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Hardik Vora: Job searching in Germany

While there are various engineering fields with a shortage of professionals, mechanical engineering isn’t one of them. This didn’t stop Hardik Vora. In this interview, the enterprising young engineer shares his impressions and experiences of travelling to Germany on a job-seeker visa.

ProRecognition: Hardik, you had first come to ProRecognition in November 2017. You’ve come a long way since then. Tell me, how did you come to know about ProRecognition initially and how did the consultation help you in strategizing your plans?

Hardik Vora: My plan of coming to Germany started at the end of 2016. But while researching, many websites said that you need to have a minimum of five years of experience to get a job seeker visa and at that time, I had only about one and a half. I therefore was looking for someone to advise me how to proceed. Initially, I got to know about ProRecognition through internet research, but I first met ProRecognition in one of the info sessions held in Mumbai from Goethe-Institut. On that day, due to the huge number of people waiting to be consulted, I got only the basic info for the recognition process and its benefits. I also met a person from the Mumbai visa info at the same event, who clarified that there was no 5-year requirement for the job seeker visa. So, after my initial consultation with ProRecognition, I took a telephonic appointment and we started the more detailed advisory process. So, though my plan started in 2016, I first started learning German and everything fell into place only after meeting ProRecognition in 2017 and getting their guidance for getting a Statement of Comparability for my degree and also for all my other activities until the day I joined my job.

Why did you decide to apply for the Statement of Comparability?

Firstly, because university was not listed in Anabin. And secondly, I learned from the consultation with ProRecognition that having a Statement of Comparability would be useful for my job search as well as my visa and other processes. Therefore, I applied for it in first week of December in 2017.

You also took part in one of our application workshops. What did you take back from it and how did it help you with your job search?

I must say, the workshop was the stepping stone for my job search. Not only did I learn how to make a CV and cover letter, but I also got a better understanding of how to approach the job search in Germany, what to do and what not etc. to be perceived in the right way. I think that it was learning those things which made me reach where I am today.

Apart from the knowledge you gained in the workshop, do you think that having the Statement also helped you when applying for jobs?

I always sent the Statement of Comparability along with my degree as part of my job application documents. I do think that helped me getting calls for interviews more frequently because I compared my experience with that of many other people who also came to Germany on job seeker visas. But aside from this, having the statement of comparability also helped to speed up the work permit process: Because of this document, my work permit and related paperwork got completed in less than two days!

As you’ve already mentioned, you went to Germany on a job seeker visa. What made you decide to apply for a job seeker visa?

I’m a mechanical engineer and Germany is one of the biggest markets for mechanical engineering. In my opinion, to work and develop one’s knowledge in such a market is the best thing one could ask for – that was my only motivation to come to Germany on a job seeker visa. I also could have done a master’s course, but with the confidence I got from the workshop and the consultations with ProRecognition as well as my own research, I decided that the job seeker visa would be the better option.

And before applying for a job seeker visa, did you already start applying for jobs from India itself?

Yes, with my learnings from application workshop I directly started applying from India itself. I wanted to increase my understanding of the German job market, so that wherever I was lacking, I could improvise myself before going to Germany. This turned out to be quite helpful.

And then, you got your job seeker visa. Walk us through what all happened after you landed in Germany.

So, I came to Germany on 5th October 2018. My visa was valid for six months. Initially, my strategy was to visit some of the job fairs in order to find out how to approach people and talk with the HR representatives as well as some of the technical people at the fair. In doing this, I understood their expectations and how they look at each application. I used these experiences when applying to other companies. So, that was my first step. Meanwhile, I also started building a network through Xing and LinkedIn. There are many companies who offered work on a contract basis, so I started applying to those companies, too. I think that the understanding of the job market that I gained from all of these activities helped me.

How long did it take you till you had call-backs from the interview and successfully got some job offers?

From the day I landed in Germany, I made it my mission to find a job. My target was dedicating 8-10 hours a day just for applications and finding a job. But the first three months of my stay, October, November and December, turned out to be quite disappointing. Because it was Christmas time, many people went on holiday and I didn’t get many replies to my applications. I thought that I was doing something wrong. But then, suddenly, from the first week of January, I was getting four to five calls daily because I had made so many applications in the previous three months. And after that, I got face-to-face interviews. I found my job at the end of February, just one and a half months after the job market gained traction again. Eventually, I had four job offers by that time I started working.

What kind of other offers where these?

I received a couple of offers for mechanical designing profiles and one from a small company which was into product manufacturing and maintenance. The offers I received were from all over Germany, like in Chemnitz, Darmstadt, Celle and near München.

Sounds like a colourful choice. How did you decide on which one to finalise?

I was considering the alignment with my previous work experience, the knowledge and skills I would gain, the salary package that was offered, and the type of company. For example, the company that I work for is a multinational company and our client is also one of the biggest chemical plants in the world. In India, I worked in a similar company, i.e. a petrochemical company. However, in India, I worked mostly on site at client locations, and here in Germany, I am working more on planning. I don’t visit the clients’ sites as frequently as I did in my previous job.

Now, of course, you weren’t just handed your job, but you prepared really well for your job search and also learned German. Would you say that your knowledge of German was useful while attending the job interviews?

Yes! My job requires me to communicate with clients as well as colleagues. I need to have a conversation with everyone in the company from bottom to top, with the people on site as well as the management and administration. I learned till B1 level before coming to Germany. But for my current role, it would have been better if I had done even B2. Of course, the level of German you need varies from field to field in which you want to work. That’s the feedback I got from fellow job aspirants, For example, if you are more into a technical field like Mechanical Engineer or Electrical Engineer, it’s good to know more than B1 or B2 level, but there are certain fields where B1 level seems to enough. But in my opinion, having at least B1 is ideal, otherwise, it’s very difficult to survive when arriving, where you don’t understand anything initially.

Did you have such problems when you initially landed in Germany?

I had some problems, but with my knowledge of German, I was able to at least communicate the basic things. But it was an additional challenge, learning German every day along with my job search. Even after starting a job, my target was to speak German in the office, learn more and more. I believe that we should be equal to the people surrounding us and speak with them.

Hardik, now you’ve been working in Germany since the beginning of 2019. Not only has it been the first time for you to work abroad, but it’s also been your first time outside of India. How has the experience been for you?

It’s been quite an experience for me. The good thing about German work culture is that you need to look into each and every aspect of your work with detail and precision. This has been one of the greatest learnings for me. From what I observed, German people believe in perfection in even the smallest thing. This helps you develop as a person, and also helps to become a good engineer or specialist in your own field. I believe that this will bring the best out of me in the future.

Aside from the work culture, what about your free time? How have you managed your social life in Germany?

There are two aspects: One is cricket. As soon as I started my job and I settled down, I joined a cricket club and started playing. I also won an election last December and now I’m holding a position in the cricketing association of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, where we are working to shape German cricketing culture or and decide about how to run German cricket, e.g. the timings of the season. The second aspect is investments and business. I come from Gujarat, a state which is known for business, and therefore I’m interested investments etc. So, from the day I joined my job, the second job that I was doing was to looking into some investment opportunities in Germany. And luckily, this year in January, I successfully made an investment in Germany and purchased a property. In this area, there are multiple famous universities, that is University of Mannheim for Economics and also Heidelberg University, and also couple of private universities in Heidelberg, due to which there is a huge attraction of students. Therefore, I’m planning to set it up as shared apartments, so that more Indian or international students can stay over there with proper quality – and an Indian owner, also. (laughs) And I can also help them with my experience.

So Hardik, what advice would you give to other people who want to go to Germany on a job seeker visa?

If you want to work in Germany, you need to plan everything thoroughly. Because firstly, you’re giving your resignation to your work in India, and secondly, you need to bring all your savings to a new country. Since you can’t work while being on a job seeker visa, I brought whatever I had earned in India, about 5 Lakh Rupees, and set a monthly budget for accommodation, food, transportations etc. which I couldn’t exceed. Also, it is not easy to acclimatise in a new culture which is so different from your home country within six months, so it’s better to have done 6-12 months of research before coming to Germany, during which you learn the language and start applying. This way, you can come 120% prepared and ready to find a job from day 1. Never come with half-hearted effort – I’ve seen many people who came to Germany with great hope, great experience, great skills, but they went back to India unsuccessfully because they didn’t know the application culture of Germany, language, etc. I also would advise them to participate in an application workshop from ProRecognition. Not only because it made me successful, but also because you will get in-depth insight on how to approach the German market and how to create proper application documents. And lastly, what also helped me is the Statement of Comparability, because I’ve seen the experience of the other candidates without it. But overall, keep in mind that ProRecognition may show you the path, but it’s up to you to walk on it.

Thank you for the interview, Hardik. We wish you all the best!

(The interview was held in May 2019)