My tip to getting on in Germany? Network.
Published: 16 Sep 2013 09:00 CET
Where are you located and what do you do?
I work at Endeva, a consulting company based in Berlin Mitte. We work in the area of inclusive business, which is a private sector approach to providing goods, services, and livelihoods for low-income people mostly in emerging and developing markets.
I’m a junior consultant and have worked on many projects. My favourites have been working with the pharmaceutical sector and a report focusing on sub-Saharan Africa.
What brought you to Germany and how long have you been here?
I came to Berlin to do my Master's degree in International Economics in October 2010. It was a bit of an adventure: I’d finished my Bachelor’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico (my hometown) and heard Berlin was a great city to live in.
I’d previously been working as an intern at an economic think-tank in London and thought I needed somewhere less drizzly… I hadn’t seen a Berlin winter at that point!
How did you land your job and do you have tips for anyone seeking similar work?
One of the Endeva directors, Christina Gradl, was a guest lecturer at a development economics seminar during my studies. I was tired of hearing that the only way to ‘solve’ poverty was through the public sector – Christina’s explanation of the inclusive business concept really opened my eyes and simply made sense to me.
I knew it was something I could be passionate about. She announced at the end that they were looking for interns. I graduated from intern to a part-time role, before beginning full time in spring 2012 after handing in my Master’s thesis.
My tip is network, network, network. Talk to everyone, have business cards to hand out, and clearly tell them what you can offer. Never stop learning – podcasts, webinars, reading the news, and online courses are all ways you can build your worth to a future employer. There is an amazing amount of resources available online. Lastly, and very importantly, know what you want and work hard to make it happen.
Is it important for you to be able to speak German in your position?
Not really. It's definitely possible to get by with English, due to the international nature of the projects. It’s nice that I can speak German when we work with external partners – for example, for speaking to the graphic designer when producing a report – and to take full advantage of German-speaking networking opportunities and conferences.
What are the best and worst parts about working in Germany?
It might just be my job, but I love and am inspired by my work every day. Even after days at the grind or long days, I hear about the impact that we directly or indirectly caused, or catch up with a successful entrepreneur on the ground in Ethiopia or India, and I leave the office with a smile on my face.
I am given new responsibilities constantly and learn lots every day. More generally, I love the number of holidays I get, which is much more than in the US. The cost of living in Berlin is fantastic. The working environment can be competitive but isn't as cutthroat as in other large cities.
The worst part? Well, figuring out visas isn't always fun, but if you are well prepared with your documents, the Ausländerbehörde is much less daunting.
Do you plan on staying?
For the next couple years at least. Berlin and I are still very much in our honeymoon phase. It’s such a fantastic place to live. I love it. Berlin is affordable with all the perks of a major European capital.
It’s not always beautiful in the traditional way, but something about the city – usually something different for everyone – wins people over and doesn't let them go.
Alyssa Rivera is also a guest speaker on the US Embassy's Meet US programme which places speakers into schools around Berlin. Click here for details of the programme.
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