A couple of recent mentoring sessions ended with mentees asking how to find a job in Berlin, particularly asking about English-speaking opportunities. While I could share my own experience of moving here from Dubai, I asked fellow mentors from the Mentoring Club: Büşra Coşkuner (Product Consultant), Fani Bahar (Product @ VMWare Pivotal Labs), Pavlo Voznenko (CTO, Instamotion) & Rahul Jain (Principal EM, Omio). for some tips. And like great mentors, they were kind to share their expertise.
1. Reflect on why you want to move 🪞
No one leaves home without a reason, but it’s important to articulate your own. While it’s mostly one of career advancement, quality of life, or cultural curiosity, your individual priorities might differ. Not only does reflection help decide, it also helps trade off – as most moves require.
💡 Tip #1 Evaluate objectively: Identify and rank your criteria from what matter most to what you can let go. Don’t let gut decide.
Rahul suggests probing into reasons, evaluating the decision objectively and noting fundamental differences between locations. EU is less capitalist (more socialist) than the US, implying lower disposable income, but great public health care. The US is ahead in tech, offers more opportunities, lesser bureaucracy and doesn’t need a new language.
My journey: I moved for quality of life and to experience a new culture, which I traded off with tax-free income, luxury and proximity from home. No regrets. I evaluated my priorities using this decision framework (spreadsheet linked).
2. Short list countries & cities to live in 🌍
Selecting cities needs way more than looking at a map. You have to understand the supply-demand for roles you’re seeking, immigration barriers (language, visa, residency) and cost of living.
As Pavlo pointed, moving with a partner broadens your options. That way, the one whose role has higher demand can pioneer, while the other can bridge barriers and eventually land a job. He also notes the option of studying in Germany, which promotes internship as a means of entry.
💡 Tip #2 Reach out: to your network — friends, family, professional contacts or a mentor — with clear context and questions. Don’t confuse them with asking help finding you a job.
My journey: I was approached to work with Landmark, but the move to Berlin was more intentional given its underdog status and fast-growing tech scene. Lucky enough, I had 2 very close friends in Dubai, and new contacts I asked help with Berlin were kind to respond to my questions.
3. Understand what’s expected of your role 🎩
Roles & responsibilities for the same title or nature, not only vary across companies, but also across countries. A senior (product manager or engineer) title in India might often map to a Professional level in Germany. Both actually mean you have achieved competency and are ready to lead or advance, but called very different. I did this for over a month (before peak job season) before starting to apply.
💡 Tip #3 Match & Watch: Scan LinkedIn or Xing for people in your desired location, in roles that use your skills. Their profiles will give you a sense of job titles and what’s expected in that region. Then, set job alerts for those job titles on LinkedIn, Indeed, StepStone, etc. (also useful for the next tip).
Both, Büşra and Fani, admitted that, experience is generally favorable when moving. Everyone in Fani’s expat network moved to Germany in senior positions. But she has seen several start-ups hire junior positions to work remotely (🤫 that’s tip #5).
Why? The supply for an experienced skill-set is lower and salaries are higher. As Büşra notes, the former helps companies justify hiring from abroad, while the latter benefits administrations and persuades softer visa requirements — lowering the barriers we touched in step 2.
4. Start applying from where you are 🏡
Too often people ask if they need to be on the ground. May be. But personally I think you can de-risk the possibility of landing interviews without it. If you get through that, companies will fly you over to meet in person. But getting there takes several meaningful applications. This means you have a 80% match to the advertised role, and have meticulously conveyed that through the application. Be patient. Ask feedback at whichever stage you’re rejected. Repeat, until you have optimised every stage of the funnel. If feedback reveals an evident gap (not seen through step 3), don’t hesitate to pausing your search and work on the gap first. This could for example warrant learning the local language.
💡 Tip #4 Apply with purpose: Don’t spam your resume; its sloppy & you might even be blocked by ATSs. Always write a cover letter to humanise your application. No, completing CAPTCHA isn’t enough.
My journey: I had ample canned responses before I landed some interviews in 2016. I replied back to each one seeking any feedback I could get to improve.
5. Experience international culture working remotely 🎉
If you’re looking to move, you have your reasons. But if your answer to step 1 was ‘cultural curiosity’ or ‘international exposure’, this can give you a jump start and allow relocation within the company at a later stage. If you’re actually happier being close to home, this can work out great. Another way to get started on this cultural exploration is to read The Culture Map by Erin Meyer.
Except for taxation issues, COVID lowered all barriers to make this real. By the way, what’s your COVID story?
I hope you find this a useful start to your dreams. If there’s anything I can clarify further, feel free to ask here or talk to me.