As a leading healthcare recruiting firm, EGV Recruiting, has helped a great number of doctors to start their medical careers in Germany. The following article underlines the guidelines for immigrants in general to climb up the career ladder in Germany by following some simple steps. These general principles apply to any career and are fundamentally linked to the need of integration in a foreign country. We chose this general article also due to the fact that it is not uncommon to have candidates that are doctors but have husbands or wives that are not doctors.
Immigrants have traditionally had a tough time when trying to launch professional careers in Germany, but thanks to globalization, their prospects are drastically improving.
When Liu Zhengrong came to Germany 20 years ago, like so many other students from abroad, he had to do his fair share of odd jobs to keep his head above water. He waited tables in a Chinese restaurant, delivered newspapers and worked in printing shops and factories.
â€œIt would be a bit of an exaggeration to say that I had a plan back then,â€ Liu says today. His job prospects in Germany were, to be honest, bleak. The subjects heâ€™d studied â€“ education and political science â€“ didnâ€™t really qualify him for a career in business. This did not bode well considering immigrant graduates typically experience more difficulties on the labor market than their domestic counterparts.
Against the odds
Only a third of non-German graduates find jobs that match their qualifications, says Ingrid Jungwirth, a migration researcher at Berlinâ€™s Humboldt University. For native Germans, however, the success rate is twice as high.
The disparity also applies to management and leadership positions: Close to 17 percent of German university graduates end up in management, while only 8 percent of immigrant graduates manage to get a foothold on the career ladder.
Given these statistics, few people would be surprised if Liu Zhengrong was still working on a factory floor as a laborer. That is not the case, however. Today, Liu is a staff manager at Leverkursen-based pharmaceutical group Lanxess and is responsible for around 15000 employees. When he took the job seven years ago, there were reservations, he admits, partially because of his background, but also because at the time, he was considered comparatively young for such a position, at the age of 35.
â€œOf course, many people asked whether or not I would understand them at all? Can he manage this?â€ says Liu. â€œI had to prove through my work, through my behavior, that I was capable. And I was more or less successful.â€
No career without a network
Prior to joining Lanxess, Liuâ€™s career path had been long and winding. His fortunes changed when, as a student, he was hired to manage Chinese lessons for Lanxessâ€™ parent company, Bayer. He was then asked if he wanted to help build a training and education system for the company in China. In this capacity, he met a number of executives who recognized his abilities and duly promoted him.
â€œOtherwise, with the combination of subjects I had studied, it would have been much more difficult to gain a foothold in the business,â€ says Liu. Eventually, he was offered his position within the personnel department at Lanxess.
Ingrid Jungwirth says this highlights the fact that itâ€™s often not enough for people to display exceptional skills in their jobs, especially in the cas of migrants. â€œIt is crucial in all highly qualified professions to have networks and to be informed,â€ she says.
Jungwirth encourages anyone wanting to kick-start their career to systematically build contact by getting involved in professional associations, for example.
Nowadays, in the executive suites of many global corporations, having a foreign background is often regarded as a plus.
â€œMost companies operate globally and are therefore looking quite consciously for people from all over the world to reflect the internationalism of the organization,â€ says Sorge Drosten, managing director of recruitment firm Kienbaum Executinve Consultants International. For the headhunter, having international clients is now the status quo. Dorsten says around a third of the executives his company places come from abroad.
In the international elite labor market, origin has often played an ancillary role. However, the situation is much different for the individuals who donâ€™t come to Germany as internationally sought top executives.
â€œWhen you immigrate without a job in the pipeline then itâ€™s really tough,â€ says Ingrid Jungwirth. In this case, migrants have to try to find internships, part-time work or seek further qualifications to break into their desired field.
Integration as a career prerequisite
Drosten says those wishing to come to Germany should not be discouraged by this. In the next 10-20 years, he says there will be excellent opportunities in Europeâ€™s largest economy.
â€œGiven the demographic gap, there will be many, many ways to move up the ladder quickly here,â€ he says, adding that it is important that migrants try to integrate by learning the German language and building a network of friends.
But professional excellence and German language skills alone are often not enough to forge a successful career in Germany â€“ a point Liu Zhengrong emphasizes over and over again. Migrants should be interested in their surroundings, he says: â€œWithout integration, moving up in a multinational company is not conceivable.â€
Liu says he still considers his days as a waiter and paper delivery boy of great value: â€œIt helped me experience and get to know many different facets of German society â€“ and first hand, too.â€
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