The Berlin Life

When You've Changed Employers Multiple Times in Germany

publishedabout 2 months ago
3 min read

Guten tag Reader -

Hope you're all having a great weekend so far! Today, we're here to talk about when you've changed employers multiple times in Germany and how that can impact your job search.

Let's dive in:

Companies tend to look unfavorably at candidates who've changed employers multiple times, automatically assuming the reasons behind the moves were somehow your fault. They incorrectly perceive there must be something wrong with you - that you're someone who chronically gets fired or are a disloyal employee who is always seeking something better, somewhere else.

Some people will tell you that Germans tend to stay at their jobs for a lifetime and are extremely suspicious of candidates who've moved around a lot. In both Canada and Germany, I've seen people's career movements being factored into the decision about whether or not to hire someone. This isn't something that's unique to Germany.

Before we unpack how wrong all of the above is, let me again recap my story:

  • I moved back to Berlin in November 2014, working for a small startup as a scrum master
  • After 6 months, the company tanked financially and I was forced to seek new employment
  • By November 2015, I started a new job where I tried out a new career as a content writer
  • Then in January 2016, my entire team was laid off as part of a large-scale downscaling exercise and I found myself back in the job-seeking boat once more
  • March rolled around and I started another job as a scrum master
  • Managing to stay in one place for a while, my company started laying people for financial reasons and in the spring of 2017, I found myself looking for work ... again
  • By July 2017, I started my next gig as an Agile Coach
  • I stayed with this company for three+ years, but their business was greatly impacted by the pandemic and in the spring of 2020, I sought out a new job
  • December 2020 saw me begin my latest position as a team coach where I just celebrated my two-year anniversary

So you can see that I've moved around a lot since I moved to Germany. And for sure, my career movements have been subjected to a fair amount of scrutiny while I've been looking for work. Without knowing my story, a lot of people jump to unfairly false conclusions.

If you read through the events above, you can see that I was never fired and I didn't change jobs because I was relentlessly ambitious and opportunistic (not that there's anything wrong with this at all).

The simple explanation is that I chose to work for startups where high churn rates are a normal occurrence. In fact, some locals go as far as to say you're not a real Berliner unless you've been made redundant at least once or more. Talking with others in Berlin over the years, I came to see that my story wasn't unique and it happens to plenty of others.

Yet, despite all of this, time and time again, I've had to defend myself. During interviews, I confidently repeat my story, and factually recount the events as they occurred. When people listen, they quickly come to realize that frequent career movement is an ugly reality for many job seekers.

Not hiring someone because they've changed companies on numerous occasions, to put it mildly, is ... foolish.

The fact is nowadays people don't stay in one company their entire life - even Germans. It's commonplace to move around in many industries, whether you get laid off, or simply sought out an opportunity. Even if you've been fired, employers aren't permitted to disclose this, nor give a bad reference.

Furthermore, no one is indebted to a company after being hired. Loyalty is an outdated notion in these times. You work for someone because they pay you to do something, nothing more. It's a commercial (and very capitalist) transaction and ultimately, you're just a number - if the situation calls for it, they won't hesitate to lay you off, stop giving raises, and more.

Good hiring managers won't judge you for having moved around but in any case, if you find yourself being asked questions during an interview in Germany, do what I did:

  • Be confident and speak about why you left the company.
  • Keep your explanation brief and to the point. You don't need to get into too many details.
  • Stick to the facts and don't exaggerate.
  • Even if you had a negative experience working somewhere, find a way to spin it in a diplomatic way

Some things I've said:

About a company with precarious finances:

I loved my time at <company name>, but sadly they experienced financial difficulties and I had to move on.

When leaving a job because of a toxic workplace:

I spent a year at <company name> but found the place wasn't what I expected. I appreciated my time there and learned a lot, but decided on seeking out new opportunities.

Leaving for career growth or more money:

I enjoyed my time at <company name> but when I saw an opportunity at <company name>, I knew I had to apply as it was a dream place for me to work. I still maintain good relations with my former employer and would possibly work for them again in the future.

I hope this may help you out as you're undertaking your job search in Germany.

Until next time,

Founder - The Berlin Life