Ultimate Guide To Starting A Career and Job in Germany

Prolog

Thanks to the close cooperation with Philipps University Marburg, we were able to create the following cool project: Three foreign students, Aswin Asok, Louisa Schmidt and Öykü Öztas, took the effort to formulate a guide that explains the German education system to job seekers of foreign nationalities and provides valuable tips on how to get a foothold in Germany and realize individual career goals.

„Ultimate Guide to starting a career and job in Germany“ explains important basic terms of the German education system, tells you where you can best start your search, and goes into detail about necessary skills you could bring with or learn new to make the start of your career in Germany easier. How to get practical work experience and where to find the specific companies that offer such training opportunities are also covered in this guide. Possible future opportunities and pathways form the final part of this guide.

WerBildetAus is very pleased about this project and hopes to be able to offer assistance to all those for whom this guide could be useful and, at best, even make it easier to get a sustainable job in Germany.   

Introduction

After high school or graduation, students can decide whether to move on to a career at once or further their education. Whatever the decision might be, it will profoundly impact your future profession and personal life. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve done our best to answer every question you might have about pursuing a career in Germany. Whether you are a foreigner looking to explore the various English speaking jobs in Germany or a local who would like to explore the job market, either way, you may use this guide to find the right career and land a job in Germany.

Where to start?

If you just completed your secondary education, you can pursue a regular bachelor’s degree at a university or go for vocational training which suits your interest. In Germany, “Ausbildung”, also referred to as „vocational training“, is an easy way to secure a career and start studying and working simultaneously. If you have already completed your Master’s degree, however, you can directly apply for jobs using various job portals. But first, we will check out how an “Ausbildung” or learning a specific job works in Germany.

How does learning a profession work in Germany?

To pursue a career in Germany you must learn a specific job first. Securing admission for “Ausbildung” is pretty straightforward. The normal prerequisites for vocational training only include completion of secondary general education requirements or a secondary school diploma. A growing number of students however, are choosing to complete their A-levels before beginning their training. When meeting all the prerequisites you can start sending your application documents to various companies. Note, that vocational training is of different types. Let’s check them out in the next section.

Different types of vocational training:

1. In-company training

This type of vocational training takes two to three years for its competition. During this period, students go to work in one company and visit a vocational school, also called “Berufsschule”. The structure and training of how it works depends on the school. In most cases, you work for a few weeks in a row and go to school for two weeks. During this period, you will learn both, basic subjects like math, German, English, PE as well as specific subjects for your chosen degree. The specialised subjects can be economics, health, cooking, technical or social subjects and many more.

In this type of vocational training, you learn a specific profession in a specific area (e.g. certified welder). After studies, the probability of you getting a job is higher because now you are experienced in a specific field and have hands-on experience. Whether it’s working for the same company you did your vocational training at or a different one of your choice. Employers always value practical experiences and look out for such in application documents.

The prior goal for you as a student is to get your license (eg. “Gesellenbrief”). Most of the time the company offers you a workplace. You can also go to a different company (depending on your contract). A very important advantage of this type of study is that you get paid by the company during the whole duration of your study.

2. Vocational training (theory only):

Another method of vocational training is that you only attend the theoretical part of the vocational school (“Berufsschule”). You continue your studies and after graduation, you can move on to do apprenticeships or apply for a job.

This type of studying is more open and you learn skills from a wider range of fields (health, IT, economics and many more. The only drawback is that you won’t be getting paid because you are only learning the theoretical aspects, and it is not engaging in any kind of work. However, this one is suitable for students who want to explore their options and experience different fields before committing to a single, very specific and specialised field.

The duration of the course ranges from one to three and up to five years, depending on the course you choose to study.

3. Dual studies

Dual studies mean you study and work at the same time. You attend a university or school that teaches you everything you need for your degree. Most of the time, this type of programme is provided by a private university that the company selects. In most cases, all your expenses and study-related costs are paid by the company.

The main aim of such a study is that the company can train students for the specific kind of skills they want to make use of in their company. Most of the things taught at your workplace are industry-based skills which you can also apply when working for other companies. After studies, you can either work with the same company or move to a company that requires similar or the same skills that you are now trained in. Depending on the contract you signed while joining the course, you can either stay or leave the company. Now that you have an idea about what “dual study in Germany” is, you can check whether it suits your interests and make the right decision for your future. 

Is my international degree comparable?

Are you someone who is located outside the European Union and wants to secure a job in Germany? Then the first thing you need to do is to check if the current educational qualifications you have are recognised in Germany. By going through the Anabin Database, you can check whether your degree is valid for studying or working in Germany or not. The Anabin Database is a database managed by the German government which provides information about the accreditation and acceptance of foreign degrees. After finding out about the validation of your degree, you can apply for jobs or study programs.

Which skills do I need as an international student when coming to Germany?

If you are an international student, the first thing you might look for after graduation is to check whether there are any available jobs in Germany for English speakers. In fact, there are many English speaking jobs on the German market, however, those are probably in high demand. If you want to increase the possibility of furthering your career and integrating well in Germany, you need to learn the German language. As a foreign national, you should at least have B1 Level German language skills to be attractive to prospective German companies. In most cases the university or the schools that you have enrolled in, offers classes in German. So if you are a student who is still pursuing their studies, you might need to allow extra time aside to learn German. Thereby it might not be a challenge to find a suitable job after your graduation.

Apart from German, there are soft skills and certification courses that help you land a job in Germany. Make sure to do a lot of internships and gain some work experiences during your studies. This will make your resume look more attractive to hiring managers and headhunters. Even if you do not land an internship during your studies, you don’t have to be disheartened, as there are many entry level jobs in Germany for English speakers. Hence you can try out one of those and gain some practical experiences and sharpen your skills, to ultimately move on to your desired job.

Where do I find companies that offer vocational training (“Ausbildung”) or dual studies (“Duales Studium”)?

Being on the hunt for a company which offers vocational training or dual studies, can be a long and difficult journey. In order to find a company which suits your expectations and the course you want to study, you need to do a lot of online research. Even when finding a fit, there are more challenges to come. One of the challenges you might be facing could be the location.

In many cases there is a long distance between the company and the school as there are only a few schools in Germany that offer specific courses. A lot of them are located in bigger cities across Germany. However, an even greater challenge is the location of the company. Doing online research will give you plenty of options. Nonetheless, most of them are big companies and not local ones as they don’t have the same reach and resources as big firms. For someone who wants to stay in their home region or for someone with a dream location, the search might be difficult.

Challenges ask for a solution and „Agentur StudyAds GmbH“ has a solution for all these problems mentioned prior.

Who is WerBildetAus.de?

StudyAds has created a website called “WerBildetAus.de” which is an online tool that makes finding a company for dual studies or vocational training incredibly easy. You simply visit the website, type in the course of study you want to take or the field of studies you are interested in. It has the option to enter a location as well which makes the results presented to you extremely individual.

On the website you will find an individual profile for each company. It will provide you with a vast variety of insights about the firm: the company’s‘ core values, their internal structure and special benefits offered to their trainees are a few examples of the insights you will find on each company profile. Their vacancy offers, events and trade fairs where you could meet the chosen company personally, are also mentioned in the companies profile on WerBildetAus.de. This approach gives you the chance to check whether your believes and wishes align with the company spirit. WerBildetAus.de allows you to choose your perfect match.

The website works hand in hand with the companies and offer you all the important information needed. These as well as upcoming events and contacts to send your application or questions to, are updated regularly.

Even people who are not yet sure what to do in their future, find answers on WerBildetAus.de. On the website you find all options there are. The platform informs you about different fields and courses of study. It also provides a blog with articles, telling you a lot about the single fields and courses one could enrol in. Besides, you may find articles about different MBTI-personalities and their suitability for different vocational trainings. The website is in German but it is very simple to use. You just type in the field or course of study and / or the location – and that’s it. You may also search for specific companies and see whether they offer vocational training or not. WerBildetAus.de allows you to hunt for jobs easily from your couch at home.

Applying for vocational training (Ausbildung) / dual studies (duales Studium) – How do I apply to companies?

When it comes to actually applying for a company or a job, things can get chaotic. German applications might differ from the way it is done in your home country. There are a few things you need to know and keep in mind: You always have to pay attention to what is specifically asked from you by the company or school that you want to apply for. For example, they might ask you to send in an application by mail or you simply have to fill in an online document.

There are different options and each company does it differently. But every application consists of a letter of application, your CV and your important documentaries and other useful credentials. A picture of yourself is not necessary but if the company allows it and if you feel comfortable with it, you can add a professionally taken picture of yourself to your CV. Nonetheless, the company can’t force you to add a picture of yourself. In Germany this is illegal. And a lot of companies don’t even want you to add one anyways.

Answering the question of what to put into your application is a bit more difficult as there are a lot of things to keep in mind. Not only are there guidelines on what to write but also a specific format that is required.

What should be included in my application documents?

In general, for a letter of application you must consider what skills and talents might be helpful for you to pursue the job you want. Here is a quick example: When applying for an engineering job, it is not important whether you are good with children, but it is very important that you have a great interest in technical things. Hence, you should mention in your application the skills that matter for your choice of job. Besides the specific skills and interests, also mention general skills like your will and motivation to work and your engagement in the workspaces. Social engagement, for example, is always important. Make sure to mention that you are a team player, too.

It is very important you show your true interest in the branch of the job and the company itself. Point out important practical experiences, qualifications, knowledge, and competencies. You should also explain why you are a good choice for the company (why out of all applicants they should choose you) and mention your goals for the future as well as your career goals.

If you apply for vocational training (“Ausbildung”) you mostly apply directly to the companies. If you want to take part in the training without working, you can also directly apply to schools in some cases. Applying for dual studies works the same way.

Studying dually is very popular in Germany and a lot of people apply for it all the time as there are only limited spots available.

Applying for a school

When applying for a school next to the letter of application they often ask for a motivation letter. This motivation letter is different from the letter of application. In the letter of application, you only talk about your talents and skills. In this case it is important to describe what your motivation is.

A letter of application shouldn’t be more than one page. The head part should include your name and address, phone number, e-mail address, and the companies’ information.

For the introduction part, use a very formal form of address. If you don’t know who you are addressing, just address Mr. or Mrs. then catch the reader’s attention in the first sentence by why you chose this company or why you chose this course of study.

In the main part, always relate what you are writing to the company and what they are searching for. Explain why you are a good fit to them, your skills and knowledge. Show your practical experience by giving examples of situations in which you solved problems or by your achievements.

The final part should include a conclusion of your own worth without sounding arrogant. You should be as much self-assured and confident as you can to increase the chances that they pick you. In this part of your motivation letter also mention how this school will help you to reach your ultimate future and career goals. End the letter with ‘’Mit freundlichen Grüßen’’ which is the formal way of saying ‘’All the best’’ in German. Add in your handwritten signature and full name.

How to write your CV / resume in German format?

A resume or CV is an important aspect when it comes to applying for a job. A well-crafted resume helps you to stand out from other applicants and increases your chances of landing a great job. Therefor, ensure that you have a well-formatted and edited resume in german format. Always proofread your resume and ensure that it is free from any errors or grammatical mistakes. 

Tips on writing your CV:

  • List all your important educational aspects and achievements
  • It should be about one page long but not more than two. There are three different forms of CVs: Tabular CV, text CV or hand-written CV
  • In most cases they ask for a tabular CV, but make sure that you check what is exactly asked from you
  • Structure your CV well and be direct
  • Use the same font in your CV and letter of application, not too big, not too small, for a cleaner look
  • Your CV should include your personal dates (name and address included, date and place of birth), email and phone number, social media or websites (like LinkedIn.), education history, work and practical experience, important and useful knowledge, skills (language skills included), talents and competences, workshops etc.
  • At the end of the CV, you need to provide the place, the date, your full name and a hand-written signature

There are also some things which are optional to put in your CV: These are your gender, family status, religion, nationality, your interests and hobbies (you should include them if they are helpful for the job), social engagement, awards for special engagements and scholarships as well as your experiences abroad (if you have any).

Again, include everything IF it is useful for the job and fits to the job description.

How do I prepare for an interview?

After your application was successful, in most cases you have to do an interview. This will either be a telephone or video interview or a personal meeting. All of them need some preparation but don’t worry, if you are well prepared nothing can go wrong.

Being well prepared contains knowing the company and the you applied for. Know the structure of the company and their fields. They will most likely ask you what you think are the fields of activities of the job you applied for – so do your research! Make sure your presented skills match the description and requirements of this specific job.

Furthermore, it is crucial to outline your high interest in this specific company you are having an interview at. Look for statements that inspire you, for social commitments the company enrols in which you find outstandingly great or even show your enthusiasm about they business model. Whatever it is for you, make sure the company sees that you came well prepared and really want to pursue a career at their company.

Next to preparing information you also have to prepare questions. Even if you really don’t have any – because you did the best research – think about some. Having thought-through questions shows the interviewer your real interest in the company.

One question that everyone has is the “money-question”. It is important and it also is your right to ask about it and to negotiate a fair salary but don’t make it your first question! Ask it at the end after all the important questions and information have been talked about. However, make sure that the money related question is not the only question you prepared.

Preparing other aspects for online interviews and in person interviews:

For every interview it is important to be punctual but not too punctual (arriving 15 minutes prior is enough). Be polite to everyone! Next to your application, CV and other documents bring a pen and paper to take notes. Use the restroom before and check your appearance. (use mouthwash or gum but throw the gum away before the interview) Don’t use too much perfume or deodorant.

A lot of things to keep in mind and a lot of no-gos but don’t worry! With the right preparation and mindset you can do it!

But to be sure and safe on the big day here is a little helper to remind you of the most important things.

 What to doWhat not to do
In person interviewsDress appropriately: not too formal but also not too casual. (depends on the company and field) If they offer you a drink, accept the offer even if you are not thirsty. Since Corona things have changed but if they offer you a handshake accept it and have a strong handshake.Don’t sit down immediately. Only sit down when they offer you a seat. Don’t interrupt them and don’t talk too much or too fast. But show interest and take part in the conversation.
Online interviewsMake sure that you have a strong connection and a working microphone (small headset or small microphone) Be in a quiet environment If you do a video call: dress appropriately and have a clean and professional background  Don’t have a microphone/headset that is too big or has too many wires and cables showing Don’t have distracting background noises or any other distractions (phone…)

If you are looking for more tipps on your interview or application documents, you may visit the career-blog on WerBildetAus.de. There you will find additional information on the subject.

Finished with learning a job – What now?

Now that you have gained some insights about what to do next after high school or graduation. You can start working towards your career and land your dream job. In case you have figured out you want to go ahead with an “Ausbildung” or learning a job and are wondering where to get started with it, then you can try out “StudyAd’s” helpful website “werbildetaus.de”. It’s completely free and can easily get you the right spot in your preferred city. Get Started!

Epilog

We hope that you have enjoyed this guide and that it will be of constant help to you on your further way and wish you success on your future path here in Germany and keep our fingers crossed that you achieve everything you want and get the job that makes you thrive and grow.

We would also like to thank Aswin Asok, Louisa Schmidt and Öykü Öztas once again. Without their great work this career guide would not have been possible. Thank you for the great cooperation. The “WerBildetAus”-team wishes you all the best for your future!
Furthermore, we would like to thank Dr. Silke Schmidt, the responsible lecturer of the three graduate students, who was significantly involved in the creation of this project.

If you enjoyed this guide, we would be very happy to receive your feedback. Suggestions and constructive ideas for improvement are always welcome. Would you like to say a few words to us? Then feel free to send us your feedback at the following e-mail address: hello@studyads.de

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