Despite top grades at law school, two years as an intern and success at the bar exam, Simon Caille faced the prospect only of temporary work and low-paid assistantships as a new lawyer in Paris.
Instead, brandishing the English he picked up along the way, Simon landed an internship in New York that paid better than some entry-level salaries in Paris. Soon he had a full-time position as a lawyer for an investment bank.
"That's the way it should work in France, but the truth is you spend almost a year looking for a real job offer," he said. "Everyone knows that hanging around too long is unattractive to employers, so I just left."
France's famously rigid labour market survived intact this spring when street protests tripped up Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's proposal to liberalise job contract laws for young people.
Its inflexibility is blamed for high unemployment and has prompted an exodus of young, well-educated French to look for work abroad.
Once only an option for the adventurous few, the growing globalisation of the labour market has made the leap across borders, channels and oceans far more inviting for those with a good education, some language skills and get-up-and-go.
The Foreign Ministry estimated in 2004 that the number of French citizens living abroad had surged by almost 30 percent since 1992, from roughly 1.6 million to 2.2 million.
Labour market experts say most of the job-seekers are young.
"They're looking for a hiring system that's more flexible than in France. And they're heading to countries where the 'casual job' culture is more developed," says Olivier Galland, a sociologist at the French National Research Centre.
Last autumn's riots by poor suburban youths - mostly children of immigrants -highlighted youth unemployment of 22 per cent overall and 40 per cent or more in some poor suburbs.
Prime Minister Villepin's law would have made it easier for employers to hire and fire workers and so, he argued, give them greater incentives to create jobs.
Economists said it would have had only a minor effect on joblessness, but in any case Mr Villepin's theory never made it into practice.
Protests by students and labour unions erupted against the erosion of France's formidable legal protections for employees, threatening the government and forcing President Jacques Chirac to cancel the law.
"France may remain attractive for older people who set themselves up under the sun in some beautiful countryside, but it's no longer the case for a young, dynamic workforce," said Herve Le Bras, a sociologist at the School for Advanced Social Studies in Paris.
He says globalisation is opening doors for young French abroad, but not for foreigners in France.
"If people were leaving simply due to European integration or globalisation, there'd also be European foreigners coming to France to fill the gap, but so far the British, Germans, and Italians are not coming in significant enough numbers." ..SUPL: