Seven steps to finding an internship in Germany
Melissa is studying German and Business at the University of Warwick, and is spending her year abroad studying at Göttingen University and doing an internship in Berlin for four months, where she is now. Here's her advice about finding an internship and the application processes involved.
As a German and Business student, I really wanted to work for a few months during my year abroad in Germany. There are many benefits to working during your Erasmus semester such as: great experience for your CV, the opportunity to get a taste of a certain industry and of course, the possibility of an additional income.
For me it was all about the experience and I was looking for internships with a marketing or PR emphasis so I could use the skills from my first two years at Warwick. The task of finding an internship, however, turned out to be more difficult than I expected which is why I've put together this post that will hopefully help a few people considering working in Germany.
Step 1 - Decisions
Decide which sectors you would be happy to work in. I’ve listed a few examples but the possibilities are endless:
- Social Media
- Events management
You also have to think about whether you would prefer working at a:
- Start-up business (smaller budget but more scope for trying new things)
- SME - Small to medium sized enterprise, known in Germany as the Mittelstand
- A large corporation (more prestige but also more competitive)
Other questions to ask yourself are:
- Is there a certain area of Germany where you'd like to live?
- Are you prepared to accept an unpaid internship?
- Does your university require you to speak German or is English also an option?
- Is your internship compulsory or voluntary?
Step 2 - Tailor your CV
CVs in Germany - known as der Lebenslauf - are slightly different to the ones we use in the UK. You usually include only the most essential information and leave the reasons why you would suit the job for the Letter of Motivation - das Motivationsschreiben. For more help writing a German CV, check out this post.
Most companies accept CVs in both English and German so it might be worth having copies of both ready for your job search. It's also important to keep your LinkedIn profile updated in case employers look you up.
Step 3 - Start Searching
There are so many to choose from but my favourite websites were:
Step 4 - Long Application Processes and Psychometric Tests
Especially for larger companies such as Beiersdorf and Henkel, the application process is time-consuming and repetitive. Often you'll have to change your cover letter according to different roles but your CV should remain the same.
Bigger companies also sometimes ask you to do a maths or psychometric test as part of your application. I did this a few times and found them quite confusing so make sure you have a calculator on hand and speak to friends who have gone through similar processes.
Step 5 - Interview Stage
You'll almost definitely receive a few rejection emails but hopefully there will also be some interview offers too.
To prepare for an interview, you should familiarise yourself with the company, the job description and the reasons why you would be suitable for the position. More often than not it will be a Skype interview so make sure you find somewhere you won't be disturbed and dress smartly - as you would for any interview. Every interview is different but the most important things to remember are to remain calm, be confident in your abilities and be enthusiastic about the job.
Step 6 - The Waiting Process
In my opinion, the waiting process is the worst part because it's so easy to analyse everything you said in the interview but in my experience you should distract yourself with new applications and move on (temporarily).
If after two weeks there has been no response, you can send a polite follow-up email to ask whether the company has made a decision.
Hopefully the answer is a yes but don't be disheartened if it isn't - competition for internships is increasing dramatically and if you started searching early enough, there's always more opportunities out there and some of them appear online very last-minute.
Step 7 - Success
Once your internship has been confirmed, there's usually a lot of paperwork to send in to your university so make sure you don't miss any deadlines by celebrating for too long! It's always worth asking your new employers about how to find accommodation in your new town. If there are several interns starting at one time they might even be able to put you in contact with potential new flatmates.
I hope you found this post useful, to read more about my experience in Germany so far, check out my blog!