Yesterday I got one of those phone calls for which I live. “I got a job offer!”
My client Lucia* had to overcome a triathlon of additional challenges, before she was able to finally say these words. I think her story can give you useful ideas for your own career:
What strikes me most about Lucia is her grid. Back in her home country she was burdened with a lot of responsibility at a very young age. Her father got sick and she had to take over the family business when she was still in university. In a very conservative society, she suddenly found herself forced to negotiate with men twice her age – and find a way to stand her ground and get the conditions that her father’s business needed to thrive. She succeeded because she got very good at understanding the real power balance in each negotiation. The family business is doing well now.
Then she met her husband and followed him to Germany. Here she faces a completely new set of obstacles for her career. Some are obstacles that nearly all international professionals face: Being a foreigner, needing a visa and not being able to speak German.
But on top of that she had to overcome a puzzle of three additional limitations:
- Being married, she was limited to jobs in her new home town. Excluding most of the job market in Germany.
- Lucia works in HR – a profession that in Germany is not very open to change and very risk averse. On top of that it is very hard to connect with HR professionals because they get swamped with calls from service providers all the time.
- And finally: The market conditions are not optimal right now. Many companies cut back on staff, because last year the economic outlook was very uncertain. These fears have not materialized luckily – but companies still implement their original cost cutting plans.
So, Lucia had to overcome all the usual obstacles for international professionals, plus the threefold challenge of location, profession and market.
When she hired me to help her get a job, she was full of doubt. We had many conversations about her fear that she had “too little experience” in Germany and that employers would reject her because of that. I helped her to understand that it is not her job to argue against herself. Instead, she needed to maximize her value for the employer – and then discover the actual concerns they might have, so that she can dissolve them.
The way to do this, is of course to have a real phone conversation with the actual decision makers. That’s what I help my clients to achieve. Usually, I teach them how to find the decision maker and then I reach out to them on my client’s behalf.
But Lucia refused to do things my way. And I am happy she did.
Well, she didn’t refuse right away. We were working together for a few months and things went slowly. It always does – until it doesn’t. So, I wasn’t worried (because I did this a hundred times) but Lucia was very, very anxious (for her it was the first time and she couldn’t see the road.)
She had lots and lots of worries about how employers would perceive her. No-one ever gave her feedback that would support her worries, but she still didn’t feel comfortable in her skin when she had to talk to potential employers after I made an introduction.
“The questions you suggest feel stilted and unnatural to me”, she told me. And of course, if you feel unnatural – your partner in the conversation will feel that something is off.
So, Lucia decided to not have me introduce her anymore. Instead, she used the methods that I taught her to reach out to decision makers herself and then have a conversation that felt more natural for her.
And it worked. The number of fitting jobs in her town are very limited. So, she decided to reach out to a company that had already rejected her a year ago, because “you need fluent German for this position”.
It turned out the position was still vacant – after a full year. And this time they invited her for a job interview. Lucia later told me that during the interview she felt that things were going badly for her. But at the end of the conversation, she was surprised to her: “We will send you an offer in the next few days.”
So, there you have it. Despite being a foreigner in Germany without speaking the language. Despite being limited to a single town, in a profession that is very risk-averse and despite applying for jobs in a time of “restructuring” Lucia made her own luck and got herself a job.
Because she was smart enough to use my method as a starting point and then adapt it to her own needs and style. Well done!
What lesson do you take away from Lucia’s experience? What is the one insight here that you want to apply to your own career goals? And why?
I wish you success.
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