Starting your career in Germany

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Updated 2022-11-05 09:25

Germany is a promising place for young expatriates looking to obtain work experience in a wealthy European country. It offers a high standard of living and many job opportunities for skilled workers and talented job seekers in the visual arts, architecture, and music industries.

For many years, Germany has been ranking among the top most popular destinations in the world for professional expats and migrants. Germany is by far one of the best places in Europe to kick off your career as it offers opportunities in various industries, and employers respect work-life balance, as well as make sure to provide excellent working conditions and always be one step ahead of the competition.

Entering the German labor market 

Getting your first full-time job in the field of your studies is one of the biggest challenges for every new graduate. However, it is even more so if you want to apply your skills in a labor market other than your home country. In that case, besides submitting your CV and doing your best at interviews, you have also to navigate the migration system, qualify for a German work permit, and organize your move. If you wish to begin your career in Germany, maybe you should consider studying in Germany first at a Bachelor's or Master's level. The study period in Germany will give you time to learn the German language, familiarize yourself with the German labor market by applying for part-time student positions or summer placements, and build up a CV with some German qualifications. 

Post-study work visa for Germany

If you are about to complete your higher education studies in Germany and think about the next steps, consider applying for a post-study work visa at the local Foreigners' Registration Office. If granted, the post-study work visa is valid for 18 months, during which fresh graduates can look for jobs in Germany. The most sought-after jobs among graduates in Germany are in engineering, research, and science. It is crucial to keep in mind that the competition among international students in Germany is significant. Therefore, every detail on your CV matters. Besides, you shouldn't undermine the importance of knowledge of German, a skill that is of high value for recruiters and employers skimming through CVs and cover letters. 

Tip: Read our article about finding a job in Germany to better understand the application and recruitment process in Germany. 

Attention: 

You have to apply for a post-study work visa before your German study visa expires. 

The most promising employment fields in Germany

Generally, there is a high demand for skilled workers in engineering, IT, healthcare and service sectors, with numerous job openings in education, sciences, research and development, and in medical services. The automotive industry, export and agriculture are also well-established and secure working sectors in Germany. The energy industry and environmental solutions are always searching for new talent, and small and medium-sized companies tend to recruit with diversity in mind. 

You may have more opportunities to find a job in the trade industry if you come from one of Germany's leading economic partners (i.e., France, the United States, and Italy). This is mainly due to the knowledge of the important languages for collaboration and the ease of obtaining a German work visa. If you graduated from a Business School, you can participate in the V.I.E International Internship Program, especially if you want to work in the commercial sector. This program is, however, reserved only for EU members.

Good to know: 

Web developers and engineers are highly employable profiles among German companies. These professions are always in need, have high salaries and enable the possibility to get a Blue Card visa, either under the job seeker visa or by application in your home country.

A good candidate's profile in Germany

In terms of recruiting, Germans are rather traditional. Specialization is highly valued, and the German labor market often favors skilled experts over generalists. This means that the higher your level of qualifications and experience, the better chances you stand to find a job. Holding a double degree or speaking several languages could be an asset in the German labor market. However, having a Master's degree, for example, isn't always a guarantee for getting a better entry-level job, as recruiters take into consideration other parameters such as internships, passion for the field, communication skills in German, etc. 

Of course, knowledge of at least B2 German is mandatory (except for jobs in some multinational companies and research facilities). The healthcare sector may be the most demanding concerning language requirements. Overall, the German language prevails over English in the German business world, and you will be able to compete with the local applicants if you speak German. 

Good to know: 

If you wish to improve your German language competencies, the Goethe Institute provides German courses to expats. Alternatively, you can look at online classes on Expat.com's Learn a New Language page.

Tip: Meeting locals and talking with them is essential to improving your German. By asking for information or sharing your experience, you will start to create your own network composed of people who may help you find your first full-time job. 

Applying for a job in Germany

As in most European countries, surfing the Internet for job ads and sending unsolicited applications are common ways to apply for a job in Germany, regardless of whether it is your first one or not. Most job searching websites have mobile phone apps, which are excellent for staying organized and keeping track of your applications or applying on the spot without risking missing the application deadline. In addition, LinkedIn is a well-respected job search and recruitment tool in Germany, and it is practical for job seekers, too! You register your personal and professional information once, and you don't have to worry about the format every time you submit your application. Employment agencies can also be helpful. However, make sure they understand your interests and skills, and they recommend you for the right jobs. 

The employment competition is big in Germany, and if you have made it to the interview, it means your qualifications and skills have some unique selling points. To continue impressing recruiters, attend the interview well-prepared and with a ton of knowledge about the company's past and future goals – the more you know, the more in-depth conversation you can have with the interviewers. Also, remember that the interview is an excellent opportunity for you to ask questions that will show interviewers that you have a genuine interest in the company, and becoming a team member will be an asset for you but also for the company. 

Important: 

Your CV should be in German, and with a photo attached to it – most Germans have their CVs' photos taken by professional photographers or friends who have a photographer's talent and equipment at home. 

Wages in Germany

In Germany, minimum wages can differ depending on the job's nature, the type of contract, the company's size, the area in which the company is based and the field of activity. The level of qualifications, experience, and vocation also contributes to the amount of salary you earn. Generally, wages are higher in the western regions. Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich are the four German cities with the highest salaries. 

The average entry-level salary of recently graduated university students is 44,000 Euros per annum. Engineering (with 52,000 to 55,000 euro), medicine (58,000 euro), mathematics and the IT sector (52,000 euro) offer the most promising jobs to young graduates. Once you have been offered a job, you can negotiate your salary with your employer. Many companies provide a tariff wage (Tariflohn), which is the wage negotiated between the employer and the trade union. It indicates the minimum salary an employee can expect to match their professional qualifications.

Good to know: 

Most full-time positions are based on 40 hours per week. On average, the Germans work 41,4 hours weekly. Also, specific laws protect employees, and if you work overtime, you must be compensated.

Useful links:

IAB - Institut für arbeitsmarkt- und berufsforschung - The Research Institute of the Federal Employment Agency

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