Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ask CJ: How does a US-based B.S. chemist find a job in Germany?

From the inbox, a really interesting question (redacted to protect anonymity) 
I am beginning my search for a chemical related job in Germany. I graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from [a well-known state university in the U.S.], and will be graduating in May 2014 with a Masters in [field related to biomedicine, etc.] I have good analytical chemistry based research experience along with a very good working knowledge of how American hospital emergency departments work as I have worked in one for about a year. I am very committed to learning German, which I began about one month ago. 
Since I will be graduating with my masters in May of 2014, do you have any recommendations on how to search/find potential employees who will take me beginning around June 2014? I have been doing research on the internet, and have found a few jobs which want to hire immediately, but I have not found any information on how to find a job for a few months in advance.
Most of the e-mail requests I get are from international readers, asking "How do I get a job in the US?", not the other way around. So, I suppose the questions that our reader is asking is:
  • Where should I look for chemistry jobs in Germany? 
  • How far in advance can I apply for these jobs? 
I have a few questions of my own, the main one being: what is the experience of the readership in getting hired in chemistry in Germany? How does it work, being an non-German citizen? 

18 comments:

  1. As a Brit who spent some time trying to get a job in Germany, I would give a general warning that it is not the easiest of tasks, particularly when looking for industrial roles. Unfortunately I imagine coming from the US makes it even more challenging thanks to the variety of bureaucratic rules and regulations which favour EU citizens for posts in Europe generally. Then there is then the added complexity of German professional hierarchy, where graduates of German institutions will always be 'unofficially' favoured for much sought after industry roles (but I guess that's not really any different to anywhere else in many cases).

    Speaking German really is a must (even if the job adds suggest only English is required) as you will need to interact with the various technicians who often do a large chunk of the work in the lab.

    Having said all of that, Germans are fantastic, and the country is wonderful. The time I spent there was great. Scientists and engineers are held in relatively high regard, and the pay / benefits are generally good. My advice would be to start applying for jobs ASAP, and get your CV into the hands of as many HR teams as possible explaining your situation (in my experience, unlike in the UK (and I'm guessing the US), HR people tend to be much more useful and proactive in identifying good candidates. ie, much better).

    Oh, and the beer. Worth going for the beer alone. Good luck :-)

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  2. I am German and I am trying to imitate the chemjobber blog for german chemistry positions. I am not very successful so I only post jobs and sometimes work statistics.
    Now to your questions: If I understand correctly, you don't have a PhD, so you will probably compete with chemical engineers, chemical technicians, PhD chemists, depending on the position. We have a dual education system, and most of the university chemists are doing their PhDs.
    But I would say you still have a chance. You can look out for positions on indeed.de, monster.de etc. Even if they say that they want someone immediately, the application process could take a while so start to send your applications.
    To answer chemjobbers questions: 1. I think the job market is better than in the US, but it can take half a year to a year until a PhD chemists finds a position, and as pays are not rising, we also don't have a MINT problem :). Being German, I cannot comment on the second question although a lot of Italian, Spanish and Greek chemists are coming here. Hope I could help.

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    1. Thank you, Timm! (PS I enjoy reading the Google Translate version of your blog, since ich spreche kein Deutsch.)

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    2. So you are the one international reader that shows up in the statistics :). Thank you for reading, I am still a big fan of your blog.

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  3. Lisa Balbes writes in to say:

    "I seem to remember at the last ACS national meeting there were several organizations recruiting US scientists for jobs in Europe, and I think there was one specific to Germany. I don't have their contact info, but the list of exhibitors must still be available online somewhere."

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  4. If you want to work in Germany your best bet might be to do a master's or Ph.D. there. I am a US citizen and have worked in the Netherlands, lived unemployed in Italy and visited Germany many times. Any North American I found doing science anywhere in Europe was either a Ph.D. student or post-doc. While I haven't been hired in Germany, I did make a contact at P&G in Germany who encouraged me to apply, so they are open to hiring US scientists. I don't know how the system is in Germany but next door (The Netherlands) there is a lot of bureaucracy, and a lot of things the bureaucrats told me was completely wrong, but it doesn't really matter other than pointless field trips to government buildings. If you can get a job offer in Germany I would take it.

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  5. ChemBob sent me.

    I just recieved a post doctoral position in deutschland. Ich verstehe deutsch sehr ein bissen. I'd suggest looking at different group web pages at schools you'd like to apply. Find one with a largely international line up and it's pretty solid that you'll have no problems in terms of language. Getting a visa and the paper work for germany is a nightmare. You need to first get accepted to the school (you'll probably have to argue for a tourist visa, they will tell you, no as an american you don't need this, but most likely the school does before they can give you an offer) and check whether or not that relies on you owning a visa. Once you're accepted and have lodging lined up you can (in germany or before you go) apply for an extended residence or study visa. I would check out germany.info for the details on visa applications.

    I think it's best that you send e-mails to professors before applying and just dicuss with them that you want to study in Germany and you're form the US. Ask them if they would consider taking you and send your letters of recommendation to them. Then get them to help you with the school bureaucratics like applications and acceptance.

    -Moving to Münster in a month ;)

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  6. One other suggestion is to check with a German embassy here in the U.S., if there is one near where you live (or call them if you are further away). They usually have insight into general questions about working in Germany. Ich druecke Dir die Daumen! (sorry, can't figure out how to do umlauts on this keyboard...)

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    1. Exactly that. You need to check with the German embassy here to get a visa to initially get employment or go to school in Germany. As an american, you get 90 free days to enter germany but most schools can't just give you entrance without you actually obtaining a visa. So you'll have to contact the german consulate here in the US. There are only a handful of them in the large cities but you can find them at www.germany.info.

      Also, an umlaut can be made with alt+129.
      (ü alt+129, ö alt+148, ß alt+225)

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  7. The German demographics are terrible, so they will need a lot of qualified workers in the near future and in the long term. They are already starting to suck the European periphery countries, making those states' economic problems much worse since all the young and qualified people are leaving. At least the Spanish immigrants have a Euro passport though and for an American it'll be tougher. You can check out DAAD as they have some visa programs for Canadians and Americans to come and work in Germany for half a year and you can find a temporary job and that would be a way to break into the system.

    The best way would be to sign up for a PhD and learn German and the labor market while you're there. Too bad they don't have the old 90s program where they gave a passport to any ethnic German from the former Soviet Union. Probably at least a million new citizens right there that they got during the 90s. Maybe if Germany gets really desperate due to its collapsing workforce, they'll start up the program again for Americans with German, ahem... blood, as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have been sucked dry. I'm just guessing the letter writer is ethnic German or something.

    www.daad.de/deutschland/in-deutschland/arbeit/en/9149-completing-an-internship/

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  8. As a German who makes his PhD in Jerusalem/Israel, I can't answer you most of your questions. But I can tell you that the degree of using german/english depends on the company. In some companies (like Sandoz) and departments, the standard communication language is English and all of the emails have to be written in English (at least in theory). In other companies like BASF, German is also used as the standard communication language in the research departments and foreigners are promoted (or forced) to learn German. And as in Israel, Germans have usually at least a basic english knowledge (especially younger ones), but as written in other comments, there are also exceptions. Starting to learn German is Plus! Everyone likes it, if you show, that you are also interested in the language and the country.
    Because Germans are well organized, you can apply now or if you are interested in a special research group or company, you can call them (via Skype) and asking for jobs starting in summer. If you are interested, you should also have a look at trainee programs. Usually, you find information about these porgrams on the websites of the companies. It's difficult to find such job adverts somewhere else.
    On the one side, 90% of the chemical students make a PhD but on the other side, not all of the companies only look for students with a PhD degree also in biomedicine/biochemistry. They also accept masters students.

    Writing umlauts is very simple when using a german keyboard: Ä..

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  9. @Concrete Dovetail - from what I've heard about P&G they rarely offer an international assignment as the first onboarding assignment. Usually folks get in by starting in their home country. After getting some experience (and promoted to a certain level) people may move to international sites temporarily or permanently.

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    1. That sounds reasonable, but the connection I had wanted me to work in his division in Germany. In fact I asked him for help in getting me an interview for a position the US. He did, but nothing panned out. I thought my overall growth (and chances my spouse, who is also a Ph.D. chemist, finds a job) would be better in the US economy. In hindsight I think I may have made a mistake.

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  10. If this were a person interested in working in the general chemical industry rather than in biomedicine/biotech, I would recommend they look into working for an American subsidiary of a German company. This is one way of eventually getting an assignment in Germany. Companies like Bayer, Lanxess, Byk Chemie, all the Evonik companies, BASF, Clariant, Henkel, and probably a few others. And make certain to include in your cover letter that you are learning German and would welcome the opportunity to work in Germany. At least it would help you stand out from the crowd.

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  11. I am an American chemist working in Germany. There is a new immigration program aimed at encouraging individuals with college degrees to move to Germany (http://www.bluecard-eu.de/eu-blue-card-germany/). Current German demographic trends indicate more educated workers are needed than the rate that Germany is producing them. I would certainly look at all the big chemical companies listed previously but also try and find smaller firms that are working in the biomedical/chemical field. These companies may be more willing to take a chance on a “foreign” worker. I have a number of US friends here that just moved to Germany and found a job during the 6 months that a tourist visa allows. Another good website about living and working in Germany is here: http://www.howtogermany.com/

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  12. The European Career Fair at MIT is a good source for jobs in Germany. The resume submission deadline for this year is--yikes--in two days. You don't have to be a student at MIT. I'm American, but I got an onsite interview with P&G in Germany at that fair and then an invite to an interview in Germany (shortly thereafter they froze hiring...whoops). If you have EU work permission or anything that helps your case, put that into the first lines of your resume. Their resumes look really different than ours and include a photo and birth date. Try and find an example online (try typing into "google.de" some of these terms: beispiel lebenslauf bewerbung). I don't want to paint too rosy a picture, though. I never landed a German position, despite knowing the language, having studied there, and having work permission. It will be really hard to get a job. But...submit your resume to the career fair and GOOD LUCK!!!!!

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  13. A non-German citizen is a different thing than a non-EU citizen!

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  14. Not worth wasting time finding a position in Germany. Pay is much better in US and UK, ppl are more open minded. Here in Germany, the govt is open enough to issue you all permissions if you produce work contract. But problem is with companies, they are very very strong headed not to hire a foreigner, even with German they would come back with leider response saying your German is not good enough.. They would wait endless time to find a right candidate. In short, it is not worth wasting productive age in finding a job in Germany.

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