For plenty of reasons, Germany can be quite an attractive place to launch or pursue your career, especially after graduating with a German degree. Europe’s largest economy is internationally renowned for its strength in certain industries (think automotive, engineering, manufacturing, etc.) and in general offers a wide variety of professional opportunities. There’s the relatively high earning potential, a comfortable quality of life, and a labour market that is, to a large extent, open to foreigners.
Great, you might be thinking, but I don’t speak German – what are my odds? The good news is that because of Germany’s influential role as a hub in the global economy, if you know where and how to look, you’ll find suitable jobs that don’t require fluent German skills.
As the Head of Career Development on the ESCP Berlin Campus, Dr. Michaela Wieandt is an expert on the German labour market. Dr. Wieandt leads a team that manages company relations, and helps thousands of students navigate their career goals, primarily in the countries of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Below Dr. Wieandt shares her advice and insights to help you land the role that you want in Germany.
#1 Have clear expectations about the number of jobs available to you
To be clear, speaking German at a professional level opens up many more doors for you than otherwise, but you can still find those English-speaking roles. “It will probably not be the easiest job hunt,” says Dr. Wieandt. “Knowing German is still relevant and makes your job search a lot smoother, simply because there are more open positions available.”
If you imagine yourself settling in Germany permanently, then start learning German as soon as you arrive. It will not only provide you more career opportunities in both the short and long term, but will ease many other aspects of your life as well.
#2 Focus on multinational corporations or larger companies that originated in Germany
Most English-speaking jobs are available either in big corporations that have major global offices in Germany, or started off in Germany and have since scaled up (one famous example is Adidas). These are companies like Henkel, Beiersdorf, BASF, METRO, Tesa, Continental, Goretex, to name a few. An additional tip from Dr. Wieandt? “Identify any global teams or units they may have.”
If you’re thinking about the famed car manufacturers that are international in addition to being founded in Germany, your odds will be mixed. These companies are sought-after employers among Germans so openings are rare and competition is high. Hiring managers in this industry also prefer engineering backgrounds for many diverse kinds of roles, which is tough to find even in German-speaking candidates.
Consider mid-sized German businesses as well. They may have international positions but are often located in small towns or villages. In this case, speaking some German will serve you to get around in daily life and getting to know colleagues and other locals.
#3 If you’re interested in consulting, look in-house
Consulting is a popular career choice among ESCP students, and unfortunately, in Germany (or any country really), the larger, well-known firms require fluency at a native or near-native level. Roles for English speakers are commonly found in consulting units of larger companies. Essentially, you have one client — your company — and limited travel, but the learning possibilities are significant. Keep in mind, though, that the competition for these types of roles is also fierce.
#4 Consider start-ups and scale-ups
Another source for English-speaking roles are startups and smaller businesses. “Lately, another company category we call scaleups has evolved,” said Dr. Wieandt. “These companies are startups but grow globally quickly with a lot of investor money. Here you can have excellent learning opportunities as they tend to have very ambitious growth targets and are often founded by ex-consultants and experienced business managers.” In roles like these, however, you will likely have to contend with an unpredictable and ever-changing work environment.
#5 Be curious & expand your network
Studying for a master programme in Germany is already a great way to get your foot in the door. Not only does this mean that you’ll eventually obtain a German degree (or have a German study experience on your CV) that is familiar to employers, but you’ll also have more chances to do thorough research, ask smart questions, show up to events, and approach and reach out to contacts. Such interactions produce connections and insights that may eventually lead to a full-time opportunity. Dr. Wieandt advises that you:
- Prioritise attending any and all ESCP career events that interest you. This includes career fairs, workshops, company/industry information sessions, company visits, fireside chats, etc. Speak with recruiters or other company representatives, and perhaps connect on LinkedIn or ask follow-up questions via email.
- Ask your friends or fellow students for support (maybe they did an internship at a company you’re interested in, or they can introduce you to someone they know).
- Reach out to ESCP alumni for tips and advice. Try this on LinkedIn or ask the Career team for certain profiles.
- Make a good impression and stay in touch with professional contacts you make during a Company Consulting Project or other hands-on projects.
- Utilise ESCP’s Jobteaser platform. Jobteaser hosts all the events that ESCP offers across our six campuses and thousands of opportunities from employers that know ESCP. Other sites to look for roles are LinkedIn Jobs, Welcome to the Jungle, berlinstartupjobs, Indeed, etc. You may also look at career section of the companies’ websites for opportunities.
In short, finding a job in Germany without speaking German will require you to think strategically about what types of companies to apply to and diversify the ways you learn about and apply to jobs. This path will take a bit more time and effort, but good jobs are out there and they are indeed attainable.