With many ex-pat Berliners describing their relationship to employment as tenuous at best, this self proclaimed “coolest” city in Europe may seem to be a utopia where no one works and the party lasts all day. People from all over the world flock to the sounds of techno music and rock-bottom rents vying to build a life in Berlin. And with most German people speaking impeccable English, at first glance, it appears to be the perfect solution for those of us looking to “find ourselves” in Europe. Too often, however, do we witness our compatriots crumbling under the pressure of German bureaucracy and the genitive case and returning crest-fallen to their homes across the world.
In the hierarchy of jobs in Berlin for English speakers (expats), start-ups stand firmly in first position. Staffed predominantly by a young and hip culturally diverse crowd, the atmosphere can often be quite fun and laid-back. It’s easy to understand why just about every non-native German speaker in the city is eager to scoop up one of the positions. Here are a few tips for interning in a Berlin start-up.
- Speak English. This is where the Americans, the Brits and the Aussies finally catch a break. While everyone in the city can speak English extremely well, native speakers come at a premium. And though it may be the universal language of startups, don’t expect to stroll into an interview and land any job you want just because you can speak English.
- Know where to look. Finding the right job in a Berlin start-up is all about knowing where to look. Many start-ups don’t post ads on the traditional job sites, try looking for more niche websites like Berlin Start-Up Jobs. And don’t just submit your average, run-of-the-mill application, show them how unique and interesting you are.
- Be searchable. This applies to just about any job these days but it goes double for all these Internet start-ups. An established presence in the form of LinkedIn, Xing, Twitter and Facebook, to name a few, can be pretty fun to maintain and, to be honest, if you haven’t already got something along these lines going, maybe you should be looking for work elsewhere. In case your high school principal didn’t already convince you in one of the 1000 lectures about Internet privacy on the Internet, get rid of the messy drunk pictures.
4. Be willing to put in the work. The atmosphere and the people may be really nice and there is definitely a lot of fun to be had, however, that doesn’t mean that no work is involved. There may be a whole host of social events and a lot of beer but the staff aren’t just lazing around playing foosball all day.
5. Be flexible. Start-ups move simultaneously at an extremely fast and slow pace. Because the company may be quite small, it can take quite a while to iron out all the bugs but once the ball gets rolling, things can happen in the blink of an eye. Things won’t always turn out the way you expect so be prepared to be flexible and forgiving when that happens.
Working in a startup is a great option for international travelers looking to settle in Berlin. In such an open environment, you can learn a lot and it’s not about being the most experienced or knowledgeable but rather knowing how to find what you’re looking for.