While studying International Management in Ireland and my home country Spain, I gained first work experience in Germany when interning with an e-commerce company in Berlin. Having received a degree, I worked as a Key Account Manager in the retail industry in Spain for some years. Even though my job has always had an international context, this wasn’t enough anymore after some time. I wanted to live abroad. To increase the likelihood of finding a job in another country, I decided to do an MBA at the IE Business School.
I finished in December 2017 and in January 2018, I moved to Berlin. I wanted to live in a vibrant, exciting and open-minded city where innovative ideas are all around. Of course Berlin is not the only city that matches these criteria but it had some advantages for me: I’ve already been to Germany and spent a couple of months in Berlin. This meant I already knew a tiny bit of German and had a few old contacts. I didn’t have to start from zero. Still, l had to face some challenges before getting the job I have and love now. Since I overcame them in the end, I’d like to share my 5 best tips on how to find a job in Germany.
Learning a new language can be exhausting. And I admit that German is not the easiest. But it is important that you try, ideally by taking a language course. This has obvious reasons. You moved to Germany and of course you want to meet new people, be able to talk to your colleagues and just get along with your everyday life. Even though in international places and big cities like Berlin you can get by without being really fluent, you cannot expect everyone to speak English. Same goes for the working environment. If you don’t have to deal with clients or customers, not being fluent is sufficient. But a basic level of German is still required.
When applying for a job, it is often not so much about what level of German you offer at that particular moment. What matters is that you are trying. So the fact that you are taking a German course at the moment of the application can help you get the job, even though your German skills are just starting to develop. Showing the motivation to learn will help to convince your employer that you will improve over time.
I enrolled in an intense German learning program after arriving. I had classes every day from 9 am to 3 pm. It was hard, but it helped a lot. Looking back, I wished I would have had more time. My program went on for 2 months, then I started working immediately. Now, I barely have any time to sit down and work on my German. Sure, I pick up a lot of German on the way just living here, but I think the ideal duration of a German course is 3 months or longer. So if you have the time, invest in learning. It’s worth it.
When I came to Germany, I hadn’t signed a contract yet. I didn’t even have a job offer. And in my opinion this isn’t necessary either. But what you should do is getting an overview of the general job opportunities in the region you are aiming to go. Berlin, for example, is great for creative people and media and it’s very international. But if you are an engineer, it might be harder to find a job here because most of the industrial giants are located in the south of Germany. Before deciding on a city or a region in Germany, make sure you are happy with the job opportunities it can offer.
In terms of looking for a job, I can recommend online platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed or LinkedIn. They usually have very detailed filter options and let you also search for jobs that don’t require German skills.
Once you are invited to a job interview, get ready. Usually employers in Germany are very well organised and expect the same from the job candidate. So do your research on the company and be well informed what skills the desired position requires. If you are lacking any skills, think about what you can offer instead. I, for example, didn’t know enough German for the position. But instead of being insecure about it, I focused on my strengths. I am a native in Spanish with an MBA who feels passionate about the position and is learning German to improve quickly. That’s how I got the job and became Senior Community Manager at Mindspace, the only non-German in this position in the whole of Germany. I lead a team of 3 and am responsible for the wellbeing of 700 members in one location. It is possible to get your dream job, but you have to prepare well.
It would have saved me some sleepless nights if I’d already had a job confirmed when I moved to Germany. But it turned out that my worries were totally unfounded. Being on the spot has huge advantages. First of all, German employers prefer candidates who have a German postal address. This increases your chances to receive an invitation for an interview. They also appreciate you coming to the job interview in person. Everyone hates a jerky connection and a frozen frame. Being there in person is always better. And last but not least, openings can come up very spontaneously. If you are already in Germany, you can seize the opportunity with both hands.
Your network can help you with anything: apartment, nice places to go for a drink – and a job. When I came to Berlin, I started to use all sorts of networking opportunities. I went to free meetups and startup events where people presented their pitches and newest ideas and where we talked about the recent developments on the market. I think a personal interest in the topic will make it easier for you to start a conversation with others. At one of these events, I met someone who worked at Mindspace. I had already applied by then but he gave me tips for the interview and helped develop a more insightful view on the company. This definitely helped me get the job.
Besides going to meetups and events with topics that seem interesting to you, you can also ask yourself in what kind of hobbies you like to engage. Did you like to play volleyball back home? Great, look for a club here in Germany. Do you like to sing? There are lots of choirs you can join. It can be anything that will help you build your network and maybe even find a job through that.
Another great networking opportunity are language tandems. They are not only great to improve your language skills but will also give you the opportunity to get in touch with locals and ask them for helpful advice. Last but not least, never be too shy to reactivate old contacts or approach people you don’t know well. Your friend knows a friend who lives in Germany? Ask this person for advice.
Last but not least: If possible, don’t come in winter. I arrived in January and this turned out to be a challenge. I was used to people being very open and talkative. Since winters in Germany can be rough, many people stay at home and are not as outgoing as in spring or summer. Coming to Germany in summer offers a lot more events and occasions to network and everyone is more open which makes it easier.
Things I felt stressed about before coming to Germany weren’t always the things that turned out to be a true challenge. I neither had a job offer nor did I really speak the language when I moved. I was surprised how much easier it was to find a job when already in Berlin. Also, the language course helped to remove worries about my German, especially because it was always more important to show the motivation to improve and not the actual level of my German.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare when still at home. An overview of general job opportunities helps you decide where to go in Germany and what kind of skills you need in order to get the dream job. Furthermore, tell the world once you arrived. Connect to people, be outgoing and don’t wait for anyone to come to you and offer you that job. To make that process a bit easier for you: Try to come in summer.