Companies throughout Germany need people with skills in information technology to help them with a range of tasks—from software development to network management. For those with an IT background and an interest in working in Germany, the timing is just right to find a new job. The big question is how to begin.
First off, an applicant needs the right skills for the job. Most companies require some kind of degree in IT or a related field. If your degree is from outside Germany, you can apply with the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) to have your degree verified. This will help possible employers understand what your degree corresponds to in Germany and will give them more information about your educational background.
Language ability is also very important. Though many international companies operate in English, a solid background in German will always put an applicant on stronger footing. If you need to beef up your German skills, a variety of language courses are available in Germany. Some organizations even offer distance learning if you are not based in Germany and can't attend classes in person. The Goethe Institut, for instance, offers programs both in Germany and online.
In addition to knowing some German, good communication skills are a must, says Andreas Schik, a software developer at medium-sized firm near Mainz. He says the idea that people working in IT are misanthropes—sitting in a dark room, not talking to anyone, and eating pizza all day—is a cliché. “You need people who are team players...who talk and find compromises. One must have people skills,” he says. And some creativity is required too. “When a customer comes to you and says they want something but they don't know what it will look like...you need to be able to develop possible solutions,” Schik says.
If you're completing your university studies in Germany, you may be able to get a head start on the job search through internships. Most university IT programs require students to complete at least one internship. Companies will sometimes offer interns a job when the fit is right. But not only do internships help companies get to know you, you can also get to know companies and figure out if the position suits you.
Another benefit to students who are currently enrolled at German universities is the ability to begin networking for jobs before graduation through professional events. Career fairs are often only held once a year so it's important to mark them in your calendar. Make sure to research which companies will be at the fair you're attending and which companies have job openings that interest you. Then you can bring recruiters a current curriculum vitae and a cover letter. A few relevant job fairs for those in IT are REALITY, konaktiva, and connecticum.
Many job search resources are also available online. The big IT firms operating in Germany have web pages outlining current openings. The website Make It In Germany has a number of resources as well, from a link to the Federal Employment Agency's job portal to a hotline number for those with questions about conducting a job search in Germany.
After you've gone through the process of finding a job that you're interested in, take some time to understand what the company wants to see in your application. “Germany has very formal rules for submitting job applications. I recommend familiarizing yourself with the format requirement,” says Sarah, an employee of a large US technology firm, who lives near Frankfurt. Schik agrees, noting that it makes a good impression when it's obvious someone has taken the time to include all of the requested information and not cut corners.
Another bit of advice from those in the IT field is start looking for a job early. TU Dortmund University recommends beginning the job search at least six months before finishing your German degree, noting that it is not uncommon for students to need to apply to dozens of position before finding one. “It is important that you are aware of your personal strengths and abilities and look for jobs that highlight these. In your search for positions you should think outside of the box as well: companies do not necessarily just look for graduates with certain degrees, but rather those with the appropriate skills for the job, (sometimes) regardless of the degree,” the university says on its website. If you're graduating and haven't found a position yet, don't worry. Some EU-member states and nationalities have the option of getting an 18-month visa extension to continue the job search.
These days the job landscape looks good for qualified IT applicants. Some see the opportunities as particularly good for women entering the field. “I think there is a great opportunity for women in the IT sector, nowadays, as many companies are trying to diversify their workforce and have been promoting and sponsoring women, especially in traditionally male jobs,” says Sarah, the employee of the US tech firm. “As a result, proportionally more opportunities and promotions may be offered than in the past and women may be favored, all other variables being equal.”
Beginning a career in IT in Germany does take work but landing the right job can really pay off. Those working in the field talk about the variety of job models available—from the kind of work performed to the type of work environment. Sarah likes her job because it involves solving complex problems while working in a global team and interacting with many different cultures and languages. She says her personal work environment is perfect. “Working from home, on more or less my own schedule, with little supervision has been extremely rewarding,” she says. “My manager is in the U.S. and all that really counts for him is the end-result, versus micro-managing his team.”
The lesson in all of this is that for qualified IT applicants, the right job is likely here for you in Germany. You just need to do a bit of homework, exercise some patience and continue knocking on doors if you don't land a job right away. With persistence, everything is possible.