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 monster.de or stepstone.de 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:
- linkedin.com – 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
- xing.com – 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 (internations.org, meetup.com, toytowngermany.com, 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!