You Haven’t Found a Job Yet? You Probably Aren’t Networking Enough

Last time I blogged it was about my job search in Germany. As I mentioned several times, I believe that speaking German is the biggest hurdle that one faces when looking for a job. The second hurdle is being at the right place at the right time. What do I mean by that? That you can’t expect to find a job simply through applying through or or company websites. By applying online, you are faced with the following problems:

  • Your experience does not fit the German Lebenslauf-style
  • You never worked in Germany so you do not have any Arbeitszeugnisse (reference letters from previous employers)
  • You are going up against hundreds of other candidates
  • 90%* of jobs are not posted online

According to the book*, “Traum!Job!Now!” by Christian Pape, employers and candidates look in incongruent ways:

How Employers Look: Network, Headhunters, References
How Candidates Look: (Online) Job boards, Newspaper ads, Blind applications
(Blind applications: general applications to a company, not for a specific job)

Now, does that seem like the right applicant would find the right job at the right time? Looks absolutely hopeless now doesn’t it? Like me, you are probably new to Germany and have no network to speak of, right? Well, the answer lies in spending more time trying to “meet” the right people who will give you direct access to the employers rather than to spend hours revising your CV over and over and blindly submitting applications via the Internet. If you have done this you probably already know that you only ever get an automated response of “Thank you but no thanks” or you receive no response at all.

I have found many resources that will be a good start, but I stress that the hard work lies in reaching out to people you don’t know, and doing it often and persistently. If you are not comfortable with this, then I suggest that you just force yourself to try and it will get easier over time. Networking is absolutely key to finding a job in Germany, and really though, key to building yourself a new life here in all respects.

Here is a list of all the resources that I have used and how I used them:

  • – You may already know this from the US, I use this to find & contact people at the companies I target or to look up specific people I will be interviewing with to see what kind of background they have
  • – Germany’s version of linkedin. I use it as I use linkedin, however I have also joined company alumni networks and professional networking groups in order to find & contact people at firms in my target industry
  • Headhunters (e.g. Euro London Appointments, Randstadt, etc) – Not incredibly successful for me, but only because my language skills were not good enough for the employers
  • Agencies (e.g. Runstedt) – They get to know you and then research industries and find positions for you. Its a paid service but if you need coaching or someone to help you navigate the applications process, it may be a good option. (I have not yet tried this but I will update you when I do.)
  • Professional networking organizations (e.g. European Professional Women’s Network) – Great opportunity to meet people directly in your field
  • Attend industry conferences – Another great opportunity to meet people directly in your field
  • Social organizations (,,, local meetup groups through Facebook) – Truthfully, I haven’t found much success in using these sites, but in theory you should be able to meet international people from all industries in a more relaxed social setting.
  • Friends and Family – When you find a company you are interested in, ask all your friends and family if they know anyone from the firm and if they could introduce you via email.

This last method has actually worked the best for me. I have, in a few easy steps, been able to contact via phone the hiring manager for positions that were not advertised on the Internet. Also, all the people you meet through expat meetup groups are a way to extend your network. Everyone that they know, their spouse, their in-laws, everyone could be a potential stepping stone to get you to the job you want. So seek out the New in “Town X”, running club, “Bored Hausfrau”, wine lovers meet up groups and at the very least, make some new friends!

There are a couple of important things that I should mention. First, Germans attitudes towards networking. It used to be that Germans saw networking as unfair – a negative “nepotism” type of thing – and that the networking clubs were mainly around school alumni groups, and thus were more social. This is slowly evolving but is still challenging. Germans don’t typically ask others to do things for them. So many are not used to being asked and conversely, many are not used to offering their help. You should tread softly here. Never be too direct in asking, rather, ask questions and even better, for their opinion, that help you get to the same goal.
– “Do you know anyone in the Communications department/group? Oh, you do? Would you mind introducing us via email? I’d love to ask her about opportunities in that group”
– “I’m interested in your field and was wondering if I could talk to you for 10 minutes to get some feedback from you about your experience in this firm versus this other opportunity I was looking into”

Secondly, when you meet people who are employed and/or looking, as you are, offer to help them too. If you know they are interested in a field or a firm and you know somebody that could help, offer to introduce them via email. Many Germans may not take you up on that because culturally they are not used to someone offering to help, but it’s important to show that this relationship with you is a two-way street.

Third, when you are rejected from a firm you’ve applied for, let them know that you would be interested in future opportunities with them so that they should contact you if something else comes up.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to directly email or call people that you don’t know. You have nothing to lose and the worst they can say is that they can’t help you. More often than not, people want to feel good helping others, and they will help you in any way that they can. Finally, always be mindful of people’s time and never keep anyone waiting for a promised CV or email/call. You never know what impressions these people will take away with them and will pass on to potential employers. Good Luck!

2 thoughts on “You Haven’t Found a Job Yet? You Probably Aren’t Networking Enough

  1. I find your blog very useful and informative. I just recently found it on my internet search for information regarding successful job hunting in Germany.
    I am very familiar with Germany – particularly Munich and the surrounding area. I took German in high school – and was an exchange student as well. I met many friends and visit Germany regularly.
    My life is headed in a different direction now – and a long time friendship has grown into something much more – and I have decided to move to Germany – and this past year – I have learned of all the red tape and government regulations that I must go through to even be allowed to enter the country to work.
    I realize just getting married would be easier but I want to know that I can support myself and not be dependent on my boyfriend – We have discussed marriage but both feel that we want it in our own time – not the government’s time.
    I have always been able to make it day to day in the area with my knowledge of the language – Bayerish is so much different than Hochdeutsch. I have started studying and improving my German language skills and am currently studying for my Zertifikat Deutsch test from the Goethe Institute. I was hoping to start applying for jobs once I have this – but also continue onto the next level for my B2 Zertifikat as well, thinking that it might be an advantage when applying for jobs there (since I am hoping to find a job before I move – so that I can have a work visa)
    Although I realize this will probably be very difficult.
    I am quite familiar with the “networking” issue – because my German boyfriend got both of his jobs by knowing someone in the company. Even though it was not his desired field – he got the job because of who he knew.
    I have had only 2 jobs in America since high school – working 9 years at one company – and with my current company for 11 years now. Both in the accounting/administrative field.
    As you mentioned – the German employers seem to be all about degrees – vocational training – while American employers are all about work experience.
    I am just hoping that my search will not take too long – and they companies will give me the benefit of the doubt – and be willing to hire me.

  2. Hi Judy,

    Nice tips. I think the last tip, “Family and Friends” might be very important! I would like to add or update a couple of tips. One of them is “Agencies.” I have heard from a user from another forum that an Agency was interested in him, and they coached him a bit. After working with the agency, he finally landed a job with a company in Germany. He told me his Deutsch was good but not great! Another tip I want to add is when you submit your Lebenslauf to a company is to make sure to submit maybe a “Empfehlungsschreiben” or a letter of recommendation. That might help! How about finding a job that closely matches a hobby that you like? It may not be the dream job, but it might get your foot in the door.

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