Berlin is a phenomenal, affordable city filled with people from all over the world. Unfortunately, because of it’s appeal for foreigners, it isn’t always the easiest place to find a job. Anytime a group of expats get together the conversation inevitably drifts to job searching.
It took me nine months before I landed my first job here, so I can’t say that I have any quick tips. I hope sharing my experience can provide a little insight and help anyone currently job searching or considering a move to Berlin!
If you have the chance to prepare before moving, or are just gearing up for your job hunt, the following things will help immensely.
Perhaps a bit obvious, but learning German is probably the number one thing you can do to help in your Berlin job hunt. Berlin is an easy city to get by only in English, but your opportunities will grow exponentially the more German you know. A lot of jobs that require German skills ask that you achieve at least C1 level. This definitely takes time, but it’s also a great thing to do while job hunting, as you have the time to take intensive courses. And any German helps!
Get a Work Visa
Another slightly obvious step, but many places won’t even consider your job application if you don’t have the right to work. This can be a challenging hurdle, but it is an important consideration. As I mentioned in my previous post, if you’re married to a German your visa will include the right to work. If you aren’t married to a German, then there are a few options. You can apply for a Jobseeker’s Visa which allows you to stay in Germany while searching for a job, but unfortunately you still must apply for a work visa upon receiving a job offer. There’s also the option to apply for a Self-Employed/Freelancer visa if you’re considering that route.
Depending on your industry, it may be easier to get a job without a work visa in place, but if this is a possibility for you it’ll only make things easier.
Rewrite Your Resume “German-Style”
German resumes are very different from American resumes. They often include photos, date of birth, family status, citizenship, volunteer work and even hobbies and interests. While I managed to find a job without changing the format of my resume, and chose not to include these items in my resume, I was looking for work with primarily international organizations. If you’re applying for work with traditionally German workplaces, it might benefit you to change up your resume. This website has some great examples and templates for German-style CVs.
Also, many German applications will ask you to include references (or reference letters), transcripts, certificates, or other documentation from previous jobs. It is important to have these things ready to go when you start applying.
As I’ve mentioned, Berlin can be a difficult place to get a job. It is extremely competitive, especially among non-German speakers. So, find the job posting websites you’ll primarily be using and set notifications up so you’ll know immediately when a new job has been posted. Then have your cover letter, resume, references, etc. ready to go so that you can make your minor tweaks and send it out THAT DAY!
So many jobs are posted and taken down within less than a week! I’ve even heard stories of jobs being posted for only a day. They receive so many applications and they can’t handle the traffic. So, make sure you get yours in!
This was (and is) one of the hardest things for me, but I do think it is important. Maybe less important than in other cities, as the Germans are pretty strict when it comes to hiring procedures, but it never hurts to learn about a new job opportunity, or have a hiring manager know your name.
Once you’ve decided to start looking for work, check LinkedIn and social media for anyone that might live in Berlin and see if you can meet up for some advice about your job hunt. You’ll be surprised the connections you’ll make. I’ve found people here are very open to meeting and trying their best to help you out. I’ve even gone way outside my comfort zone here and cold e-mailed with some success.
I can’t say this is what led to my job, but it did lead to a great volunteer opportunity and some new friends.
This is one I haven’t tried, mostly due to my dislike of networking, but I’ve heard very good things about Meetup. This is a website (and I believe an app) with groups of people who arrange meetups in their city. You can choose from industry, activity, etc. and get together with other people who are interested in the same thing. This is apparently very popular with those working in startups and tech, so if you’re in either of those industries, I’d definitely give this a try.
I have, however, used groups I’m already a part of, such as Facebook groups, to reach out to people living in the city and meeting up. Again, not how I landed my job, but there’s definitely potential and you’ll get to know a lot of great people living in your city!
Finally, you may have to expand your horizons. I have heard many stories of people changing careers due to a lack of opportunity and actually finding something new that they love. There are tons of opportunities to do something quasi-related to your career in the startup industry, and while it doesn’t pay particularly well usually, it is a great jumping off point.
I’ve heard it’s easier to get a second job in Berlin, so this is another way into the job market. Since I’ll be looking for another job soon, I’ll update this and let you know if that’s true or not!
What to Do in the Meantime (Side Hustles)
As I mentioned, it can take a good amount of time to find a job in Berlin, and you’ll need to find a way to earn money in the meantime. The following side hustles are things I or my friends have done to earn some money while looking for something more long term.
Also – I highly recommend taking intensive German courses while job hunting, as it’s one of the only times you’ll have the opportunity to spend so much time learning German!
By far my biggest side hustle success. If you love animals, this is an amazing and easy way to earn some money, get to know the city and hang out with adorable animals. I use an app called Pawshake, and it’s so easy! You just set up your profile, services and rates, and voila! You can choose which services to provide from house visits to dog walking to doggy daycare and hosting animals in your own home.
Depending on where you live, it may take a little while to get your first booking, but once you get one and a positive review, usually your traffic picks up like crazy. Also, if you choose to stay in Berlin during holidays, you can really take advantage of these times. I’ve earned up to 600 a month with this app. There are also other apps out there but I haven’t tried them, so I can’t say if they’re good or not.
This is another popular option. I have many friends who use this as a way to earn extra money, and for many this can even be a full-time job. There are multiple services that allow you to do this online via webcam, and there’s always hundreds of job openings for English teachers and tutors in a variety of settings.
Another option many expats end up trying is freelance work. If you love writing, this is an especially great option. I have several friends who earn money here and there writing articles, often about being an expat, for a variety of publications. This one requires a bit more hustle, as you have to spend more time actively seeking out work, but once you find a few opportunities, I’ve heard it gets easier.
Finally, there’s the old standby of restaurant work. Surprisingly in Berlin, especially in the city center, you don’t have to speak great German (or any German sometimes) to work in the restaurant industry. I’ve been to so many bars, cafes, and restaurants where none of the servers were German and everyone spoke English. This may actually be a field where your English skills are more important than your German, especially in tourist hot spots.
Unfortunately, you won’t earn as much from tips here (as that’s not part of the culture), but the pay is much better than in American restaurants and you’ll still receive benefits.
I hope some of you found this helpful! Let me know how you’ve found success or if you have any other tips in the comments below!