When Francesco decided to move to Germany, the biggest question was how to break into the job market. Were could he find professional experience in a new country, one in which he hadn't studied and wasn't familiar with office customs and culture? It soon became apparent to Francesco that "an internship in Germany could give me the possibility to enter the German job-market quicker. I would also have the possibility to improve my language skills and to put myself to the test. Furthermore, it’s still an orientation phase for me. At the moment I’m working for a German online magazine dedicated to photography and cameras. Thus, I can write articles in German and learn every day new things. I would like to work in the future with websites, social media, and communication. This is a start."
Germany values the Praktikum (internship) as an extension of education, and encourages students and non-students to undertake one as the first step in their working life. Indeed, in many fields of study, the Praktikum is actually a compulsory part of the degree. This emphasis on practical working experience is something Francesco has since experienced firsthand: "I have realized that internships are an important part of your professional growth here in Germany. There are a lot of companies that regularly look for Praktikanten (interns), and most of the people I've met in the last months are doing (or did in the past) an internship."
Francesco hit the internet to research his options and to get the lie of the land when it comes to interning in Germany. What was available to him? Would he get paid? What were the requirements he needed to meet to land an internship?
"The internet is a great resource. It can get you in touch with a lot of companies. I used different websites, such as meinpraktikum.de. There you can find a lot of announcements which might be good for you. They are sorted by field, area, and region. Moreover, you get paid for most internships here in Germany. I think that the average salary is 400 euro, but that’s just my impression."
"Write a good CV and cover letter. Don’t forget to attach your Zeugnisse (qualifications). You have to prove what you are and what you can do. Germans love Zertifikate. You will be surprised to see how many opportunities you will find! Be flexible. Don’t be fixed on a specific city. After getting an Internship in an unexpected and unknown city, you will realize, and find out, that maybe this is the best place ever. There’s always a reason for ‘landing’ somewhere else."
Fluent in German, Francesco counts this language skill of being of utmost importance. Despite some positions requiring only basic German, and some positions requiring none at all, Francesco is adamant that speaking the language will only enrich your experience and further your prospects. ''In order to get a job or an internship in Germany, you have to be fluent in German. It’s a very important requisite. Besides that, if you speak their language, people would be nicer to you—you will meet people from the very beginning. Language barriers should be broken. Speaking German is important to be successful.''
Internships have recently garnered a lot of negative press, with interns in some countries expected to work unfair amounts of hours for no pay, or with little promise of personal development. For many, the word 'internship' is synonymous with 'fetching coffee' and as a result, many people are cautious when it comes to applying for positions that carry the internship label. When asked about his experience interning for a German company, Francesco is positive. "I can only talk about my experience, and I'm treated very well. My boss involves me in different activities and motivates me and stimulates me every day. I have responsibility, and that’s really important because it's a fundamental part of the learning process. The people I have met are also satisfied with their experience. Thus, I think, interns are generally treated well in Germany."
So would he recommend doing an internship in Germany? Absolutely. "A working experience abroad is very important for European citizens, not only in Germany. We live in a community with different cultures and languages. Working and living abroad opens your mind and gives you new inspiration. Germany is a beautiful, modern country with a solid economy. The German language is generally highly requested. I think that working in Germany could be a huge plus on your CV. What's more, you meet new people, you learn and understand their habits and way of thinking. And last but not least my language skills have been visibly improving—since I studied Modern Languages, that’s really important to me."