Come to Germany, Pepe. 3.0_ Chapter II. First steps
After our introduction, here are the first suggestions to make the starting entry a little bit easier. Since we wrote our best-seller with suggestions about how to find a job as a young architect, we have realized that even though some of the tips might seem blatantly obvious, it’s never over the top to make them totally explicit.
(If possible) get really serious with the German language.
If you already have some knowledge of the language, improve upon it as much as possible. If you haven’t started studying German yet but you are planning to go to Germany, start hitting the books as soon as possible and study a lot. It will be better if you can start before arriving.
Some of you will say that with English you can get by, and to a certain extent that is true. I know a decent amount of people that came to Germany with null Deutsch and they were able to start working; as interns, AiPs, etc.
However, getting by isn’t exactly sustaining oneself here, and it falls very short from realizing your full potential. You can be a fantastic architect but if your German language level isn’t at least a B2, you may very well realize, to your own discomfort, that your salary will be significantly less than other colleagues who are less qualified than you. Of course, it is also true that I am almost certain that this reduced salary will continue to be ostensibly better than anything that you could manage to earn in Spain.
The German language is difficult. It is complex with a lot of structures that will seem foreign to anyone coming from a Latin based language, but that doesn’t make it impossible to learn. The ideas of word gender and verb declination are tricky, but if you are an architect that means that you’ve passed at least a few courses of structural calculus and installations… and if you managed to get over that bar that was set high, you will also be able to make due with German.
Prepare your portfolio in function of your objective.
Do you want to work as a BIM specialist? Forget architectural competitions.
Do you want to work in competitions? Blow them away, and it’s even better if you have already obtained results. Do you want to work in detailed projects with construction documents? Be sure to fill your portfolio with details (1:5 here is what we’re used to seeing every day) and with constructive sections… It may seem obvious, but the hiring team isn’t going to waste time going over details and projects that aren’t what they are looking for.
The level of specialization is something that is really surprising here, especially for those of us that have been around the block and we’ve had to do a bit of everything. If you are interested in specializing in one specific subject, search it out and I am sure that you will find something. Keep in mind to be consistent in your search. If you’re looking for structural calculus, don’t go out searching in architectural studios, look in Statiker or Ingenieur Büros. The fact that you are an architect doesn’t mean that you can only work in architecture firms. Construction companies, developers, design studios, BIM consultants, structural designers… The market is incredibly diverse and there is a lot of work in all branches.
Do some networking.
Ever since coining the phrase, I am a steadfast defender of ’be the network’ (the tag line “in the network” is apocryphal), and the truth is that I have forgotten the path that is usually taken because here in Germany the typical social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are hardly used at all on a professional level (another interesting topic for future chapters) but there are other digital spaces where it’s possible to move oneself. Xing is fundamental here, and slightly less but still used, LinkedIn positions itself as a space where many foreigners continue to maintain their profiles.
If you find a company or firm where you would like to work, go to their website and look for Spaniards among their employees. If you find someone, that’s a good sign; it means that they are open to the idea of an international team. Look him or her up on social networking sites and comment about your interest in forming part of the team. I am sure that this person will be happy to help you just as much as he would have been happy to have someone else help him.