Students from non-EU countries are allowed to remain in Germany for the purpose of looking for employment for a maximum of 18 months after graduating. These 18 months pass quicker than you think, so it's important to start job hunting during the final semester of your degree, or at the latest "four months before finishing your studies," advises Maria-Theresia Jansen from the "Agentur für Arbeit" job agency in Bonn. As a member of a team of careers advisers specialising in academic professions, she has spent the last 30 years helping international graduates gain a foothold in the German employment market.
While you're looking for full-time employment, you're allowed to work as much as you like: According to a new Right of Residence regulation, there are no longer any time restrictions on working during the job search phase.
Before you set out in search of a job, take the time to your ask yourself the following four questions: Who am I? What am I good at? What do I want to do? What is possible? Maria-Theresia Jansen refers to this as the "inner inventory". To avoid wasting time searching aimlessly, it's important that you answer these questions honestly.
The experienced careers adviser explains why it makes sense to answer these questions: "A lot of graduates only look for jobs that correspond 100% with what they have studied. They automatically ignore everything else." A big mistake, stresses Jansen, because this "tunnel vision" can make life unnecessarily difficult. Extend your search: you don't always have to end up doing exactly what you lear'nt during your studies! "It's important to look at related fields and transfer knowledge to other areas."
Obtain an overview of the different sectors of industry and companies. Career fairs and conventions for graduates are an ideal way of obtaining information and making new contacts. Information about such fairs is often posted on faculty notice boards.
Job vacancies are also advertised on university notice boards. Of course, you'll find plenty of information through the numerous search engines, but remember that your university may also be able to help you! The Career Centre usually has a database which you can use to research job vacancies. The Career Service will also help you launch your career: it can advise you how to update application documents, coach you in interview techniques, inform you about company presentations - the list is endless, and often free of charge!
Many vacancies are advertised in sector-specific media: the "Verband Deutscher Ingenieure" (VDI) (Association of German Engineers) or the "Verband der Elektrotechnik" (VDE) (Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies) inform you not only about new developments in their respective industries but also about job openings in companies. There are numerous industry associations: an overview is available on the website BERUFENET. Enter your respective job title (e.g. biologist) and then select the appropriate job outline. You will find association addresses under "Informationsquellen" in the section "Berufs-/Interessenverbände, Arbeitgeber-/Arbeitnehmer-Organisationen". Industry associations also provide information about job openings.
Information about employment prospects for academics is available on the website of the Arbeitsagentur. To obtain an overview of regional job market prospects, Maria-Theresia Jansen recommends the Prognos Institut. The publishing company Staufenbiel also provides information about career opportunities and starting salaries for first-time job-seekers. According to a study carried out by the publishers, young engineers starting their career earn an average of between €38,000 and €47,000. In the automobile industry, graduate engineers earn an initial €46,000 on average. Graduates with a Master's degree in the natural sciences can expect an initial salary of €42,000.
"The number of job openings is very limited if you don't speak German", says Jansen. This is why it's a good idea to take a language course while you're studying. Of course, you can do an entire degree in English at a German university. And fellow students might not have a problem answering you with a bit more than a "yes" or a "no". But for personal contact with future colleagues, it's definitely advisable to have a command of the German language!