When my wife moved to Germany she didn’t speak a lot of German. She had a good university degree and some years of experience within major investment banks. As one of the “trailing spouses” , finding a job in Germany turned out to be quite a challenge: A lot of HR people told her: “Okay, you have worked for big corporations, but not in Germany…”
Despite these early rejections, my wife got a good job within a year.
Getting a good job in Germany in the first 365 days (also for trailing spouses)
My wife scorned me for being too German, meaning: Too straightforward in this article. (Even though she did exactly the things that I will propose in this article. It helped her as one of the trailing spouse)
So before you become scared of me: Don’t worry. If you follow my advise your first year in Germany will be hard. But hard it will be anyway. After those first 365 days your life will get much easier. And you will realise: You are happy in Germany. And that is what I wish for you.
Understand the motivation of Human Resources departments. Germans feel quite uncomfortable with uncertainty (less than Japanese, but more than British or Americans). Therefore many HR managers, who study resumes try to limit the risk of failure, rather than find an optimal candidate. Everything you do to make HR feel “save” will help you get the job.
Choosing a “typical” candidate always leaves them with an excuse: “That’s what we always did…”
Help human resources prove, that you are not a bigger “risk” than German employees.
(If you are screaming now: This is bullocks! HR should look for the best talent and not for the smallest risk. The truth is: They are the ones hiring. So you have to address their concerns – not yours.)
1. Learn German
Big surprise here, right? If you speak only English, you limit your job opportunities to international companies only. That leaves out 90% of the job market here. So you go from a market, where companies compete for the best talent to a market where desperate expats try to land a job. Why throw away the huge advantage of a “sellers market”?
2. Speak German
Learning German from a book or in a course is a first step. To become fluent in the language you have to go further, though: You have to speak German by default.
Don’t worry about mistakes. Germans will feel flattered by your efforts. It is a question of respect that you speak the language of the country you are living in.
At least in the first year: Try to speak German 6 days a week – and take Sunday “off”.
3. Don’t mingle within your own culture
Don’t hang out mostly with your own landsmen! It’s only natural to seek out people from your own culture or from the international community when you move abroad.
But I regularly see how this prevents people from really becoming a part of German society. The reason is simple: You learn nothing new. You talk about the same insights and opinions in the same language that you have always been used too.
Take one day of the week to “refill your battery” with friends from your own culture – but use the rest of the time to build a home in Germany.
Use your freedom to explore German culture
4. Explore German Culture
To feel at home in Germany you need to dive right into our society. After all: What’s the point about moving abroad if you don’t want to make new experiences and grow as a person? Use your freedom as trailing spouses to explore our rich culture life.
When I lived abroad I chose a small town to live in for the first year. This way I was forced to learn the local language – it was the only way to communicate. I also made good local friends and learned new ways of life, traditions and a new perspective of the world.
After one year I could talk fluently in the local language – and became a link between locals and international people.
German society, culture and history are very rich and rewarding. Don’t miss out! 🙂
5. Network with the Germans first
Exploring the German culture will lead you to making friends with the Germans. Make good connections with German professionals. Use their help to advance your career. They know where the really good jobs are avaible and how to present yourself most effectively.
If they recommend you for a position, then they also reduce the (perceived) risk for the HR Department, therefore making it easier for them to justify their decision to hire you.
Bonus for Trailing Spouses
6. Get a certificate
Since the Germans have a tendency to avoid uncertainty: Help them and get your degree certified in Germany. Luckily many degrees and universities are now automatically accepted. Check here if your university is one of them: Anabin Database
You might notice – the database is in German language. Even though it’s most useful to foreigners. On behalf of Germany: I apologize. As a nation we are still learning to be more open. We make progress, but slowly…
Remind me to one day explain the word “Fremdschämen” to you…
7. Get a foot in the door with your favorite company
What is better? A low-level paid job or a free internship in a professional environment? My advice is the later. If you start to take low-level jobs as a foreigner in Germany – then you might be perceived as only fitting for such positions.
If you really need to get your foot in the door – offer a free internship for 3 months in a good position. Then use this first experience in the German job market to move on to, say, a temp agency. From here it is much easier to move on to a regular position.
If you still live abroad…
A good start is to get in contact with the Goethe Institute and the German Chamber of Commerce in your country. They offer language courses and might even be able to recommend companies that are hiring. Do this before you become trailing spouses and move to Germany.
You should also ask the German Embassy if there are any regular roundtables – “Stammtische” of Germans in your country and seek out German expatriates at www.internations.org
If you are really serious about working in Germany you can also hire me as a Coach. Together we develop a plan and concrete steps to your first job in Germany.
Have you made the same experience?
You are well educated, you have professional experience and most important: You have drive and ambition. You want to make a contribution and build a good career.
But German employers don't value your talent. You apply for job after job. You spent hours editing your CV and cover letter to fit perfectly. And then: You don't even get an answer.
There is a way forward! Chris Pyak and the rest of us at Immigrant Spirit GmbH: We want you to succeed.