Find a Job in Berlin. So you’ve become a Berlin expat. Or maybe you’re an aspiring Berlin expat. You’re looking for a job in Berlin and are wondering exactly how people go about finding work in the German capital.
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You’ve probably heard that expression that “Berlin is poor, but sexy.” While I personally hate the reference as it’s way too overused, it has a certain truth. Berlin’s known to be a creative mecca for artists and a technology hub for startups, but it’s not exactly a place booming with high-paying jobs that you might find elsewhere, like in the automobile heavy city of Stuttgart or the financial hub of Frankfurt. As of June 2020, unemployment hovered around 11% in Berlin, while the rest of Germany remained at a rate of about 6.3%. Factor in not being able to speak German fluently, not being an EU citizen, and/or a person of colour, you’ll find the odds of finding a job in Berlin somewhat stacked against you. While it’s not impossible to find work in Berlin, it isn’t going to be easy either, even if other online publications tell you otherwise.
Recommended reading: Published in May 2019, we’ve crafted our most ultimate blog post yet with this Moving To Berlin guide. Jam packed full of tips about how to make friends, open a bank account, get a visa, learn German, buy insurance, and more, this is the most detailed (and FREE) guide out there.
I’ve been living and working in Berlin on and off for more than eight years and can personally attest to the difficulties of finding a job in Berlin. The first time I moved here, I worked as a freelancer for 18 months. When I lost my biggest client, I wasn’t able to find a replacement client quickly who could provide me with the same level of income. With a heavy heart, I moved home to Canada to find more secure employment and figure out my next steps in life. I finally moved back to Berlin two years later in November 2014, after I found a new job with a company who sponsored my visa application.
Since then, I’ve held 5 different visas and worked as a freelance and permanent employee at 7 different companies (startup life is a tumultuous one!) and now feel like a “professional job seeker” in Berlin.
My Personal Advice About How to Find Work in Berlin
Since I’ve written a lot about why I moved to Berlin, people often email me asking for advice about how to find work or even how to make friends. While I’m not an expert by any means nor can I personally find you a job, I can certainly dole out some advice about finding work in Berlin as an English speaking expat. To that end, here’s a list of my top 12 tips about how to find work in Berlin.
Recommended reading: This post written in June 2020, on The Reality Of Finding Work In Berlin In 2020 (in light of COVID-19 and a German recession).
1) Be Realistic and Patient
It’s not likely that you’ll find your dream job overnight. Berlin’s a tough place to find work and it could take several weeks, even months (yes!), before you find a job that suits your education, experience and skills. Even once you’ve a signed a contract with an employer, you’ll likely still need to wait before you actually start work. If you’re from outside the EU, you’ll need to submit a visa application and wait time for it to be approved. Based on personal experience, this can take anywhere from one to three months. During this time, you’re not permitted to work and there’s also no guarantee that your visa application will be approved. All you can do is hang in there and wait for everything to fall into place.
The good news is that Germany needs skilled workers and in December 2018, the government passed a law that makes it quicker and easier for companies to secure visas for people from outside of the EU. Visa waiting and processing times also tend to be less than a month these days – although if your visa is complicated, the process can still take much longer. Overall, these are positive signals and means things should start getting easier for anyone seeking work in Berlin or Germany in general.
In the meantime, if you don’t work in the tech sector, finding and starting a job in Berlin is almost a job in itself.
2) Learn German
Don’t come to Berlin expecting that you can get by on English alone. Anyone who tells you that you don’t need to communicate in German when you’re coming to work and live in Germany is simply silly. Outside of the startup and technology bubble, most companies operate in German. Almost all occupations will require that you have a high command of the language. While that’s starting to change as more people from around the globe are moving to Germany, the pace of change is slow, and you need to need to know German in order to succeed in your new expat life.
Just think about it, the more German you learn, the better your chances are at finding employment. You’ll set yourself apart from the average expat if you’re able to communicate with potential employers in their own language.
Recommended reading: Why you need to learn German in Berlin.
Enroll in a language class *before* moving to Berlin. If that’s not possible, enroll in a class as soon as you get here. Make it a priority to learn as much German as you can and be as fluent as possible.
Once you get to Berlin, there’s tons of languages schools to choose from. There’s the fairly priced Volkshochschule, the alternative school Babylonia, and Expath. More upmarket options include the Goethe Institute and if you’re very serious and committed about learning German, and want to do so within a short timeframe, try Smarter German. There’s also language learning apps like Rosetta Stone, Memrise, and Duolingo.
Pro Tip: Make sure your level of German (A1, B2 etc.) is indicated on your resume or CV.
3) Have Savings
Maybe you’re rich. Maybe you’re generously supported by family, like your parents or spouse. Maybe you’re like me – I moved to Berlin alone and without anyone to support me financially. As such, it was imperative that I have a solid financial plan in place.
Due to the length of time it could take you to find a job in Berlin, I’d highly recommend that you have enough savings to live off of until you’re able to find work. I came with enough to survive comfortably for six months and would suggest even having enough for one year.
Make sure that you don’t burn through all of your savings just trying to find a job. If you come to a point where money is running out, you’ll need to seriously consider your options. Do you have enough money to buy a plane ticket home? Do you have enough cash to ship your belongings?
Pro Tip: Keep a financial buffer even after you’ve found a job in Berlin. You’ll be under probation for the first six months of your employment and during this time, your employer can terminate you on short notice, only having to pay you for two weeks of work. In more extreme cases, some companies in Berlin (most notably startups), are notorious for letting you go quite suddenly and even not being able to pay salary, as they go about restructuring and/or shutting down their businesses.
How much you need to survive in Berlin without a job is entirely up to you. It all depends on your lifestyle. Although Berlin is known to be cheaper than other European capitals, the city is getting more expensive every year, especially when it comes to rent. If you’re looking for a place to live in Berlin, be sure to check out my article about how to use Facebook to find a flat in Berlin. Also, learn about why renting an Airbnb apartment is not a good idea.
4) Work Your Way Up
How else can you find a job in Berlin? As you may not find that perfect job right away, think about taking an entry level position. Take a job as an intern, excel at it, and show your new employer why they should hire you for a more long term position. This tip is obviously more suited to recent graduates than seasoned professionals, but could be a great starting point for someone without a lot of experience. Unfortunately, the intern culture in Berlin has a bad reputation. Be sure not to take a job that doesn’t pay industry standards and requires you to work overtime without appropriate compensation. Although Germany finally implemented a minimum wage, some companies continue to exploit young talent.
For more information, see available internships at Berlin Start Up Jobs, Graduate Land or Creative City Berlin. Alternatively, check out these Facebook groups, Foreign Young Professionals Berlin and Berlin Startup Internships. You can also look for temporary work at Timeworkers or through Zenjob. You might even be able to find a job on Craigslist.
Embody the true Berliner spirit and hold several jobs at one time. Bartend at night, work at a coffee shop during the day, DJ on weekends, and walk dogs whenever you have a spare moment. Make money while you’re looking for more serious work and you never know, perhaps one of those gigs could lead to something more. Perhaps you’ll end up running your own dog walking business for expats.
Pro Tip: This option doesn’t apply to people who don’t have a visa that gives them permission to work in Germany. For example, if you come to Berlin as an American on a 3-month tourist visa, you’re not permitted to work. Working “under-the-table” is highly illegal, and you, and the person who hired you, could face serious legal and financial consequences, and even deportation.
6) Apply at Startups
Startups are one of the best ways to find a job in Berlin. Startups are more open to hiring expats than more traditional German companies – so much so that they purposely seek and hire talent from all around the world, relocating people to Berlin just to work for them. Scoring work at a start-up is an exciting opportunity to help build a brand new company from the ground-up. Another perk is that startups usually offer a challenging, fun working environment with international teams.
However, startup jobs tend to pay less than industry average and involve long hours. As startups are more prone to financial woes than larger companies, be sure to research them in advance and apply at the ones that have solid financial backing, are (or soon will be) generating revenue, show a track record of successful business strategy, and/or have signed up big-name clients. Look to apply for jobs at Berlin startups that are more mature, around 3 – 5 years old, vs ones that opened their doors within the past 6 months – 1 year.
Don’t take make a decision to take a job at a startup lightly. While the promise of working at a fun and young startup may seem awesome, there are unfortunate and common realities with many Berlin startups – you may end up not getting paid on time, and in some cases, not at all. Some ways to protect yourself? Have a German lawyer review your employment contract before you sign. Know your rights and inform yourself about German employment laws before you start the job. Keep in contact with your lawyer, just in case something happens at a later date. For a first hand account of what it’s like to work at a Berlin startup, read my friend Abby’s story.
Where can you search for startup jobs in Berlin? Take a look at these 19 different resources which includes links to Facebook groups, Google Docs, maps and other related Berlin job search startup websites.
- Angel List
- Berlin Job Board (Facebook group)
- Berlin Job Detector (Facebook group)
- Berlin Startups (Map)
- Berlin Startups (Facebook group)
- Berlin Startup Jobs (Facebook group)
- Berlin Startup Jobs (Google doc)
- Berlin Startup Jobs
- Deutsche Startups
- English Jobs in Berlin (Facebook group)
- PR and Communication Jobs (Facebook group)
- Startup Jobs Berlin (Facebook group)
- Startup Sucht
- tbd* job board
7) Search Online
Use job search engines and job boards and scan them regularly (actually religiously) for fresh opportunities.I’d recommend looking daily. Search for companies that are based in Berlin. Subscribe to alerts or mailing lists to be made aware of new postings that may suit you.
Where else can you search for jobs in Berlin online? Try out these 30+ different Berlin job search websites:
- Berlin Expat Jobs
- Berliner Jobmarkt
- The Changer
- Expat Job Seeker
- Glass Door
- Good Jobs
- Honeypot (Tech jobs)
- In Staff (Temp jobs)
- Job List Berlin
- JOB POINT
- Jobs in Berlin
- Linked In
- The Local
- Meine Stadt
- Work in Berlin
Another simple way to find a job in Berlin? Use Google to your advantage – for example if you’re an Agile Coach like me, simply Google – “agile coach jobs in Berlin” to view related postings. Generally if jobs are advertised in English, there’s a chance the company is willing to hire someone who’s not a native German speaker. Scan the job description to see if German language skills are required and if so, at what level.
Even more ways to find a job in Berlin? It’s fairly straightforward to get a freelancing visa in Germany, if you can prove you have a steady income and meet other various requirements. This is especially ideal for those that have location independent work. I’ve a number of friends in Berlin who work as writers, graphic designers, software developers etc. and all make a living from existing contracts in their home country, or elsewhere.
After my first working holiday visa expired back in 2012, I applied for a freelancing visa which allowed me to continue my work as both a travel writer and a project manager (yes, a bizarre combination). I made money writing for a Berlin hotel, through my blog, and doing project management consulting for a local company.
Freelancing is also a good solution for those looking to start their own business in Berlin. Check out some of these resources to start your journey toward finding freelance work:
9) Getting the Right Visa
Getting the right visa will determine how long you can stay in Germany and whether or not you can work. Depending on where you’re from, almost anyone can come to Germany, and stay for up to 3 months as a tourist. While you’re not allowed to actually work, you can at least stay in Berlin and begin your job search.
For more experienced professionals, you can apply for a job seeker visa that allows you to stay in Germany and look for work for up to six months. This visa is granted to individuals with certain vocational training or other highly skilled individuals who have a university degree. Note, those seeking work in vocational fields need to have a high level of German fluency. For both vocational works and those coming with degrees, it needs to be recognized by the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB). You cannot work while you have this visa (even freelance), but once you have a contract, you can apply for a proper work permit. An exception to this is that you can work up to 10 hours per week, but only if this is part of a recruitment process. For example, as an Agile Coach sometimes, I need to work a trial day at a company before they decide whether or not they want they want to hire me. The job seeker visa can also not be extended beyond six months.
Young Canadians can apply for a working holiday visa that allows you to stay in Germany for up to one year to study, work, or if you like, do absolutely nothing! I’d one of these visas before later applying for the freelancer’s visa. Citizens from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong can apply for one of these visas as well (research to find out the specifics about what options your country offers). Approval of these visas requires you to show that you have money in the bank and your own health insurance, among other things. Unfortunately, these working holiday visas are not available to Americans or “old people”, which is anyone over 35. It’s important to note that once you find a permanent position, you’ll have to apply for an entirely new visa before you begin working at the new company. This step-by-step guide of the German visa process provides an example for how the process works and what the company must do vs. what you must do.
The company that hired me for my first job in Berlin had their own lawyer help me get an EU Blue Card. This card allowed me to work as an agile coach and for them only. Switching jobs on a Blue Card isn’t much of a problem if you move to a new company for the same type of position – you just need to notify the foreigner’s office about your change. Best of all, the path to permanent residency is shorter on the Blue Card – you can apply after 21 months if you have a B1 level of German.
10) Follow German Norms, Not Your Norms
Another tip to find a job in Berlin is to be aware that local employment customs in Germany may differ from how things work in your home country.
Resumes or CV’s – Germans include personal information on their CV’s that are not typically included in places like North America or Australia – a professional looking photo, date of birth, and place of birth. Some people even specify their marital status and if they have children. This information is usually added to the header section of a CV, along with your name and address so that it appears at the top of each page.
In recent years, I haven’t included my date or place of birth due to reduce the amount of bias a potential employer could have against me based on that information. I’ve never once included my marital status. I’ve only added a photo as that seems to be a common practice these days and not a custom limited to Germany. I personally haven’t found this has hindered me from being able to get job interviews with German companies.
I advise you to include this information at your own discretion due to possible bias that may occur. It may make more sense to do so if you’re applying at a more traditional German company, like a big corporation or law firm. If you’re applying at a startup and for a job advertised in English, it’s highly likely that you don’t need to include this personal information as startups tend to be way more informal.
Cover Letters – For your cover letter (sometimes referred to as a motivation letter), be sure that it’s tailored to the job description and company itself. Try not to start your cover letter with “To whom it may concern” but address it directly to the contact person listed on the job posting. Then depending on how traditional the company is, if someone named Laura Müller is listed, don’t start your cover letter with “Dear Laura” but with “Dear Frau Müller.” Likewise, if someone named Hans Müller is listed, begin your letter with “Dear Herr Müller.” If there is no contact person, only then use an impersonal greeting.
Some of these practices may seem unnecessarily formal to someone from outside of Germany, but not doing this, could possibly make you appear unprofessional and even rude in their eyes. Again, alter your approach depending on the type to which you’re applying.
Brush up on these cultural norms to ensure that both your resume and cover letter are updated to reflect German preferred formats.
Networking is essential if you want to find a job in Berlin. Many job openings are never publicly advertised and your friends can alert you to new job opportunities that you’d have never known about otherwise. Not to mention, a personal referral will give you an edge over other candidates applying for that same job. So how do you meet people in Berlin? My post about making friends in Berlin highlights just some of the methods I used to meet locals and other expats.
Berlin has a terrific tight-knit community of expats who offer support to each other and will often help each other find work. When I first moved to Berlin, I really wanted to meet other people. Through following conversations of local expats on Twitter, I became aware of a fun “Hamburger Tour of Berlin” event. As funny as it sounds, this actually happened and a bunch of people came together to try out different hamburger joints around the city. It was at one of these events that I met someone who eventually hired me as a project manager and agile coach (on two different occasions).
12) Be Here
Sometimes, it’s as simple as being here. This is becoming less and less of a factor nowadays, but there are still some companies that might not take you too seriously if they see that you live abroad. Your chances at scoring a job are far better if you show a local address and phone number on your resume, and can be available for in-person interviews.
That being said, don’t feel discouraged from applying for jobs even though you’re not in Berlin yet. Be sure to indicate how serious you are about living and working in Berlin in your cover letter and demonstrate your commitment by learning German. If you’re an attractive candidate, many companies will do interviews via Google Hangout, Skype, or phone despite your geographical distance. Some richer companies will even fly you in for an interview or trial day.
Find A Job In Berlin – Expath
How about getting help from local experts? Expath specializes in helping expats settle into Berlin. They offer workshops about how to find jobs and apartments in Berlin, provide personal coaching sessions, and even hold language classes. Check them out at http://www.expath.de/.
There you have it, my top tips about how to find a job in Berlin. If you have further suggestions or questions in general, please leave a comment below.
Find A Job In Berlin – Good To Know
2) Visiting Berlin and need a place to sleep that’s not a friend’s couch? Look for hotels over on booking.com.
3) If hotels aren’t your thing, book an Airbnb room or flat. First time users can use this link to get a €34 travel credit.
4) If you’re road tripping through Germany, rent a car.
5) We’ve plenty of other Berlin life and Germany related posts on the blog:
- 15 Exciting Day Trips From Berlin (As Recommended By A Local)
- 60 Signs That You’ve Been Living In Germany For A Long Time
- Berlin Expat Advice: 15 Tips For Moving House In Berlin
- Berlin Expat Advice – Learn German in Berlin
- Living Abroad: Essential Tools An Expat in Germany Can’t Live Without
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*Disclosure – This post contains some affiliate links. If you book a tour, car rental, or hotel through any of these links, I’ll earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!