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Berlin – the city of opportunities?

David O. Andersen (MA '11) moved to Berlin without a job, a home or any experience, with the hope of landing a position with one of Berlin's many start-up companies.

2014.12.12 | Aarhus BSS

When David Andersen completed his MA in Corporate Communication at Aarhus School of Business in 2011, the chances of finding employment in Denmark as a new communication graduate were limited. So, he upped stakes and headed off to Berlin:

"I took the chance as I figured I could always go back to Denmark if I failed to find a job. I knew that Berlin is very international with many start-up companies, and many entrepreneurs come to the city to start up new businesses. That's one of the things that really attracted me. I didn't have a job, and I only knew one person in Berlin, which means I had a limited network. So first of all, I needed to find out where people usually go when applying for jobs. Of course, there are the official job centres, but I very quickly learnt that that’s not the most efficient way to find a job. Instead, I discovered that there are numerous events for meeting other people from the entrepreneurial environment in order to network, get to know each other and create new ideas. This was completely new to me," says David.


In fact, everything was new to David. He spent the first couple of months building up a network and settling down in unfamiliar surroundings without knowing anyone. But finding a job didn't prove to be difficult.

"I got my first job after three months, but I had a number of job interviews before that. And that was extremely important, because even though I didn't get a job right away, I had 4-5 interviews the first two months, which was really motivating compared to my unsuccessful job hunting in Denmark. They needed someone with my qualifications and competencies, which wasn't the case in Denmark," he says.

David's first job was in a one-man communications department in a start-up company developing apps, where the learning curve was steep and he had to create his own job function. There he gained a great deal of experience and established a network, which proved to be very useful in his subsequent jobs with start-up companies in Berlin.

The young, international enclave

There are two parallel worlds in the business community in Berlin – the old German companies that cling to formalities and traditions when hiring new people, and the new companies that focus on people's competencies and desires.

"There are many groups on Facebook and LinkedIn for posting job ads, and you can contact the person in question if you are interested in the job. So in that way, it's more visible and less time-consuming. My experience is that only entrepreneurial businesses choose this approach. When applying for a job with more traditional German companies, you will notice they have completely different standards, cultures and ways of doing things. To actually get the job might also prove to be more difficult".

Start-up companies are willing to give a chance to fresh graduates who may have difficulties finding a job with more established companies. It's highly instructive, but also extremely hard work:

"I make it sound like a fairy-tale, but if you get a job with a start-up company, you should be prepared for a lot of extra work. The number of employees is limited, and the workload is huge. So you must be willing to work really long hours. 45-50 hours a week is quite normal when building up a new business", says David.

Do you have to speak German?
No, not at all. Most of the people I know in Berlin don't speak German, and I rarely speak German. Everything takes place in English. And you basically learn the language when living in the country.

What kind of profiles are start-up companies looking for?
Start-up companies are mostly interested in programmers and developers as many of them provide IT solutions, such as an app or a website. That's really a big thing here in Berlin. However, it's possible to find communication and marketing jobs as well. Especially because most companies either intend to go international or have an international background, which creates a need for employees with language skills. Besides that, designers and business school graduates definitely also possess highly attractive qualifications.

Read more about David O. Andersen

Written by Julie Løndahl Petersen, julielp@au.dk

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