Expat Tip: Want to Find Work in Germany? Have a Job.

There are some major cultural differences between German work culture and U.S. work culture, and many of them have been covered here on The German Way already (follow the link for the complete list!) From attitudes toward working mothers, or attitudes toward working women in general, to vacation time (ahh, 6 weeks is so civilized) and the Betriebsrat, newcomers to Germany have much to which they must adjust. One little secret I’d like to share with you today, however, isn’t one that gets mentioned in any expat guidebook: Germans like to hire employees who already have jobs.

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This seems like a small and insignificant detail, right? If you have recently moved to the country then you have a good reason for the current pause in your career history on your CV. However, consider for a moment the psychology behind the idea: Knowing that another company is willing to employ you (and that you have passed the 6 months of probationary contract time) means you are a cut above all those other job-seekers. You aren’t just a job-seeker, in fact, you are suddenly an employee that is looking for a transition. Much like in dating, being “taken” makes you instantly more attractive.

I first encountered this cultural difference when I was miserably employed at a software company and desperate to leave. Worried about my career prospects, my German spouse and German friends all convinced me it was worthwhile to stay in my position, despite my misery. As an American, I was geared up to quit on principle, believing any future employer would value my integrity. Alas, things just work differently in different countries. In Germany, you have a much easier time finding a job if you already have a job. So I stayed in that miserable job and became more miserable and eventually just threw the whole software gig out the window, veering toward education instead. (Warning: not advisable to change careers without sufficient training and proper stamps-on-papers in Germany! Big risk involved!) But it was true – my interview rate declined after I left the company, and then once I started work at another organization, my interview and job offer rate increased again – soon I was spoiled for choice!

So here is my advice to job-seekers in Germany: Take a job. Take any job you can fathom doing and that will get you to the place where you are no longer facing a gaping hole in your Lebenslauf (resume). Then keep looking, and you will find you are suddenly much more attractive.

Good luck with the job hunt, and be sure to check out the tips on crafting a German Lebenslauf that we have here on the German Way website!

One thought on “Expat Tip: Want to Find Work in Germany? Have a Job.

  1. Alas, this is so true. I wasn’t aware it was different in other countries!

    BTW: Usually gaps in the Lebenslauf can be dealt with by putting down “freelance work”. It isn’t lying, just selective interpretation of the truth. If you helped out a neighbor with their fence, you were freelancing as a contractor. If you translated the letter your aunt received from her pen pal in Russia, you were freelancing as a translator.

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