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Do a Voluntary Internship and Become a Sought-After Candidate


A voluntary internship – Have you thought about doing one but decided against it? This post will help you clear through confusion and uncover a  unique path to get a kick-start for your career in Germany.

If you don’t have that much time or money is tight, you’ll eventually decide against an extra and  internship. Even though you’d really like to go for it. After all, your parents are waiting for the amount of money invested in you to pay off. Maybe like many students you already work part-time to pay the rent  and a full fridge.

By going for a voluntary internship after second or third Semester, you’ll probably postpone your last exam. Consider the pros and cons in your personal case. It’s natural to wonder whether it’s all worth the effort.

In this post:

  • How my own life changed after doing an voluntary internship in a software Company in Munich
  • What German employers expect of graduates
  • Reasons for seriously considering an voluntary internship
  • What to consider

Doing a internship: My wake-up call

I want to stir you up a little in telling you the story of the voluntary internship I did during my studies. For 6 months I was part of a software company in Munich. Thank god, they gave me a small salary and a place in the company flat. That really helped a lot.

Working in the International Dealer Department was a shock.  It was not only absolutely boring!  But also such a bad working atmosphere. And I made everything false. Don’t know why. It was a punch in the gut most days. Afterwards, I thought about quitting and starting a carpentry apprenticeship. Yes, that’ how frustrated I was. But I found the turning point after all. Back in Paderborn, I reflected upon what I really enjoy and were able to do well.

And then I tackled it: I searched a job, modified my major fields of study, obtained a special permit for my diploma thesis and then began working as a freelancer in education and training. It wasn’t until the very end of my studies when I applied for permanent positions. Shortly I was in the first interviews, and they all asked me in detail how I could contribute my practical knowledge to their company. Then I was offered a terrific field to work in and immediately began working. After months I realized that I had forgotten to take my last oral exam ….

What German companies want from newcomers to the job market

In utterly telling you what exactly German companies expect from graduates and young professionals, I researched and found some surveys and studies from 2017. The university education report, statements from the Association of German Employers as well as a HR survey with the participation of McKinsey.

And here they are, the top 3 – requirements for University graduates. Don’t be surprised, all three are closely connected with internships.

Top 1 : Practice, Practice, Practice

First and foremost is the desire for practical experience – in one survey (with Kienbaum 2017) 81% of all companies surveyed said this.  They understand it to mean any connection between theory and practice, such as an internship, the processing of practical projects or a thesis dealing with a practical topic. And the more your practical knowledge is related to your later job, the better.

Lots of people think studies in Germany are already very practice-oriented. But that’ s not the case in all subjects, more is possible even in technical disciplines. That’s explaining why in 2017 the Association of German Employers calls on German higher education policy to “significantly expand the practical orientation of study courses through (voluntary) internships and through project-oriented and problem-oriented

What I find extremely exciting here is that practical experience is rated more important for future applicants than their final grade or sticking to the standard period of study. That’s why I believe that investing in an voluntary internship means investing in your future.

Top 2: Foreign language skills

Foreign language skills are number 2 on the employers’ wish list. This always includes English, followed by French or Spanish.

1:0 for you! Because you probably speak perfectly English or French, dont’t you.

Unfortunately, we don’t consider German to be a foreign language.  It’s not ‘nice to have’, but is the basis of the German working world.  B2 is hightly recommended, B1 is a start. And you Need practice to talk shop with your colleagues or to grasp the customer’s requirements for new projects.

Top 3: Dealing with new Technologies

The precise meaning of “new technologies” depends on what the field of work and the industry are. Every company first considers itself and the technology that is used in the company itself or that is about to be introduced. But that the technologies you learn during your studies also correspond to those in the company’s technologies is far from being said. It’ s even possible that the software products or machine controls in high demand may not be learnt at your university.

There are students who do not come into contact with SAP at university, do not know Beckhoff machine controllers or have never met a Tool and Factory Director. No problem, just make sure you learn all the skills needed for the Job you want.

How you benefit from an internship

A total of 6 Benefits provide you with a significant Advantage for your career. They will turn you into a very attractive applicant for a company. It will also make it easier for you to position yourself well in the competitive arena for awesome vacancies.

#1 Practical Insight into your Desired Field of Activity.

You can jump into work life, get familiar with project work, watch new products being developed in research and learn to interact with colleagues in the work process. You get a good chance to apply concepts and strategies from your academic studies in the workplace.   That’s how you’ll develop an understanding of how work is done in Germany and what challenges there are.

#2 Practice the German Language

The best way to learn a language is to use it daily. This works especially well at the work place if you listen to, read and speak German throughout the day.

You just mustn’t fall into the language trap:  Many of us Germans will be very happy to speak English to you, because they consider you a guest at the company. Because otherwise there is no opportunity for them to practise English, and things can get faster.  But keep in mind: If you keep answering in German, everybody will understand that you are extremely serious about learning German. Then we will all be happy to support you and look forward to every sentence you say in German.

#3 You get to know Our German Working World

You get to know our beautiful Prussian virtues of which we are so proud 😉 like punctuality and reliability. You become familiar with the social rules at meetings, learn to behave correctly in the breaks, learn how to greet each other, get routine with “Du” and “Sie”and don’t wonder anymore (or only little 😉) about our fact and result orientation in projects.

It’ll be fun! Every day there is something new to learn and you will grow. By and by find out how it’s like to work in Germany. When you’re in an interviews, it’ll be easy for you to illustrate your personal work style and to present yourself and your personal qualities.

#4 You get to know Technologies used in the Company

If you are a darling of fortune, you’ll work in the department you’ve wished for. You can familiarize yourself with the software or machine control used. Some students have dealt with certain very company-specific software…. .and then, after graduating, focused on applying for jobs in which this software was a prerequisite of a vacancy. This way, job seeking is EXTERMLY easy!

#5 You’ll receive a German Internship Certificate

A German certificate (“Arbeitszeugnis”) is unique in form and content all over the world. It lists your tasks in detail and describes your work behavior with regard to performance, learning and interaction with other people. Extremely valuable to you as an international person is also the date and stamp of your certificate. Without exaggeration: this is worth gold to you! Like a quality mark of a German company.  You don’t get it tattooed on your forehead, but it clearly signals to any recruiter that you are ” tested ” and trustworthy.

#6 Turbo for Your Personality Development

With your choice to do an free and voluntary internship you prove your courage once more. You get to know new colleagues and enter a completely new environment. You will learn how to make contact, exchange personal and professional experiences and make new friends.

#7 Reflection and Strategy for Study and Job Search

After completing your internship, you will know your core strengths. And you might want to adapt your further studies accordingly.

In addition, you’ ve learned different tasks and roles. You’ re much more likely to know which job you wanna do later. While other students struggle to decide which positions to apply for before graduating, you’ ve made first contacts with the world of work and gained a concrete picture of your dream job.

#8 Boost Your Market Value

Your applications for jobs will be much easier and smoother. Recruiters appreciate and value your practical experience, motivation and commitment. You’ ll have a better chance of getting an interview. And in the interview itself – you will be able to argue far more convincingly why you are so well-suited for such a position.

Questions like ” What are your strengths” and “Why should we hire you” you can surely answer with elegance. The recruiters will sooner trust you to have the right skills for the job.  This increases your prospects of winning a good position quickly.

When to start applying for a voluntary internship

Well, it takes up to 6 months to apply for an internship. This is a rule of thumb to make plans.

In larger companies, vacancies are advertised regularly. In this case a job advertisement includes a fixed date for the start, the department and the tasks. And it’ s also very well possible to apply unsolicited for an internship. In this case it is absolutely necessary that you reflect on the department and what you want to learn before applying.

Hope you can take some benefits out this stuff –  I really appreciate your reading to the end.

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