If you would have asked me as a high schooler which countries I wanted to visit, Germany would not have made the cut. This is uncanny when I think about this years later, because now my resume is full of a slew of Germany experiences. Even more, never would I have imagined that ten years later, I’d be spending my time advocating for and supporting others in discovering everything this wonderful country has to offer for studying, researching, and working.
When I was growing up on a farm in rural Wisconsin, USA, the idea of traveling or studying abroad was not common. German was not offered as a foreign language at my school and I did not know anyone from Germany. My thoughts evolved during my junior year of high school, when I met two exchange students, including one from Germany, who inspired me to do an exchange year like him. After applying for several scholarships, I was awarded full funding to go to Germany with the and spent a year living with a host family while attending high school. Thanks to my wonderful, warm Bavarian host family, and specifically a very supportive host mom, I was able to become fluent in German. Beyond learning the language, that exchange year in Germany set the stage for my career path up until now.
Following my time in Germany, I graduated from , with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and minor in German Studies. I spent the summers of my undergraduate years getting work experience in Germany through volunteering, interning, teaching English and doing undergraduate research. I was generously funded by the for a summer language program which allowed me to enhance my language skills in a systemic, structured manner for the first time. I split my time that summer between the DAAD-sponsored language course and an internship at the German Federal Employment Agency. Later on, my bachelor’s thesis focused on the migrant experience with finding work in Germany and in the US.
During my time in Germany I became increasingly interested in the Turkish population in Germany - and decided to spend a summer in Turkey at on the sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. While there, I took an intensive Turkish language course. Because of the robust Turkish population in Germany, knowing the language is such an asset for my everyday life and has allowed me to get involved in projects aimed at cultivating greater intercultural and interfaith dialogue between Germans, Turks and Americans.
Shortly after my time in Turkey, I found a job that would develop into my passion. At the international office at the , I played a pivotal role in building the university’s International Career Service, which helps international students with launching their careers in Germany. In addition, I had the absolute joy of teaching German cultural studies to international students.
Based on my experiences with creating an international career service at a German university, teaching German cultural studies, and constructing an internship program in Germany, I continue to provide career coaching and support to international students, young professionals, and expats through . I also work with German universities to design, develop, and on topics related to working in Germany.
Every career trajectory is different and just because something worked for one person does not mean it will work for others. However, after coaching hundreds of international students, young professionals and expats, I have a few nuggets of wisdom I always like to pass along. These can be summed up as focusing on gaining experience, leveraging language alongside skills, and planning strategically, which I will explain next.
In Germany, the internship can be equated with a key to your future career. In my personal experience, but also that of my clients, the internship often leads to a job. To land the internship, you should gain an understanding of the internship landscape, and become comfortable with German standards for application materials, regardless of whether you are applying in English or German..
Being able to work in German, not just hold a conversation in the breakroom, is expected in many work scenarios. Although English-only jobs exist, they are the exception. Although language skills are vital, German should not be your only concern when it comes to employability in Germany. You also need to be working on the hard and soft skills that are necessary and in demand in your field.
In my coaching work, I often hear this misconception that you can just move to another country and get a job there. This may work for some people, but for most, a combination of careful analysis and targeted preparation is essential. I highly recommend that you plan ahead by thinking backwards.
While some internationals are successful with launching and growing their careers in Germany, others struggle with finding suitable employment. Adequate planning and preparation are needed to understand the context of job searching in Germany long before sending out applications. In my upcoming workshop “Germany Career Kickstarter–Preparation & Planning” for the Alumniportal Deutschland you'll learn key, effective strategies for understanding what is expected of you as an applicant and how you can best prepare for your Germany career launch. You can register here.
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