Saturday, 27 February 2016

2 months working in Germany - My experience and some advice

Working in Germany
I've been at my internship in Germany for nearly two months now. Though this isn't my first internship, or my first time working in Germany, it's been a completely new experience. My first week was completely overwhelming. I loved it so much, but I felt completely out of my depth. I'm not overly confident speaking German, and the office language and clients and all communications are auf Deutsch. Hopefully this means I'm improving a fair bit though!

I'm working in an experiential marketing company assisting with the organisation of events and lots of other tasks. It's really exciting and something I'm interested in, and they have some really cool clients. I have the nicest work colleagues and I'm working with such a great team!
Other than German, here are the other things I've learnt since working here and some advice if you're starting an internship soon or are planning on doing one on your year abroad:

Working abroad is not easy, its actually really hard

I know no one said it would be a walk in the park, but I didn't think it was going to be this difficult. The work itself is not too bad, I can cope with it and I enjoy the challenges.

It's the whole 'working abroad' thing which is hard, believe it or not! There's so much to get used to and when the office language is not your native language, this makes it significantly more difficult. German and English culture are pretty similar, but there are a few subtle differences, which you soon learn. I recommend finding someone you get on well with and feel comfortable with, and use them as a bit of a mentor!

Throwing yourself in straightaway is important

First impressions count for a lot. I worked super hard during my first week to make sure people thought the best of me. It's easy to make a good first impression, and it's so much harder (but not impossible) to turn it around after starting on a bad foot! Also, the quicker you get involved, integrate within the team and show your worth, the quicker you'll start getting more responsibility and bigger projects.

Be nice to everyone

On my first day, my boss took me round the entire building and each office introducing me and giving me some background on what they do. I met around 60 people! It's safe to say I don't remember half of them, and being as useless with names as I am, I barely remembered any of their names, though they all knew mine! For a few weeks after, I was constantly like, 'oh by the way, what was your name again?'

In a new office you won't know everyone straight away, but it's important to be respectful and polite to everyone you meet. You don't know who are in the high up positions and who are interns like you instantly, so make sure you don't make a joke about management to someone you think is an intern to someone who is actually your superior!

They aren't expecting you to be perfect

This is something I have to constantly remind myself. I put so much pressure on myself and being such a perfectionist I fear making even the smallest mistake. At the end of the second week, I was worried I wasn't learning things quick enough or that my colleagues weren't happy with me. I had a chat with my boss and he assured me that everyone was happy with what I'd been doing, he'd had lots of positive feedback and said that it usually takes someone much longer to get fully up to speed with everything. They weren't expecting me to know everything after 2 weeks, especially not being a native German speaker! It sounds silly and I shouldn't have doubted myself, but just being reminded that they aren't expecting me to be perfect, and making mistakes is (usually haha) not the end of the world comforted me a lot!

So you just need to try your absolute best, but it's okay if you don't know something, which leads me on to my next point. But if you're really worried about your performance, have a chat with your boss, they'll want to help you!

Ask, ask and ask

I'm sure you would have heard this before, but it's so important not to be afraid to ask questions. They're expecting you too, and it shows you're actually thinking about what they're telling you. And if you don't know what you're doing, or you don't know how to do something, it's better to simply ask for help than get it wrong! So ask, ask, ask away.

Overall I've found working here one of the most challenging but rewarding things I've ever done. I'm learning so much and I know my German is coming on leaps and bounds. Good luck to anyone starting an internship soon (let me know!) or are thinking about doing one on your year abroad.

Do you have any tips for starting a new internship?

Hannah Lane

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