When international professionals describe Chris Pyak, they usually say: “He is not a typical German.” Chris takes this as a compliment. The managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH opens doors for expats into the German job market. Chris just published his first book “How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans. The Expats’ Guide To A Career in Germany.”
We talked with Chris Pyak about jobs, emancipation and potatoes.
Q: Chris, you choose a rather unusual title for your book…
CP: Yes, (laugh). A few years back I presented a candidate to a company in Munsterland, Germany. The head of HR rejected her with the argument: “I can’t evaluate that foreign university.” The candidate had a degree from Cambridge.
German HR manager are often stuck in the past. There is a beautiful quote from Douglas Adams: “It’s a mistake to believe that you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.” That’s what employers in Germany are trying to do: They want to hire international professionals who are exactly as Germans. German language, German degree, Lederhosen. (We don’t wear them actually)
Q: And the other side?
CP: Expats often struggle to adapt to their change in status. We are all defined by our environment. In your home country you are a respected professional. You have lots of experience with famous companies. You have a huge network of friends, former colleagues and employers who can vouch for the quality of your work. So, naturally you get a lot of job offers.
Then you come to Germany and none of this is true anymore. No one has ever heard of the companies that you used to work for. No one knows the people that you give as a reference, and therefore no one takes their recommendation into account. You are a question mark for German employers. I believe that is unfair. In my book I give advice on how to solve this problem.
Q: But the German economy is booming. And there is lots of talk about labour shortage. Clearly there should be a huge market for skilled professionals?
There is. We at Immigrant Spirit GmbH analyse the complete German job market. We scan more than 40.000 job portals, career services, company websites – and we filter all the English job offers that we find and put them on one side: http://www.immigrantspirit.com.
There are over 700.000 open positions in Germany as of today. Do you know how many of them are in English? 20.000. That’s three percent.
Q: How does this affect expatriates?
CP: Well, do you speak German? That’s the first question that employers will ask you. If the answer is “no” – then 97 percent of all job opportunities disappear.
Q: Some expats might think: “20.000 jobs is okay. I just need one.”
CP: Immigration has changed over the last few decades. Nowadays it’s mostly well educated, experienced people who move to Germany. The majority are fellow European citizens, then there are the actual immigrants – who also own a university degree in the majority of cases – and then there are people like myself: Germans who had been living abroad and repatriate at some point in their life. In total that’s 1.2 million people moving to Germany every single year.
1.2 million professionals apply for 20.000 jobs. Do the math. One of my clients is Trivago in Düsseldorf. They work in English – and they get 40.000 job applications every single month.
Q: So, what is the way forward for international talent in Germany?
CP: You need to enter the “German speaking” job market as fast as possible. There you go from “one in a million” to “She’s the one.” The good news: You are able to do this, before you are fluent in German. You can start right now. That’s what I explain step by step in “How To Get Jobs & Influence German.”
Q: Thank you Chris.