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EMPLOYMENT

What a famous German cartoon can teach jobseekers

German career coach Chris Pyak explains why job seekers in the Bundesrepublik should pay attention to a particular cartoon if they're having trouble finding work.

What a famous German cartoon can teach jobseekers
A depiction of the Loriot's cartoon, on display in Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

“I’m sitting”

This one is known and beloved by many Germans. We see a man, sitting in an armchair. Classical music is playing, but he himself is quiet. In the background we notice his wife through the open kitchen door – running back and forth, always busy.

She asks: “Hermann – what are you doing there?”

“Nothing”, he replies.

“Nothing? Why nothing?”

“I’m doing nothing.”

Now the wife is curious. She looks out of the kitchen:

“Nothing at all?”

“No”.

“Nothing whatsoever?”

“No. I am sitting here.”

That’s the beginning of one of the funniest cartoons by the late German comedian Loriot. The wife continues to constantly offer Hermann stuff to do, activities to engage in – while he just wants to sit in his armchair. He just wants to be.

When it comes to job hunt many people feel like Hermann’s wife. They feel the urge to be constantly busy – no matter if their activity has any actual impact or not. Sending application serves mainly as a relief system for their nervous energy. Because they are full of fear.

I understand that.

Who wouldn’t get nervous after sending 50, 100, 200 applications without even getting an interview?

At the same time, when you send 50, 100, 200 applications without getting interviews: Can we agree that sending applications doesn’t work?

READ ALSO: Six golden rules for creating the ideal cover letter and resume

So, I invite you to sit. Just sit.

Calm down. And when you are calm: Ask yourself which of your actions actually got you results.

How did you get your last job?

From all the things you did to find that job – which one had the biggest impact?

Who helped you to get this job?

Whom do you know that could help you now to get one step closer to your next job?

And most important:

What do you need to learn, so that you don’t run around like a chicken – but act with purpose and impact?

I learned this the hard way. When I started my company, I spent over 50,000 on Facebook ads. Years later analysis showed that I never got a single client through this advertisement.

All my clients came to me because of google searches, personal recommendations, articles in famous newspapers or my podcast.

So, last year I stopped advertising at all.

One of the results is that I need way less clients to make a living. That’s why I take clients on only twice per year. I am now sold out till September

Less effort, more focus – big impact.

The German economy is changing due to Covid. Companies realize for the first time: We do need people who are different – not copies of what we are ourselves.

The number of German companies who advertise jobs in English has quadrupled – from one to four percent!

This is a huge opportunity. Don’t waste it, by blindly repeating over and over what has not worked for you.

You need to do stuff differently. You need to start with deep thinking.

“So, when your partner asks you “What are you doing?” – You better answer:

“I’m sitting.”

About Chris Pyak

Chris Pyak is the Author of “How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans“. The managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH has worked in four different cultures and lived in five different countries.

Chris returned to Germany in 2011. His mission: Bring the Immigrant Spirit to his home country. Chris introduces international professionals to employers in Germany.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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