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Come to Germany, Pepe. 3.0 _ Chapter III. So I’ve Got an Interview. Now What?

Get ready to work.

Yes, I know, I know. We’ve all worked hard and we’re all very stoical about it. I was a freelance architect in Spain for ten years (and even managed to keep my studio open), so I think I have a certain sense of perspective and first-hand knowledge about how, and how much, we work there in my native country. But I can assure you that I’ve never worked so hard, with so much sustained concentration over so many successive days, as I’ve done here in Germany. You’ve all done those massive jobs where you have to work flat out for 14-16 hours, right? But in those jobs, in Spain at least, you can get up from your desk, chat to colleagues, edit your Spotify playlist…. Not here. Here, if your working day is an eight-hour day, you work for EIGHT HOURS, only stopping for 30-60 minutes to eat. And that’s it. You spend all eight of those hours doing nothing else but work.

Negotiating employment conditions is crucial.

Here, you negotiate everything, before you start. And when I say everything, I mean                  E V E R Y T H I N G. That includes things like the number of days off, timetables, reduced schedules, company-paid transport expenses, crèche for the kids, company payment of your obligatory training at the Architects’ Association (I’ll come back to that later), and the hours of voluntary, unpaid overtime you’re prepared to put in per month (I’ll explain that in future posts). You can also renegotiate things at the meeting at the end of the obligatory practice period, although that’s not habitual because that period is usually established as a pre-requirement for progression to a second level with improved conditions that should ideally have been agreed prior to signing the contract, during the initial negotiation.  The next chance you get to negotiate is usually after the annual review.

Salary. The great dilemma.

To judge from the comments above, you might think your salary is negotiable too. Well, it’s not.
In Spain we’re used to salaries that are simply unnegotiable. The company makes an offer and you, if you want the job, accept. If not, you have to look somewhere else, because there are plenty more fish in the sea. Here in Germany, no company ever states the salary in its job offers. Some firms might mention that they’re offering a higher-than-average salary, but that’s as far as it goes. Together with your details and your Unterlagen (your CV, portfolio, etc.), they always ask you to tell them when you can start and what salary you have in mind (something which I have never given).

So what’s the problem? The problem is that if you turn up for the interview and ask for a lower salary than what corresponds to the job, they might offer you more (that’s happened to me), BUT… if you ask for more than what they’re prepared to pay, they won’t negotiate. They’ll just not call you back after the interview, and you won’t know whether you’ve been ruled out for not being good enough or for asking for too much money.
It’s difficult to know what to do in a situation like this, but at AKBW there’s a non-binding recommended salary for staff architects. If you’ve recently graduated, I think level T2-T3 would be a reasonable aspiration. A good objective for architects with a little more experience would be T4-T5. Nevertheless, expect to start with 1st year salaries.

[Miguel Villegas] Soy arquitecto, editor y consultor en arquitextonica, docente en la Escuela de Diseño CEADE-Leonardo y además de desarrollar mi tesis doctoral sobre arquitectura informacional, me dedico a hacer arquitectura al servicio de las personas junto a Lourdes Bueno Garnica en villegasbueno arquitectura. Lourdes Bueno y Miguel Villegas.

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