Creating and implementing job search strategies was my daily job. But, I only did it on behalf of my clients who wanted to switch jobs or get started in Germany.
Now, I wanted to change careers for myself.
It felt weird. All these years I’ve been with the same company. I’ve never been seriously interested in another job. Why should I? I’ was lucky to work on changing new projects, meet interesting people, learn about different companies, and I’ve always been able to deeply connect to clients and build bridges to their next professional step.
But then, about a year or two ago, I got the urge to change my job and career.
I did not know what exactly I wanted to do in the future
I did not know what exactly I wanted to do in the future. The thought somehow went through my head of becoming independent, implementing my own ideas, and setting up something myself. But at the same time, it seemed to be a great and dangerous adventure.
Surely it would be better to simply look for another job. So, I kept searching the job markets again and again in search of something new. To find a job that I’d enjoy. For inspiration, in which direction my professional career should go.
But to be honest: “Just looking” for nice job offers is not enough.
I was blind
Strategic thinking plus intuition is one of my strengths. Over the last twenty years, I’ve worked with more than two thousand clients. With my eyes closed, I can “see” the unique quality in a persona. Every client of mine is different. Unique. After all these years I still enjoy realizing the wealth of talent in a persona. The combination of strengths, disposition, skills, and yes, the big and small quirks that make each of us an inimitable personality.
But for me, I was blind.
Where do I belong professionally?
Taking a clear and honest look at your own career opportunities – that’s like squaring the circle.
Impossible. You know, whenever it’s about ourselves, everything is different. Our perception stops, we have blind spots and see our own personality, talents, and strengths only distorted.
This is precisely why professional coaching is so helpful in a job search phase.
So, what did I do? What I would never advise a client to do: Postpone the decision 😊 After I have quit, I allowed myself the luxury of taking my time and not having to decide. Besides, my additional training in psychology had not yet been completed, and I needed time to prepare for the final exams.
Time for a job search plan
Do I start my own business or do I look for a new job? Do I look for a new job or do I start my own business?
This “spinning” always was going on in my head. I was not willing to give up the advantages of any of these alternatives that easily! I wanted to find my perfect solution.
At that point, however, it was time for a specific plan.
Nothing gets me into action like a challenge.
I wanted to challenge myself. It was about exploring the job market “HR/ personnel/ recruiting” systematically to gain clarity about my own goals.
Let me share the details of my very own job search challenge "Investigating my very own job market": For 12 weeks I’d check 4 job boards and would every week at least 6 job offers that I like or that I find interesting.
I would investigate these criteria: company, sector, scope of duties, how much routine, and especially what skills, strengths and experience the companies request candidates to have.
To cut it short, my job search challenge was worth the time invested ✨🌹🍄. Today I enjoy both: my career coaching business and I’m part of an awesome team in a consulting job.
I want to share my results and learnings with you. Because, for who knows, maybe you as well want to change professionally?
Learning 1: A Reliable view of my specific job market
It’s obvious, but far from trivial: By my very systematic job search I’ve gained a reliable view of my job market.
Not the job market in total. But specific to me and my field.
Feel free to ask me anything 😊 about the HR job market in my local area now, after this job search I can give you all the answers:
- How many jobs there are in my area.
- Which additional qualifications and tools are required.
- For jobs in which branch is it advisable to have gained experience.
- Which tasks are there in particular?
- And I even know roughly how many junior and senior positions are available in my region.
- During my challenge I researched an incredible number of companies and looked at more company websites than I have done in a long time. Some of them I find amazingly great. I have almost fell a bit in love with some companies.
Learning 2: Self-organization is essential
Do you know what it’s like to have this visual overload in your email inbox? Every day I got new emails, offering me new vacancies.
Each of them demanded me to read them right away, manipulating me with intrusive texts and pictures. I was so distracted that I found myself all day long checking emails and reading new job offers.
After a week I set all the newsletters from daily to weekly, this already saved my sanity 😊. And I set fixed time blocks in my calendar for my job search in specific areas. And to carefully read the job offers systematically, looking for similarities and differences.
Looking back, it was these regular times of my weekly schedule in this job search time that made a huge difference for me.
The systematic reading of the advertisements had a big side effect: The more I concentrated on the intensive comparison of the job offers, the ‘cooler’ I got for my own application goals. Or in other words: I was able to proceed much more rationally. I focused increasingly on areas of responsibility where my specific professional experience was just right. More and more it became clear to me which company I would be the ideal candidate.
After some time, I noticed that I was actually looking forward to the new job offers that came in!
Learning 3: Be aware of the ‘market criers’ (it’s all about shiny marketing)
Job ads can be compared to “market criers”. They court with pictures, loud texts for your attention and want me to entrust them with my private data. A big and shiny marketing show.
The job titles are especially colorful. Even though the companies are all German and German is the working language, job titles in English are becoming quite popular. Is this normal, or already funky and bloated? 😊
It’s important to make oneself immune in the job search to this marketing bla-blub. After a while I found myself being annoyed by words used in the job advertisements. Many have no substance at all, are just there for mere decoration while I want true information about what the specific job is about. Or do you know what is meant by:
“For our committed (?) team we are looking for the next possible date…” (yes, of course!)
We offer exciting (?) and varied tasks (exciting like a ride on the roller coaster? No routine? Are you kidding me?!)
Analytical skills, commitment, flexibility” (Do you think I have won my degree in a lottery? This appears in every second job advertisement, written off?)
“Team player mentality” (sounds cool, but has no substance. Anyone who does not live as a hermit kind of fits)
Learning 4: The fields of responsibility are highly specialized
In my job field, the HR and consultant field, it seems to me that a lot of new jobs are created this year. And I’ve realized in my job search that a shift of tasks to more and more specialized tasks is taking place in these times. Both in the big and smaller (!) companies.
I have noticed in my job search that three fields in human resources are increasingly being sought.
If you didn’t have much contact with the HR department before, the many job titles in HR probably don’t matter anything to you. 😊
The job of a recruiter is to establish good relationships with potential applicants and to promote the company. In a nutshell, recruiters create good vibrations and try to promote the candidates for their own company, i.e. get them “hot”. Once a candidate does apply, the next contact is taken over by an HR manager.
The more difficulties a company has in finding sufficiently qualified applicants for its vacancies, the more likely it’s to see the need to set up a new job for a recruiter. A related keyword is the shortage of skilled workers, which has long existed in Germany in many sectors and for very different qualifications.
2: Online Learning
With the developments of the Covid 19, this trend really took off.
Many companies see the need for highly specific training of their staff, increasingly in non-academic areas. They are looking for solutions for a systematic professional development program. Preferably directly at the workplace, as time spent on a week, external seminars are expensive.
E8550DIt is one of the tasks of online learning to create very specific training units tailored to the company or workplace. In tiny steps, so that employees who are not used to learning can also successfully acquire new skills.
3: Change / Virtual leadership
This is yet another trend emerging, and thanks to Covid 19 it is now becoming more obvious.
The change in our working worlds is speeding up. This calls for coordinators. A number of companies are in need of someone to manage the “Remote Work” project inside the company, to advise and coordinate the managers on how to put it into practice. Often the HR department is involved in this.
These change processes in the work organization need moderation. This applies both to the team members and their superiors. For many companies, this is a completely new situation to which they still have to get used. To do this, facilitators are needed who know exactly on the way team development can be successful in difficult times.
Learning 5: Looking up unknown terms is a must
It was just one term in a long job ad.
I had already read over it several times without really understanding what was meant by it.
“Flow Automation”. I didn’t know what this was.
Then I googled the term. Did you know, that Flow Automation is done with Microsoft Flow? And that it’s used as a power automate, for instance, to enhance and automatize staff administration? What I learned is
- Automation has reached the HR department ( not just a subject for IT).
- Microsoft Flow is a tool that HR professionals need to be familiar with (now or in near future)
- An automation tool like Microsoft Flow could be the topic for (my?) next training. Or I should use zapier more often to understand it’s scope
By the way: The skill of using automation tools could be a great way to put yourself in a strong negotiating position for a salary increase in your next appraisal interview.
Offer your supervisor to automate initial work steps on a trial basis. Demonstrate how easy it can be applied and show him your calculation how much time each team member can save. Your boss will be stunned for sure.
6: Small businesses are diamonds
There are such terrific companies out there, it’s just incredible!
Imagine a very unimpressive job advertisement with an unimpressive company name.
No way, this has happened to me again and again in my job search: Suddenly, as I’m surfing the company website, I hold my breath for a surprise:
On the homepage videos with employees explaining to me their workplace, laughing at each other, and making jokes. Pictures of team members at work with a sparkle in their eyes. A small rural company that is part of a collaborative multinational network. Each employee receives one international training budget per year. How rockin’ cool is that?!
My personal lesson: The attractiveness of an employer is not linked to the size of the company!
Learning 7: Experience does not eqal experience
Every job ad asks for experience.
Sometimes I was so angry! Then when I read about a job and saw myself in anticipation as an employee of this great company. However, my experience did not fit the expectations of the company. What a ghastly feeling!
But no chance, I definitely have no experience in a large international corporation in the pharmacy sector.
All the same, experience does not equal experience. There are many different shades, and each of us can have some nuances:
- experience in a work environment (2 or 5 years are often required)
- not specified practical experience, can be gained in all kinds of activities like academic projects, company projects, internship, lab work, practical thesis and sometimes even by social or volunteer activities.
- experience gained by working in a specific sector, e.g. pharmacy, automotive or health
- experience with specific tools, e.g. a specific SAP application or the Boolean Operators for LinkedIn research ( if applying as a recruiter 😊)
- experience in applying specific guidelines such as certification procedures, testing procedures, project or quality management.
When my anger cooled off a little, I was able to admit that some companies were (somehow) right. It’s easy math: The more an applicant brings along, the shorter the training period. The shorter the training period, the sooner the applicant can work productively and independently.
At any rate, this is the ideal picture of an applicant (read more about the experience gap). But this certainly does not mean we can only apply for jobs where we already have everything we need. Such a job would be terribly boring simply because we want to learn something new in the new job, don’t we?
Still, the expectations of companies are extremely high.
This means that I as an applicant need to work harder. It’s not enough to send out just a CV. Rather, I have to give some thought to how I can present my experience in a way that is compatible with the demands of a given company. It’s an effort well worth the results.
Learning 8: Professional positioning
Have you already found your own positioning?
Oh my god, to do this for yourself is really tough (for my clients I do it with my eyes closed). What is ‘positioning’ anyway? By now, I define it myself as a “click” in your head. It’s this clarity when you know exactly where you are and what you have to offer AND you’re able to communicate it.
It’s such a challenge, still. How do I find the right words to convince the recruiter? How do I influence them, manipulate them, argue or model their perception? I don’t really know what is the best verb to describe it.
Anyway, again and even if I repeat myself. A systematic analysis of job advertisements has helped me during this challenge to find more and more words to adjust my CV, my profile, and my presentation in the interview. I’ve learned how to get closer and closer to the recruiter’s world of experience.
Learning 9: Job titles are English, but the jobs themselves remain German
“Senior Talent Manager”, “Head of Talent Acquisition” or the “HR Client Services” – job titles in English are somehow ‘fancy’ and have become quite fancy in German job boards.
But the job descriptions are still in German, and so probably is the job itself.
The good news is that often you still can apply in English, even though you don’t feel confident speaking German (see my interviews of recruiters)
It’s true that Germany is becoming increasingly international. This can be seen for instance in the continuing trend towards international cooperation, transnational company networks, and corporate structures. But the German language is nevertheless still spoken at most workplaces. Or to turn it around: Many German employees are not confident speaking English at the workplace.
Learning 10 : There are English speaking jobs
During my challenge, I come across English-speaking jobs as well. According to my impression in the number vacancies that are available in English have risen lately.
I’m wrong, though.
Cause when I look at the numbers in STEPSTONE, I am mistaken. A trick in my perception, just like I keep spotting green cars on the road only since I’m driving a green car myself…
Here are the figures from Stepstone, June 1, 2020:
It’s only information from a single day. You think there must be more?
Best take a look at the filter functions in Stepstone yourself, they are extremely sophisticated. For your qualification and your regional area, you see what the ratio is.
In any case, getting used to the German language appears to be a wise thing to do. You still have job chances if you can speak some German, the more fluent your are the more you can avoid the fierce competition for job offers in English.
Your next step?!
Have I given you the bug to start your own personal challenge? Good!
Because I’ve put all the criteria and items I’ve used to analyze the job ads on a long checklist, which I named the JobAd-Investigator. Using these 27 items will help you not to miss any given information. Or, even more important, you’ll notice right away what data have been left out by the employer.
I’m curious how you’re using the JobAd-Investigator, wish you new insights into the well-kept secrets of German employers :-), write an email and let me know.
To your unique success!