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Working in Istanbul

Find out how to get a job and work in Istanbul

If you are interested in working in Istanbul, be prepared. The city offers great opportunities for expats, if they can land a job beforehand. Job hunting on location reduces your chances, due to widespread unemployment. Our guide shows you what to expect of working in Turkey’s largest city.

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Employment in Istanbul

Being employed in Istanbul gives you an insight into the dynamic business world of a city where self-made careers can get you to the top. Many residents try alternative career paths or start their own business. A great idea and the right connections will get you just as far as the market know-how and sufficient capital. Thus, Istanbul is a place of particular interest for expats who want to spend a few years in Turkey.

For this reason, quite a few expat partners and foreigners in Istanbul change their careers in search of greener pastures. Language teaching — often privately and on a free-lance basis — is a popular option. Moreover, there are also private language schools who love to hire foreign language teachers. To get one of these coveted positions, you need a TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or an equivalent thereof.

Turkey’s Economic Center

This city benefits from its convenient location between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. More than a third of all exports and imports go through the metropolis at the Bosporus. Working in Istanbul means working in Turkey’s economic center.

Turkey is vying for a full membership in the EU. This, so many Turkish entrepreneurs hope, will lead to further modernizations and a boost of the local economy. Many employees in Istanbul have found an occupation in the service sector or in the clothing and food-processing industries.

Istanbul’s Financial Districts

Until 1990, expats working in Istanbul had to make their way to Bankalar Caddesi if they were employed in the financial sector. This used to be the main business district and home to various financial institutions. In the 1990s, though, most major banks moved their HQs to Levant and Maslak, making them major business hubs and new hotspots for financial employees.

The Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE) is the only corporation for securities exchange in Turkey. The ISE was founded in 1986 and moved its location to the quarter of Istinye on the European side of Istanbul. It is home to more than 320 national companies, incorporated banks, and a brokerage house.

Job Hunting: Do It Yourself or Ask for Help

If you are not sent to Istanbul on a typical expat assignment, Turkey’s high unemployment rate may be the first obstacle on your way to working in Istanbul. However, there is a significant lack of qualified professionals in Istanbul. The Turkish employment agency Iskur helps expats and Turkish nationals find job offers.

These job centers are located in different neighborhoods all over Istanbul with a main office in Beyoglu. Private employment agencies can also help you with your job search. They often specialize in certain professional fields.

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Doing Business in Istanbul

Networking in Istanbul

Networking is an extremely important part of job-hunting in Istanbul. As mentioned in our article on working in Turkey, doing business is considered a highly personal endeavor there. Turkish people often do not like hiring or doing business with anybody they do not know or trust. That’s why jobs are often given to friends of friends or acquaintances.

Visit our expat community in Istanbul and begin by building and expanding your network there. This will help you get in touch with other expats in Istanbul. Your chances of finding work can thus improve significantly. Try to also brush up on your Turkish before moving abroad. After all, multilingual employees have far better chances of finding a job.

Work Contracts and Annual Leave

Many work contracts are only put down in writing if the employment lasts more than one year. Most of them include a probation period of about three months.

The annual minimum of paid leave is rather low in Turkey as compared to many EU countries. Vacation days are not calculated by the number of work days. Instead, they are based on the employee’s age and the number of years he or she has been working for the company:

  • 1–5 years = 14 days
  • 5–15 years = 20 days
  • Over 15 years = 26 days

Additionally, employees are entitled to paid vacation in case of family obligations such as weddings, funerals or circumcisions.

A Small Business World in a Metropolis

Although Istanbul is a huge metropolis, its business world is rather small. Everybody knows each other, and keeping secrets is quite difficult. Human aspects of professional relationships are very important. The same applies to family ties and personal relationships, which often intersect with business contacts.

Most business is done via verbal agreement rather than written contracts. Due to the personal nature of business deals in Istanbul, these agreements are extremely significant and always binding. It is often said that the value of a handshake is a businessperson’s every pride.

Joint Ventures

Most investors establish joint ventures to gain entry into the new foreign market and to benefit from the business partnership. Although foreigners may own 100% of a business, many choose the joint venture to benefit from a zero customs rate and the market know-how of their Turkish business partners.

In turn, Turkish investors reduce their shipping costs by investing in a joint venture and thus get a chance to compete with European companies.The Undersecretariat of Treasury oversees the licensing process in Turkey. Companies with foreign capital have to turn in their annual monitoring forms to this office.

Representative Offices

Foreign companies or investors have the option of establishing a representative office if it is designed for market research or feasibility studies. Some investors also use this office to acquire new investment opportunities for their company.

However, you cannot undertake commercial activities with only a representative office in Istanbul, as you will also need the permission from the General Directorate of Foreign Trade. You may establish a representative office for three years, with the option to extend your activity in Istanbul.

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Updated on: December 06, 2018
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