courses are suitable for a group of friends, a couple or a group of students. I also speak Italian and believe this would be helpful when dealing with Italian clients with basic proficiency levels and in general.

What experience do you have in dealing with Italian clients?

The Cotswolds will delight and charm Italian visitors

Dean: My love affair with Italy started almost 30 years ago when I spent a scholastic year in Italy as an AFS Intercultural Programs exchange student. The organisation is known as Intercultura in Italy. I lived as part of an Italian family in Ostia Lido outside of Rome and attended a year of Liceo Scientifico. I was completely immersed in the Italian culture and language for 10 months. We are still in constant touch with my Italian family and I had the opportunity 8 years ago of introducing my wife and sons to all the family on a holiday to Italy. Since then we have had numerous holidays to Italy and my love for the country, its people and culture is shared equally by my family.

The year I started my studies to become a teacher, I started working as a freelance tour guide in South Africa, registered with the South African Tourist Board and for the next 10 years on weekends and during school holidays, I escorted numerous groups of Italian tourists on guided tours of South Africa. I met many fantastic people and as the tours were exclusive, got to know and make friends with a variety of Italian visitors to South Africa, including Italian members of parliament, businessmen, honeymooners and families.

Cape Town and the stunning Table Mountain: a suitably dramatic backdrop to an incredible English course and a truly memorable holiday in South Africa

As a business, what opportunities and challenges do you face? (especially in the current economic climate?)

Our biggest challenge as a new business is marketing and presenting our company, services and concept to potential clients. This can become very expensive with no guarantee of ROI (Return on Investment).

Our concept is also quite different to the majority of English learning methods used in the UK, e.g. formal English schools and lessons, and it takes time for people to understand what we offer and how it is beneficial to their English learning journey.

The current economic climate is also a stumbling block to a business model such as ours as people and companies still understand the importance of learning English as a foreign language but are looking at ways to cut their costs. However, one of the reasons we structured our courses as they are, is so that people wanting a fully immersive experience can get value for their money by not only having a full day of lessons and activities but also an all-inclusive holiday as well at very competitive rates.

New direction? EduVacation's strategy is to make your English learning journey as effective as possible

What motivates you as entrepreneurs? Why did you choose the language education sector?

Dean: Anybody that is making money from a consumer whether it be private or corporate, should be striving to offer the best service, product and experience if they hope to be or continue to be a success.

Working for yourself enables you to be fully responsible for the success or failure of your business. Your personal effort will relate to your personal gain. I have always wanted to start my own business and particularly with my wife as we have different strengths and talents that we believe complement each other.

Making you feel at home: relax after an intensive day of studying and visiting places of interest

Being self-employed, especially, and establishing a business and concept from scratch, takes a lot of courage and faith. I have always given 100% to the roles I have previously held and felt that if I did the same for my own business, I would make a success of it. It also eventually gives you the opportunity of finding a good work/life balance.

I have been fortunate as I have worked as a teacher and also in the private sector in sales and marketing management. EduVacation gives me the opportunity to use my skills and experience in both fields for my own company. Working internationally and for multi-national companies and clients, I continually saw the necessity of learning English amongst my colleagues and clients and the idea for EduVacation was born from this experience.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and startups?

Dean: Many people say that you should not give up your job to start your own business but do it as a sideline until you are established. This is good advice but not always practical. I tried but realised that if I wanted to make a success of EduVacation, I had to give it 100% of my time and effort.

My advice to entrepreneurs would be the following:

  • Research your sector well, both locally and internationally.
  • Try not to jeopardise your family and their well being by taking a huge risk with your assets – we are still experiencing a very unstable economic climate.
  • Take a calculated risk.
  • Believe completely in your business and concept.
  • Put in 100% effort into making it a success.
  • Don’t be proud – use contacts.
  • There are so many cost effective ways of building your business from website building to social networking sites.
  • Use all the negative experiences in your working life as learning opportunities for your own business.
  • Use any available time that you now have to pursue other opportunities that you have never had time for e.g. designing a product, writing a book or course, consulting, charity work, etc.

Dean and Sue are 100% focused on providing students with the best learning and holiday experience

We always like to find out if there’s anything unique or surprising about our guests on NetworkMilan. Anything you would like to share with our readers?

Dean: 9 years ago, I was working as the International Sales and Marketing Manager for a company in Cape Town. I applied as a contestant on a reality television programme on South African national TV. The programme, the Sanlam Money Game, was to promote entrepreneurship and was sponsored by one of South Africa’s leading financial services groups. [Editor’s note: The global Sanlam group includes Sanlam UK, a wealth management fund.]

The competitors were subjected to a comprehensive and rigorous selection process and assessed on everything from confidence, intellect, enthusiasm, ambition and the ability to express themselves. The focus was on outstanding entrepreneurship and thinking as far outside the box as possible.

Contestants were given an amount of money, dropped off somewhere in the country they were unfamiliar with, given three days to survive and make as much money as possible with their starting capital with a cameraman and monitor following them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Each week 3 contestants competed against each other – with the winner taking all. There were very strict rules including not dealing with any known contacts and certain trading challenges included.

I won my week and was in the top 3 money makers when the season ended resulting in a grand finale with the top three money makers competing against each other with double the starting capital and various extra challenges and rules. I ended up winning the final and being named the SMG Entrepreneur of the Year on national television and the prize being allowed to keep the profits made during trading. I believe that my success was due to excellent preparation, hard work, persistence, treating people with respect and keeping a sense of humour which are all traits I can carry over to EduVacation.

My only regret was that it was not in the UK or elsewhere as the hype at the time would have been a lot more lucrative I am sure!

Dean Erasmus: Reality TV show contestant and winner of the "Sanlam Money Game"

NetworkMilan: Dean and Sue, we really appreciate you taking the time to tell us all about EduVacation and your experiences as language entreprenuers (and TV star, Dean!). Thank you. We would like to wish you all the best and hope that you enjoy continued success with EduVacation.

Interview by Robert Dennis

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

If you would like to discover more about the benefits of a full-immersion English language course – as well as a Cotswolds (or Cape Town) holiday you’ll always remember – then visit the EduVacation website: http://www.eduvacation.co.uk/

You can also contact Dean and Sue Erasmus at EduVacation by phone, email or skype:

Tel: +44 (0) 1451 822 307

Mobile: +44 (0) 7810 442 470

Email: [email protected]

Skype: suedean.erasmus

EduVacation: Talk it, experience it, live it!

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NetworkMilan welcomes Danielle Dalkie, mobile entrepreneur and PR /Social Media expert

12 Jul

We are delighted to introduce our first guest blogger, Danielle Dalkie, who has a fascinating background as a mobile payments entrepreneur and is currently planning a strategic move to Rome. In this article she talks about her experience in setting up Waspit, a social banking service, and how she plans to use her PR and social media skills in her new life in Italy.

Danielle on the Digital Mission Stand at ad:tech NYC Conference and Expo 2010

Ciao! I am really pleased to be writing for NetworkMilan.com – and I am looking forward to sharing some of my ideas and business experiences with you. I’m also really excited about coming to Italy! I am an Australian who grew up in New Zealand and for the past two years I have been living between London and New York. And now I am moving to Rome!

I am Co-Founder of a startup called Waspit, a social banking platform for students. More specifically, it combines traditional banking features with social platforms to create a more intuitive and enriched experience for users. In essence, Waspit is “Banking 2.0”, and I have been involved in product development (right from the conception of the company) and more recently realigning the product to suit the target market: I have also been doing some business development and I aided the company in raising its first round of venture funding in New York.Waspit is designed not only to provide all the latest banking capabilities including mobile payments, but to enable for the first time a dynamic communication between users, their friends and the merchant on how and where they choose to spend their money.

Waspit lets you plug in all your social media platforms into one place so that you no longer have to manually check-in on Facebook and foursquare or post separate reviews to Yelp, Twitter and your other networks.

Social banking for students

For the more traditional ‘bank-like’ transactions Waspit is accepted in-store and online anywhere MasterCard is accepted; cash can be withdrawn from most ATMs; and students can pay their bills using ACH (Automated Clearing House) or Billpay. The FDIC* insured account also has a traditional routing and account number so students can receive their wages and allowances.

In the social world, students can easily, securely and instantly send and receive money between friends via Facebook, Twitter or mobile phone. Making quick payments in store is as simple as tapping your mobile phone over any MasterCard PayPass terminal. Students can even use the iOS, Android or Facebook apps to split restaurant bills or request money from their parents.

My own background is in public relations and social media, however. I have been involved in developing and implementing customer acquisition strategies in the tech, digital and social sectors. My skills include traditional PR such as managing press releases, publicity, social media, online content, corporate events, conferences and creating brand awareness.

I also specialise in social marketing and developing viral strategies (including guerrilla marketing efforts), as well as many successful viral and online campaigns in the both the US and UK. In addition, I develop comprehensive campaigns which rely heavily on social media and social marketing.

Rome calling (Image: Trevi Fountain by Fod via Wikimedia Commons)

But the big news is… I am relocating to Rome this year and I am currently looking for a suitable position and some cool social media projects to work on (so please get in touch with me if you have something I might be interested in!)

I am also involved in setting up the Rome Business English Network – the first sister group of the Milan Business English Network to be based in another Italian city. (Visit Network Roma for all the latest news about events and networking for people speaking, learning and doing business in English in the eternal city.)

NetworkMilan.com have invited me to write a series of blog posts on how mobile commerce is changing the way we interact with companies and its wider implications for the digital economy. I hope you enjoy these articles and find them useful, too!Read Danielle Dalkie’s next guest post, coming soon on NetworkMilan.com:
Money in motion: how mobile payments technology is changing the face of retailClick here to find out more about Waspit and social banking.

*Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: A US federal agency that insures deposits in member banks.

UPDATE (AUGUST 2012): Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

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How to make business more social: the 5th annual Social Business Forum in Milan shows the way

07 Jun

It’s not all doom and gloom in Mario Monti’s Italy: this week in Milan the leading social business event in Europe saw hundreds of delegates descend on the city to discuss ways of making business better for companies and customers. The Social Business Forum 2012 was organised by OpenKnowledge, an international consulting firm that specializes in helping large organizations realize their business potential through open and collaborative approaches based on the Social Business paradigm. With keynotes from the likes of John Hagel, Co-Chairman of the Center for the Edge at Deloitte & Touche and Rawn Shah, Social Business Strategist at IBM, the SBF provided fresh thinking and lively debate, as well as some great networking opportunities.

Discussion and debate at the SBF in Milan

Now in its fifth year, the Social Business Forum has established itself as a regular fixture on the business innovation calendar and continues to attract not only the big name speakers, but an impressive gathering of key players and professionals from companies large and small – not to mention a healthy sprinkling of consultants and freelancers. The sumptuous surroundings of the Marriott Hotel in Milan provided an imposing backdrop to the event.

With an Open Conference running alongside the Premium Conference, the number of people who could enjoy the event was maximised – and everyone had a chance to visit the Expo Pavilion, where leading enterprise social software technologies were showcased.

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti present the Social Business Manifesto

This year the Social Business Forum coincided with the launch of the Social Business Manifesto, a seminal text produced by OpenKnowledge and published with the Harvard Business Review Italia. As well as being a clarion call to business, the Manifesto contains 59 “theses” or propositions that are both observations and challenges for finding new ways of making business more about customers and employees and less about the companies themselves or their managers. (The Manifesto was written in Italian and sections are being published in English at regular intervals.)

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti of OpenKnowledge presented a dialogue on the Social Business Manifesto and the theses, which include such nuggets as “The weak point of knowledge management is the management” and “Organizations react to stimuli in their market with a speed that is inversely proportional to their size”.

The Interpret the Future team

With so many international visitors it was crucial that as many of the insights and ideas being expressed could be shared. To this end, a special mini-project called “Interpret the Future” was established by OpenKnowledge and communications consultant Robert Dennis (the founder and editor of the Milan Business English Network). Interpret the Future brought together a crack team of young interpreters eager to gain additional valuable experience of conference interpreting. The project also aims to help the team explore new ways of promoting themselves as freelance professionals in a highly-specialised field of communication. A blog (called Interpret the Future) was set up by the team and they were able to use the occasion for networking as well.

The Social Business Forum lasted for two very busy days and covered a staggering range of topics related to the central theme of making relationships in business more human and personal and less process-oriented and target-driven.

You can find a wealth of background information and extras relating to the Social Business Forum on the main SBF website.

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Use your English to find work in Italy or abroad

05 May

When can you start?

Are you considering changing your job? Do you speak English?

If you answered “Yes!” twice, you may be interested in the answer to this question, which  appeared recently on the Milan Business English Network:

What is the best way to find a job in Italy (or abroad) using my English?

Here’s the reply:

That’s a great question! Being able to speak English is now considered a necessity for many posts in Italy – and not just in international firms: even small companies now expect candidates to be able to demonstrate a good knowledge of English, plus the ability to use the language effectively in a business context.

Here are a few ideas you may find useful:

Join the Milan Business English Network! (If you’ve already done that: Congratulations!) Don’t forget that we have a parallel group on Facebook, also called the Milan Business English Network.)

– Write your CV (Curriculum Vitae) in English. Have two versions – one in Italian and one in English.

– Practice doing job interviews in English. Have a look at some of the posts on this important topic in the Discussions section of the Milan Business English Network.

– Apply for jobs where English is a main focus for the job, or an essential skill. E.g. (for example) jobs where you deal with international clients or need to speak to people from other countries in English. These might include sales and marketing, project management, international recruitment, travel and tourism or financial services.

– Take a specialist business English course with a qualified teacher. Learn how to speak in meetings, write emails and do presentations. A number of teachers are members of our group. (Click here if you want to find a teacher now.) You can also check out (look at / examine) Kijiji.it and bakeca.it for experienced and qualified private business English teachers.

There are also a number of highly reputable specialist Business English schools in Milan. EASYBIZ, for example, offers tailored courses that can help you develop your English language and communication skills.

– Join groups on LinkedIn and other business social networking sites. Don’t just look at Italian sites – extend your reach to include European and world English-speaking business communities.

– Take a business-related English exam and gain a qualification you can include in your CV, e.g. the Cambridge Business English Certificate (BEC). Employers will also be impressed by a good IELTS or TOEFL score.

– Work abroad! Yes, Italy’s a great country 🙂 but if you can speak English you increase substantially the number of job opportunities available to you.

Well, I hope you find these ideas useful. The key thing is to keep applying for jobs, don’t stop sending out CVs and join as many groups and mailing lists as you can. Registering with employment agencies (such as Adecco) and websites like Monster.co.uk are also great ways of highlighting your English language abilities and receiving offers of employment.

Good luck!

© Robert Dennis 2011

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How to get a job in the UK / US if you have an Italian law degree

27 Apr

Royal Courts of Justice, London

Question: As a student of law, I would like to know what can I do with my Italian legal degree in the UK or USA. What are the different opportunities?

Answer: Thanks for your question.Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you.
The good news is that your law degree will help you find a job in an English-speaking country, mainly because it’s a degree and employers prefer graduates. The bad news is that it will be very difficult (if not impossible, unless you retrain / convert your qualification) to practice as a lawyer in Britain or the US because the Anglo-Saxon countries use the common law system, not one based on Roman law (widely used throughout the EU).

One option might be to get a job in some capacity (e.g. as an administrator) with a UK / US law firm and then retrain once you have established yourself in your “new” country. (Although, considering the length of time Italian people tend to study for, you may decide that you have seen enough of libraries and would rather put your knowledge and skills into practice, rather than keep studying.)

You could find a job with a British / American or Italian company based abroad that does business with people in Italy and where a knowledge of Italian law is relevant, but it is not necessary to be trained as an English / American lawyer. For example, an international estate agent’s that handles the rent or sale of property in Italy to UK or US nationals. Other sectors could include import / export, tourism, insurance, healthcare or the art market, etc – areas where a knowledge of Italian law would be useful (or essential). (Other options might include areas involving Intellectual Property, Company Law and Finance, where you could advise foreign clients on the implications of setting up businesses, selling and investing in Italy.)

Click here to read this article in full on the Milan English blog.

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Useful (free) online resource: Example Job interview questions and answers from Docstoc.com

18 Apr

"Why do you want this job?"

Congratulations! You have applied for a job and now you are getting ready for that important job interview. Your English is excellent and you are looking forward to making a good impression on your future (hopefully) boss. Now, you need to make sure that you also have the right type of English for that job interview…

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Join the Milan Business English Network

18 Apr

Milan Business English Network

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Make that call! (Part 1)

18 Apr

Follow these rules for the perfect phone call...

Effective business telephone calls in English are not as difficult as you think, as Robert Dennis explains…

Are you afraid of using the phone in English? Do your hands start to shake when you dial a telephone number and know that you will have to not only speak in English – but also understand the other person? And would you rather send (= Would you prefer to send) an email in order to avoid (evitare) the situation completely? Well, you are not alone. Millions of non-native speakers of English face exactly this situation every day – often at work and in high stress environments, where there is no alternative to talking on the phone.

But using the phone in English doesn’t need to be a nightmare (incubo). If you follow the simple suggestions described below – and learn some of the key business telephone expressions included in section 2 of this article – you will soon find that making phone calls in English is one of the simplest and most direct ways of communicating with your clients, customers or other colleagues.

Steps to making the perfect business phone call

Stop! Take your hand off that receiver (cornetto). Before you pick up the phone… PREPARE! Get yourself ready first – and you will find it much easier to make that important business call. Here’s a checklist of things you can do before you phone someone:

1. Write down the main points that you want to discuss with the person you are going to speak to.

These don’t need to be long notes – in fact, it’s better that you don’t write whole sentences, as you will sound as if you’re reading from a script. (Think of those telephone calls you get from banks and other large companies where an operator sitting in a call centre reads from a long prepared script. It’s like talking to a robot, isn’t it?) Just jot down (write quickly) a few bullet points – single words and short phrases are best. For example:

Contact: Chris Hemming, HKR Communications:

• New designs for brochure

• Printing – how much? When?

• Payment – euros or pounds?

Having these notes in front of you – even if they’re just written on a yellow Post-It™ will help you to focus on what you want you want to say and enable you to structure the conversation.

2. Create the perfect telephoning conditions, if possible.
Get everything ready before you phone. If you’re in a noisy (rumoroso) office, try and find a quiet place where you can make the call. Ideally (perfectly) in a room where you can shut the door to keep background noise to a minimum. Try and choose a time to call when you know the other person will not be in a hurry and has time to speak. (Avoid phoning at awkard (difficult) times, such as early on Monday morning and late on a Friday afternoon. Think about it: would you be happy if someone phoned you during these periods?) Have a pad (blocco noti) and a pen in front of you (with your notes from point 1, above). (You may find it useful to write down words and phrases that the other person says as you are trying to understand them. You can then use these to help form your own replies and questions). If you need to discuss a proposal, design or similar document with the other person, it’s much easier if you both have it on your desk in front of you. You can then refer to the appropriate pages, paragraphs or details that you need to talk about. Send an email with your document attached and ask the other person to print it out or have it open on their PC when you call. Arrange a suitable time to speak so that you can both get ready. (Even for two native speakers, this can save a lot of time.) Spending a short amount of time creating a relaxed, well-ordered phoning environment will be worth the effort (vale la pena) when you are in the middle of the call.

3. Rehearse (provare) the call. You can either do this silently in your head, or (preferably) speaking out loud (ad alta voce). (Of course, you will probably want to do this when no one else is around – or you may find your colleagues are slightly worried (ansiosi) that you are under so much stress that you are talking to people without actually (really) using the telephone!) Think about what you will say, the type of reply you will receive and any possible points or questions that could come up (happen) during the conversation. If you know there are some tricky (difficult) names or technical words that you will have to say, practice them before you ring (phone) the other person. Be ready to spell long or difficult words. (e.g. If you need to tell someone that the project meeting will be in Domodossola, think of words that you can use to spell this out over the phone: “D as in Difficult, O as in Orange, M as in Manchester”, etc.). If you are giving someone a number, such as phone number or account number, get the other person to repeat it back to you. Of course, if there is any really important written information that you need to pass on (give) or receive, tell the other person you will send an email (and don’t forget to send it) – or get them to send one to you.

4. Take a deep breath.
If it’s a really important, make-or-break call, get yourself physically ready. Do some deep breathing exercises before you speak. (Breathe in, count slowly to five, breathe out, repeat two or three times.) You will then find you start the call in a Zen-like state of calm (peaceful relaxation), even if you start to find yourself struggling (lottando) as the call progresses. Have a drink in front of you – when you get stressed your throat (gola) can dry out – which can make you sound even more stressed. Even if it’s only a bottle of mineral water, keep some liquid nearby so you can take a few sips (sorsi) when the other person’s speaking. (A drink’s OK, if you can swallow (inghiottire) quietly, but never eat or chew gum while you’re speaking on the phone – the receiver (microtelefono) amplifies the sound and it’s like talking to a cement-mixer (betoniera) – plus, it can make you more difficult to understand.)

Go ahead and dial

Right, so we’ve looked at how you can prepare for that big call you need to make. Now, let’s consider some survival strategies you can use to help you to help you make it to the end of conversation.

• Put yourself in control

If you phone someone up – using the suggestions in the previous situation – you will automatically be in a better frame of mind than if the other person calls you when you are not ready or in the middle of something else. If it’s a really bad time (for example, the fire alarm has just gone off or your boss (capo) is standing in front of you with a long list of figures that need to be checked (controllato) immediately) ask the other person if you can call them back. (You might even decide to use this as a ruse (stratagemma) so that you can make sure you are 100% (per cent) ready, even if you have to tell a white lie (bugia pietosa), e.g. you’re just about to go into a meeting, but you’ll phone them when you come out.

• Get the other person to slow down

This can be more of a problem if you’re talking to a native speaker: non-native speakers of English know that it is difficult to communicate in a foreign language – particularly on the phone. However, a native English speaker, particularly someone who has little experience of talking to foreigners, may not realise this. Trying to understand a British or American person rabbiting on (parlare a vanvera) at high speed (a tutta velocità) can be incredibly frustrating. Why not tell the person you are speaking to at the beginning of the call that you do speak English, but you sometimes find it a bit tricky (difficult) to understand everything, so it would be a lot easier if they spoke a little (more) slowly. If the other person starts to speed up during the conversation (which is what usually happens), gently remind them to slow down. If you communicate with the same person on a regular basis they will eventually learn to do this automatically when they speak to you, but you need to train (addestrare) them at the beginning.

• Ask the other person to repeat something if you don’t understand

Don’t assume that if you miss (non cogliere) something it probably isn’t that important anyway: it may be the most important thing in the conversation! If you suspect that you haven’t heard something properly – or you simply haven’t understood – ask the other speaker to say it again or to explain. (If you have to do this repeatedly, try and make a joke (scherzo) of it – getting the other person to co-operate is much easier if you keep the tone of the conversation light-hearted (allegro) and friendly. You can still do this and remain professional. Indeed, the more serious or complicated the topic is, the more important it is to make sure that you are both communicating as effectively as possible – and it’s much easier to communicate with someone you like – and who likes you. If you don’t understand a word or phrase because of the way the other person is saying it, try asking them a question like “Sorry, did you say envelopes?” or give them a choice: “Er, sorry, was that thirteen (13) or thirty (30)? I didn’t quite catch what you said.”)

• Check that you both understand and agree on what has been said or decided

It’s surprising how often (even in your native language) you think you’ve said one thing, but the other person has understood something completely different. Even if (or especially if) the two speakers are highly educated, intelligent people, they can get their wires crossed (capirsi male, literally: incrociare le file). At the end of the conversation, summarise what you have agreed or check to see what the other person thinks you have said:

So, are we agreed, them? I’ll send over the designs to your office and you can decide which one you want – and that you’ll confirm that in writing?
– Yes, that’s right.

Focus on action and outcomes (risultati)

You don’t normally phone people up at work just for a chat – and if you do, you probably know the other person very well anyway, so anything important you have to communicate can be done in a fairly relaxed way. Contacting someone you don’t know very well (if at all) in a foreign language, particularly when you are already under stress from other factors (such as deadlines (scadenze) or a bad phone line) demands that you have an effective approach. The key to making a successful business telephone call is to focus on what you want to achieve – on the practical result (or results) of the call. Before you call, ask yourself these questions:

• Why you are making this call?
• Are you talking to the right person?
• What do you want that person to do after the call?
• What do you need to do?
• Does the other person need any more information? Do you?
• Is there any other way you could achieve the same result without making the call?

Why you are making this call?
Be clear about why you are calling. If you are phoning to ask someone whether they have finished the report you need, stick to that topic – don’t be tempted to introduce another point simply because you have that person on the line. If you cannot resist, hint (accennare) that you need to talk about the other topic later and then phone them again on a different occasion, or send an email. (Remember: information is like whisky: its effect is more powerful when it’s neat than when it’s diluted.)

Are you talking to the right person?
If you need a decision, talk to the decision maker whenever possible. Spending an hour explaining your proposal to an assistant may, at best, result in the information being passed on more or less successfully, or the other person simple might explain that they have to ask their boss. Even then, you could find yourself having to repeat everything you said when you finally talk to the person who can give you a definite “yes” or “no”.

What do you want that person to do after the call?
A business telephone call is a little bit like writing a good computer program. You have to have a clear objective – an output or goal – at the beginning, and everything you say during the call should lead (menare) to this objective. If you want someone to send you something, then make sure that you tell them what they have to send, exactly who and where it has to go and when you want it by. Failing to give all the necessary information will only result in delays or unnecessary follow-up calls (or emails) and requests for the name, address or date that wasn’t given during the call.

What do you need to do?
If you tell someone that you will send details of the agreement today, then send details of the agreement today. The longer you wait between hanging up and hitting the send button on your email, the less likely it is that the other person will act promptly (prontamente) and the more likely it is you will have to speak to them again and re-check what you have already agreed.

Does the other person need any more information? Do you?
Put yourself in the position of the person you are communicating with. If they want to contact you later, do they have all your details (phone, mobile (cellulare), address, etc)? Anticipate the other person’s needs or difficulties. Give them your direct number or extension (assuming you do want them to contact you again directly on the phone). If you have referred to a document or web page, send them the exact title or link so they can find it easily.

Is there any other way you could achieve the same result without making the call?
Ask yourself if this is really the best way of communicating with someone. Yes, speaking on the phone is the most direct means of communication, but there can also be many distractions – especially if the other person – or you yourself – are already pre-occupied with another task. A well-written email is often more effective than a phone call – and it also has the advantage that it can be referred to whenever the reader (or you) needs to check the information it contains. You certainly can’t do this (easily) with a phone call, unless you record (and transcribe) all your calls! Quite often the best way to communicate in business is to send someone a clear, well-structured email, follow it up with a brief call (even if it it’s just to check they have received – and read – the email). And then send a short follow-up email (a line or two) confirming in writing the action(s) you have agreed during the call.

Now you’re fully prepared mentally and physically – and with a clear phone strategy – you need some juicy (succoso, vantaggioso) business telephone phrases to make your call as professional and effective as possible. Read the next section, which contains a comprehensive range of useful language to help you achieve your results…

Note: the business telephone phrases in secton 2 of “Make that call!” will soon be available as premium content or to students taking professional business courses with Robert Dennis. (That’s enough free content…)

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