Looking for a job in Germany? Avoid these 5 common mistakes!
Searching for a job in Germany can be daunting, especially if you don’t understand exactly what employers are looking for. Drawing on her years of experience as a career coach, Jessica Schüller from Germany Career Coach shares five common mistakes you should avoid when job hunting in Germany.
In my work with internationals who are job hunting in Germany, I see a huge variety of people, career paths, and personal life situations. Each person is unique. However, in the more than five years that I have been working as a career coach for internationals in Germany, I have noticed a few patterns of success and failure in the Germany job search.
As you look for work in Germany, whether you are currently in Germany or looking from abroad, it's difficult to understand what German employers desire and despise, and where they could not care otherwise. The following five common mistakes will give you an idea of things to consider as you plan your search.
A move abroad can feel like a fresh start, especially if you have already been working for a few years. For many of the mid-career professionals I work with, looking for a job in Germany offers the opportunity to switch into a different position type, move up the career ladder, or change fields entirely. This is natural, since any career change causes us to think about what we want out of the next stage.
However, moving abroad and transitioning into an entirely new field at the same time is less than ideal for a multitude of reasons. With Germany, this is especially the case because employers look for horizontal matches.
For instance, if you were a relationship manager at a bank in your home country, you can probably do the same job in Germany. If, however, you worked in education in your home country and now want to transition to finance, there will be an education and experience mismatch. Changing fields adds another layer of difficulty to the international job search, which is already hard enough.
My advice? Postpone transitioning until you are settled in Germany. Choose a field or position in an area you know for your career start in Germany.
Just as a move abroad can make people feel like they have a fresh start with plenty of flexibility, I have also seen jobseekers be too inflexible and rigid with their search.
For example, human resources is one of the hardest areas to break into in Germany because knowledge of German and German labour law is normally a requirement. Internationals with an HR background often want to find an HR job in an international company, of which there aren’t many.
Instead, I encourage people to look at positions that match their skill set, and not their previous job descriptions. This may mean the former HR manager takes on a job as university recruiter for a German company that does not require an extensive understanding of the labour law.
My advice? Exercise flexibility in your search by being open to any role you are interested in and qualify for.
Not only will a high level of flexibility increase the number of opportunities you open yourself up to, but the same job title does not mean the same responsibilities and tasks in every country. It may seem simple, but understanding the landscape of the German labour market broadly and in your field specifically matters a lot.
To explain what I mean by this, I often use the example of my field: higher education. In the United States, there are entire degree programmes in higher education and student affairs, and there are several functional areas that offer specialisations, from financial aid to residence life.
In Germany, there are less than five programmes educating higher education professionals and managers, and the roles available are relatively limited, especially in student affairs. While I can work in career services offices at higher education institutions in the United States, my friends who work in residence life in the US would have to reorient themselves if they were to look for work in Germany - because residence life is not an area of work in Germany, beyond a few exceptions such as American branch campuses.
The point is that you need to know the market well, and the best way you can do this is by conducting a gap analysis. My advice? Spend some time researching companies, organisations and jobs, and speak with people currently working in Germany in your field to gain an understanding of the employment landscape specific to your field.
Not only do I see people making the mistake of assuming they can do the same job in Germany that they did in their home country, but also that further education in Germany will make them more employable.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to make careful considerations around the education pathways offered in Germany, from apprenticeships to PhDs. Depending on the field and the qualification you are pursuing, more education may not equate to better or more employment opportunities.
Instead, you need to be clear about why you need that certificate or degree, and understand if - and to what extent - it will enhance your job search in Germany. My advice? Speak to people who have the qualification from the place you will obtain it from, and ask them about the role it played (or did not play) in their job search.
Increasing your labour market alignment ahead of time will benefit your job search. In many (probably most) fields, knowing German matters - so invest in a language course. There is also likely a specific qualification or skill you need - so take the time to learn it.
Or perhaps you need to bring a certain amount of experience in something - perhaps sticking around in your current job for six more months will greatly increase the likelihood you’ll get an offer from a German company.
My advice? Working with a career coach who knows the German labour market and / or your field would be a shortcut to developing an individual job search strategy that aligns your education, experiences and goals with the needs of German employers in your field.
Download The Germany Career Start Kit™ to get started planning your career start in Germany.