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Job search in Germany: The career ladder calls!

If you wish to work in Germany after you've finished studying, you should start making plans while you're still a student. With an "inner inventory" you can improve the success of your job search. Searching for job offers you shouldn’t only use the internet but also other helpful sources.

by the Editors

Ladder to the sky © Flickr/John Williams
Ladder to the sky . © Flickr/John Williams

With a degree from a German university, international graduates have numerous job opportunities on the German job market.

Students from non-EU countries are allowed to remain in Germany for the purpose of looking for employment for a maximum of 18 months after graduating. These 18 months pass quicker than you think, so it's important to start job hunting during the final semester of your degree, or at the latest "four months before finishing your studies," advises Maria-Theresia Jansen from the "Agentur für Arbeit" job agency in Bonn. As a member of a team of careers advisers specialising in academic professions, she has spent the last 30 years helping international graduates gain a foothold in the German employment market.

While you're looking for full-time employment, you're allowed to work as much as you like: According to the Right of Residence regulation, there are no time restrictions on working during the job search phase.

Analyse yourself before you search for a job

Before you set out in search of a job, take the time to ask yourself the following four questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What is possible?

Maria-Theresia Jansen refers to this as the "inner inventory". To avoid wasting time searching aimlessly, it's important that you answer these questions honestly.

Consultation at the Agentur für Arbeit © Horschig/DAAD
Consultation at the Agentur für Arbeit . © Horschig/DAAD

The experienced careers adviser explains why it makes sense to answer these questions:  "A lot of graduates only look for jobs that correspond 100 per cent with what they have studied. They automatically ignore everything else." A big mistake, stresses Jansen, because this "tunnel vision" can make life unnecessarily difficult. Extend your search: you don't always have to end up doing exactly what you learnt during your studies! "It's important to look at related fields and transfer knowledge to other areas."

Take advantage of all the opportunities, not just the internet!

Obtain an overview of the different sectors of industry and companies. Career fairs and conventions for graduates are an ideal way of obtaining information and making new contacts. Information about such fairs is often posted on faculty notice boards.

Recognition of foreign vocational qualifications

On the website "Recognition in Germany" you can find out how to have your foreign vocational qualification recognised in Germany. The website tells you who to contact and offers advice and information about the recognition procedure.

Job vacancies are also advertised on university notice boards. Of course, you'll find plenty of information through the numerous search engines, but remember that your university may also be able to help you! The Career Centre usually has a database which you can use to research job vacancies. The Career Service will also help you launch your career: it can advise you how to update application documents, coach you in interview techniques, inform you about company presentations - the list is endless, and often free of charge!

Information about job prospects

Many vacancies are advertised in sector-specific media: the "Verband Deutscher Ingenieure" (VDI) (Association of German Engineers) or the "Verband der Elektrotechnik" (VDE) (Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies) inform you not only about new developments in their respective industries but also about job openings in companies. There are numerous industry associations: an overview is available on the website BERUFENET. Enter your respective job title (e.g. biologist) and then select the appropriate job outline. You will find association addresses under "Informationsquellen" in the section "Berufs-/Interessenverbände, Arbeitgeber-/Arbeitnehmer-Organisationen". Industry associations also provide information about job openings.

Pursuing a research career in Germany

On the website "Research in Germany" you can find out how to do your PhD or Postdoc in Germany. Read more about the requirements and your career and funding opportunities.

Information about employment prospects for academics is available on the website of the “Arbeitsagentur”. To obtain an overview of regional job market prospects, Maria-Theresia Jansen recommends the “Prognos Institut”. The publishing company “Staufenbiel” also provides information about career opportunities and starting salaries for first-time job-seekers. According to a study carried out by the publishers, young engineers starting their career earn an average of between 38,000 and 47,000 euro. In the automobile industry, graduate engineers earn an initial 46,000 euro on average. Graduates with a Master's degree in the natural sciences can expect an initial salary of 42,000 euro.

Speaking German

"The number of job openings is very limited if you don't speak German," says Jansen. This is why it's a good idea to take a language course while you're studying. Of course, you can do an entire degree in English at a German university. And fellow students might not have a problem answering you with a bit more than a "yes" or a "no". But for personal contact with future colleagues, it's definitely advisable to have a command of the German language!

Checklist

  • Start looking for a job early on, at the latest four months before you finish studying!
  • Carry out a self-analysis!
  • Don't restrict your search too much!
  • Make use of the services offered by your university!
  • Take advantage of career fairs and the services offered by employment agencies!
  • By now you should be proficient in German! Take German language courses while studying!