IS CHANGING EMPLOYERS IN GERMANY A GOOD IDEA?
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 and assume the worst – that you’re someone who chronically gets fired or are a disloyal employee who is always seeking something better, somewhere else. Without even inviting you to an interview, it’s quite possible for a recruiter or hiring manager to reject your job application completely.
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 (where I’m from) and Germany, I’ve seen people’s career movements being factored into the decision about whether or not to hire them. This isn’t something that’s unique to German work culture.
So what’s it really like in Germany? Does switching companies or changing employers in Germany impact your ability to find work?
DOES CHANGING EMPLOYERS IN GERMANY IMPACT YOUR ABILITY TO FIND WORK?
Before we unpack how wrong all of the above is, let me recap my personal story:
1) I moved to Berlin in November 2014, working for a small startup as a scrum master
2) After 6 months, the company tanked financially and I was forced to seek new employment elsewhere
3) By November 2015, I started a new job where I tried out a new career as a marketing content writer
4) 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
5) March rolled around and I started another job as a scrum master
6) 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
7) By July 2017, I started my next gig as an Agile Coach
8) I stayed with this company for three+ years, but when their business was adversely impacted by the pandemic, I sought out a new job in the summer of 2020
9) Fast forward to December 2020, I took up my latest position as a team coach
10) When financial difficulties struck my place of work, I didn’t wait to be laid off. I’ll be starting a new job in September 2023.
It’s fair to say 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, many people have jumped to unfairly false and baseless conclusions about my character and capability.
Frequently Changing Employers Is Way More Normal Than People Know
If you read through the series of events depicted in my career journey above, you can see that I was never fired once and I didn’t change jobs because I was relentlessly ambitious and opportunistic (not that there’s anything wrong with this either).
The simple explanation is that I chose to work for startups where restructuring and business closures are normal occurrences. In fact, 90% of all startups are doomed to fail! Some locals go as far as to say you’re not a real Berliner unless you’ve been made redundant at least one or more times. From talking with countless Berliners over the years, I came to see that my story wasn’t unique and it happens to plenty of others.
The fact is nowadays people don’t stay in one company their entire life, even Germans. It’s commonplace to move around, whether you get laid off or simply seek out an opportunity. And even if you’ve been fired, German employers aren’t permitted to disclose this, nor give a bad reference.
Recommended reading: Our guide, How to Quit Your Job in Germany: A Step-by-Step Guide
Furthermore, no one is indebted to a company. Loyalty to a financial entity is an outdated notion reserved for boomers. 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.
Frequently Changing Jobs May Still Be Held Against You
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 actually listen, they quickly understand that frequent career movement is an ugly reality for many job seekers in Berlin or elsewhere in the world. Changing employers in Germany has impacted my job search whether I like it or not.
Honestly, if you’re a qualified candidate and a company decides not to even interview because you’ve changed companies on numerous occasions, to put it mildly … is foolish. To put it bluntly, it’s stupid. Unfortunately, it’s quite commonplace to not even get an interview because your job application is rejected by an ignorant recruiter or hiring manager due to your employment history.
How You Can Overcome The Bias
Good companies won’t judge you for frequently changing employers in Germany but in any case, there are things you can proactively do to minimize any potential bias.
For job applications:
1) You don’t have to highlight every single place you’ve ever worked on your CV. If there were jobs where you only stayed for a brief amount of time or you worked in an unrelated job that doesn’t fit into your overall career profile, leave it out completely. For example, I don’t include the time I worked as a marketing content writer on my current CV, which is way more scrum master and coach focused.
2) It might be unconventional but you can address the issue head-on in your cover letter by providing a short, fact-based explanation for your career movements.
1) Be confident and prepared to speak about why you left the company. You can write down notes and practice your answers beforehand.
2) Keep your explanation brief and to the point. You don’t need to get into too many details or answer uncomfortable questions.
4) Stick to the facts and don’t exaggerate.
5) Even if you had a negative experience working somewhere, find a way to portray it in a positive light.
Leaving a company with precarious finances: I loved my time at <company name>, but sadly they experienced financial difficulties and I was let go during restructuring efforts. I still keep in contact with my former manager and team.
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.
If you need interview tips, check out our detailed guide to job interviews in Germany.
Is Changing Employers In Germany A Good Idea?
The brutal truth is that changing jobs frequently could very well impact your job search efforts. Whether you’re laid off, quit because of a toxic workplace, or simply found a new opportunity elsewhere, don’t take it personally if you find yourself rejected, and for sure, don’t let it hold you back from going somewhere new.
Stay strong and keep up the job search and you’ll eventually land at a good company.
Frequently changing employers in Germany is normal and doesn’t reflect poorly on you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
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Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life
Hi, I’m Cheryl. My mission is to help you move to Berlin and find work.
A Canadian in Berlin for 10+ years, I have the unique experience of moving to Berlin – not once, but twice. During my time in Berlin, I’ve had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and a permanent employee for numerous Berlin companies. I even managed to find a new job during the pandemic and again in 2023, during Germany’s recession and massive layoffs in tech.
My day job has involved work as a hiring manager, overseeing the recruitment of countless people, as well as a team coach helping teams and individuals work better and find happiness in their careers. Through my side projects, I’ve also shared my personal experiences by publishing a series of helpful blog posts, creating a thriving community of job seekers, and hosting events to help people find work in Berlin. In 2021, I decided to put my coaching and recruiting talents to use by creating The Berlin Life, bringing my existing content and community together in one spot.
The combination of my personal and professional experience means I know exactly what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.