The economic powerhouse of the country, Istanbul accounted for 30% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Turkey as of 2014. Undeniably the most open and outward-looking city in Turkey, Istanbul offers foreign professionals enticing career opportunities in various sectors.
Istanbul's local economy
Its geographical location at the crossroads between Europe and Asia makes Istanbul a major hub for trade and import-export. The city plays home to the regional headquarters and operating centres of many multinational companies.
Istanbul was the fifth-most visited city in the world as of 2015. In spite of a recent slowdown, the tourism industry is still vivid in the city, as demonstrated by unfaltering construction of luxury hotels and other touristic facilities.
Home to the national stock exchange (Borsa Istanbul, BIST), Istanbul is a major centre for banking, insurance and financial services, most of which are concentrated in the district of Maslak. Another business district has emerged in the area of Levent, where skyscrapers have sprung up over the past decade. Istanbul also is a destination for high-profile international congresses and business conferences.
Finally the outskirts of the city are dense with industrial districts accommodating manufacture and assembly units for automotive and electronics goods among others.
Finding a job in Istanbul
Istanbul's labour market is very open to foreigners. A decent command of Turkish is obviously a plus, but not a compulsory requirement.
For good English speakers, sectors such as the media and arts industries — or, at the other end of the spectrum, the sector of specialised finance — are generally eager to get international perspectives and are open to working in English.
The same can be said of innovative start-ups. Expats interested in pursuing a career in tech can try to reach out to local start-ups, many of which can be found in incubators or co-working spaces.
Foreign workforce is always needed in the tourism industry, and a good command of English is always highly valued at the customer service of a hotel or of an entertainment facility.
Otherwise, you will likely be able to work in your native language at the local branch of companies originating from your home country.
Expats specifically looking to make use of their foreign language skills can apply for teachers or lecturers positions in the city’s many international schools, or as au pairs in families.
Where to start?
Regardless of the region, a professional network is generally the most helpful resource to land a job. If you do not have a local network yet, attending networking events such as Meetups can significantly increase your chances of meeting the right people.
Otherwise you may find suitable opportunities on general and specialised job-listing websites, or in classified ads in local newspapers.
Turks are quite active on social networks, and professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn are widely used by recruiters to find candidates. Keep your profile updated and don’t hesitate to reach out to potential matches.
Generally speaking, remember that you have nothing to lose in sending around spontaneous job applications.