This series of articles will give you tips on how to write a CV, the dos and don'ts in an interview, how to use networking to find a job, and much more.
What Jobs Can I Do Without German?
So you want to work in Germany but don't know how to get started? This first article in our “Finding a job” series will help you explore typical expat jobs in Germany — many of which don't require fluent German skills!
First, let me tell you a story of an American who did NOT make it. She joined one of my job search workshops, fresh from leaving her pharma executive job, and was here as a tourist to see if Berlin was right for her. This is how she introduced herself during the workshop: “So I've just left my role as a senior pharma consultant where I was responsible for two teams with 40 employees. So I would want a full-time role with at least the same responsibility. And I understand jobs in Berlin pay less so I think I could accept 20% less so maybe €160,000 to start?” Keep in mind this person would require work permit sponsorship and did not speak a lick of German or have any contacts in the pharma industry in Germany yet… Needless to say, she did not respond well to my ideas of starting out in a lesser role, freelancing at first, aiming for a healthcare startup, or being OK with a lower salary — and she didn't stay beyond her 90 tourist days.
The point of my story is that you need to be mentally OK to potentially chuck your old career out the window and get really creative with what you might find yourself doing in Germany — at least the first year.
If like me, you want to be a full-time language school manager, you have to be prepared the first year to run around the city as a freelance English teacher for several schools, while you position yourself for a better role.
All that that being said — let's explore what those creative options for getting started are, as you cast your net wide and keep an open mind!
What Skills Do You Have That Germany Needs?
In general, if you're working in a so-called shortage occupation or you've got special skills or creative abilities that not any EU citizen can easily replicate, it will be much easier to work in Germany, especially if you will need a work permit.
Germany currently especially needs those with university degrees in technology fields; medical, nursing, and caregiving-related fields; and STEM professions (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, and technology). Although the barrier to entry for medical, nursing, and caregiving fields is quite high, as fluent German skills and German licensing exams are required, for positions in technology and STEM in general, working in English is often possible.
Expats also often find work in Germany using their special language abilities or creative and artistic skills, or providing services to other expats who speak their language. And finally, with so-so German, it's possible to get started in many tourism and hospitality jobs.
Planning on Moving to Germany and Don't Know Where to Start?
Tech and STEM Jobs
Let's start with perhaps the fastest-growing sector of employers in Germany, the tech sector. Start-ups and other technology companies employ thousands of expats in Germany, particularly in Berlin, although the Frankfurt region, Munich, Stuttgart, and Hamburg have booming start-up scenes according to the German Start-up Monitor's 2020 report. If you’re working as a software engineer or in any other type of IT-related job, this is also one of the very few fields in which you can actually be headhunted and relocated to Germany from your home country with an excellent full-time position, including a work permit sponsorship. There are many tech recruiting websites where you can upload your CV or complete a profile, and companies will contact you for interviews — check out platforms like Honeypot or Taledo for a start.
Other common start-up jobs besides programming include content writing or management, social media management, SEO marketing, project management, product management, UX/UI design, graphic design, and data analysis. And of course, start-ups need staff in HR & recruiting, finance & accounting, sales & marketing, and customer service as well.
What if a start-up job sounds amazing, but you don't know how to get started? Consider coming to Germany to participate in a boot camp like SPICED Academy or CareerFoundry, which will teach you the practical skills you need to get started and then help connect you to companies that are hiring.
Germany is also experiencing a severe shortage of STEM workers — called MINT workers in German (Mathematik, Informatik, Natur- und Ingenieurwissenschaft und Technik). Scientists and engineers can work in academia, for private companies, for government foundations, and for start-ups, too. Check out the specialist site MyScience.de to get a first look at current vacancies.
You can also find many interesting career opportunities that involve using your native language skills — something a German usually cannot do as well as you can!
The first thing many expats think of is language teaching. Although the market is competitive and the pay can be quite low to start, it's possible to work your way up the language teaching food chain over time — from teaching kids (usually lower-paid) to business specialities or working at a university. And it's not just teaching English, but also Spanish, Italian, French, Russian and many other languages! Many language schools in Germany offer a free initial teacher training if they are interested in hiring you, so even if you’ve never taught languages before you can learn the skills you need to get started, or you can do a language teacher training course (also online) to get a certificate before you move.
Did You Know? We Offer German Courses, In-Person and Online.
If you’re not interested in teaching, you can use your language abilities as a translator, content writer, copy editor, and more. Many people think there's no way to do translation work without German skills, but remember — you don’t necessarily have to translate from German! Let's say you speak both English and Spanish fluently. There could be jobs where you’re using only those two languages, for instance, to translate or write website content.
Content writing and copy-editing don’t necessarily require German skills, and you can do it from home. You’ve no doubt already noticed that many German companies have foreign-language websites that are full of mistakes because they weren’t written by a native speaker. In addition to websites, companies may want editors for their marketing materials, user guides, and more. If you’re experienced in Academic English, university students, professors, and scientific researchers also need English editors. So, there are many opportunities for skilled writers and editors! It’s worth reaching out to companies or institutions to offer your services or looking on Germany-based platforms where editors can be booked.
In addition to marketing or general website content, business writing and technical writing are also in demand in Germany. This usually means writing clear content in English or other languages for product guides, catalogs, manuals, etc. Even if you don’t have fluent German skills, this is fine, since these jobs don’t necessarily involve translating to or from German.
Customer support is another area where many expats are using their language skills — a quick search on Monster for “Customer Support English Berlin” shows thousands of results. As banking, food delivery, clothes, and shoe shopping etc. move more and more online, the demand for excellent customer service workers in dozens of different languages is growing. It’s also easy to do from home, for those of us looking for flexible home office work. If you’re from outside the EU though, it’s not likely you will be able to get a work permit based on a customer support role, unfortunately, because it’s considered something any EU citizen could easily do.
Another pretty cool language job is localization, the process of adapting a product or content to different international markets. Types of localization we’ve heard of here in Berlin include writing and re-writing the scripts and recording voice-overs for video games in various languages or accents. There are several studios where you can do voiceover recording since Berlin is a tech hub that’s home to numerous video game companies. We even once met someone whose full-time job was to “translate” American English into British English for video games. The opportunities for working with language are nearly endless — and surprising sometimes!
Artistic and Creative Jobs
Now let’s explore working as a freelance artist, as this is another very common job for expats to do in Germany. The job title of “artist” covers a very wide variety of professions here — from traditional fields like painting, dance, or opera to roles like graphic designer, sound engineer, stylist, illustrator, and more. Any kind of writing and journalism is also classified as art in Germany. Some people even start their own professional blogs when they first arrive — it may not be the most lucrative kind of work, but it can be great for networking when you’re new in town, and can sometimes lead to paid opportunities.
If you want to work as an artist, you don’t necessarily have to have a long professional background in your field. For example, maybe you’re a passionate amateur photographer. What about turning that into a job by combining it with English teaching, for example, targeted at either expat clients who want to learn photography, or at German clients who want to improve their English by taking lessons in a practical skill.
You can teach almost any creative skills in this way, whether it’s knitting, making hand-made greeting cards, creating furniture from salvaged wood, or the art of Japanese bondage (yes, we really had clients doing that). In Germany, it is relatively easy to offer any type of teaching service on a freelance basis — you just have to find your target audience of English-speaking, Japanese bondage-loving students!
Need Help With Preparing for a Job Interview?
Now let’s talk about working in hospitality. Two big caveats to start: first, if you need a work permit, you will usually not be able to get one for any type of casual work. In other words, if you’re from the US, you generally cannot get a work permit to work in a café or bar, because there is no reason for the German government to give a non-EU citizen a permit to do something an EU citizen could easily do. (On the other hand, if you’re from the EU, or here on a working holiday permit, spouse permit, or another permit with unrestricted working permission, then it’s fine to take these jobs.) Second, for customer-facing casual work, like in a hotel, bar, or café, you may indeed need at least intermediate German, especially outside of Berlin.
For jobs in food service, in cafes and bars, and restaurants, check out Huntler and Hotelcareer.com, which features food-related roles in addition to hotel/hostel jobs. Otherwise, keep an eye out as you walk around Berlin for flyers on the windows. You can also take your CV around to local cafes, bars, and restaurants and ask to speak to the hiring manager. Pro tip: if the hiring manager isn't in, leave your CV anyway, and be sure to ask for the hiring manager's name, email/phone, and when a good time to come back by to speak with them would be.
Working as a tour guide in various languages is a great option when you don’t speak German yet since you would be leading the tour in the language of the tourists visiting Germany. There are larger tour companies like Fat Tire where you can apply to start, and once you’ve got some experience you can seek out more boutique tourism companies — or offer your own tours focusing on an area you’re passionate about!
Working With Kids
Finally, one type of work that is always in demand is childcare. If you are working with German families you may need basic German skills. Otherwise, you can target local expat families who'd like to use your services. You can send your CV and details to a nanny or babysitting agency — if you’re in Berlin try Extra Arms — or try the local Facebook groups for expats or international families in your city or region in Germany. There are also several babysitting platforms where you can register so that families can search and book you via the platform.
You could also consider being an au pair, which has its own special type of employment contract. As an au pair you usually live with the family and provide up to 30 hours per week of childcare in exchange for room and board, health insurance, a contribution towards your German classes, and a small stipend for living expenses. EU citizens and those with unrestricted working permission can do this with any type of family, while those who need an au pair visa will need to live with a German-speaking family as the aim of the visa is for you to learn German.
You can also consider teaching kids — you can teach English, Spanish, etc. to German children, OR work with expat families who share your native language in your city in Germany, who want to ensure their kids don’t lose that language, or who need help in the native language with subjects like math, science, and so on. For example, in Berlin there are many bilingual schools (German-English, German-French, etc.) where the children will have homework in both languages. And if the family has one German and one French parent, the family may really want to boost the children’s French with extra support in French.
Of course, you don’t only have to teach languages — you can also teach art, piano, dance, and much more. IN your native language. A good way to find work teaching children is on after-school tutoring platforms — search Nachhilfe in German — or other platforms parents use to book tutors. Or you can try to find your local expat family community online, like on Facebook expat groups, or by reaching out to local international/bilingual schools, language schools, or activity centers for children.
Don't Give Up!
Determination, patience, and being proactive are the keys to success not just for finding a job in Germany, but also for living abroad in general. Although your search may not be quick and easy, there are jobs in Germany for you — thousands of other expats have found one, and you can, too… Happy hunting!