By Serita Braxton
If you’ve read the story of how I struggled to become an official Berlinerin then you can probably imagine how extremely excited I was once I had my visa in my hands. It felt like a whole new world had opened up – one full of opportunities, more stability and most importantly, less stress. Unfortunately that quick moment of joy quickly wore off and I found myself struggling to find my place in Berlin.
With finally having the ability to work in Berlin, I figured the job offers I used to get my visa would hold up. Unfortunately, since it took me six months after arriving to be able to work, those positions had been filled and I was back at the starting point. Every single day I would send out job applications. Eventually I was applying for jobs I didn’t even want or barely qualified for in the hopes that the more lines I threw out, the more fish I would catch. After months – still nothing.
No interview requests, no rejection emails, nothing. My mail inbox was quieter than my dating app inbox and that made reconsider my drive to stay in Berlin. It seemed as if I had left a great life behind only to get rejected by the city I really wanted to live in. Was all of the early mornings, repeatedly getting turned away after waiting for hours and monthly trips to the Ausländerbehörde to get a visa for nothing?
I spoke with a lot of people, especially from the US, and they had similar stories of difficulty finding work. For most of them, the biggest deterrent for potential employers was the lack of German language skills. Once I received a phone call from a job I applied for – which one I have no idea – because before I could get any information from the woman she barked at me, “If you ever want to work in Germany, you need to know German,” after asking her, in German, if we could speak in English.
My resume reflected the accurate level of my German skills, so any employer contacting me should’ve known very well that I wasn’t fluent. After two months of intensive courses, I could read simple signs but was no where near ready to conduct an interview in German. So I figured it was time to get back in the classroom.
I registered for three straight months of German classes. The first two months went really well, the teacher was patient and helpful, but once I get to B1 level, I was forced to change instructors. That teacher made me feel extremely self-conscious and generally stupid because I didn’t already know the information she was teaching. I thought to myself, ‘If I knew this, then I wouldn’t be paying for this class.’
So there I was: jobless, scared off from learning German and seemingly no closer to finding work. The only thing that kept me from throwing the towel in and heading off to another destination was the friends that I had made while struggling through my days. Some I met through Facebook groups, meetups or even randomly in cafes or bars, but every one of them listened to me and kept me from quitting as I complained about my desperate search to find work.
After months of odd jobs like english tutoring and babysitting, I decided to take a break from the pressure of job searching and took an extended trip out of Berlin. I thought, if Berlin doesn’t want me, I’ll find another city to love. But after the shininess of a new city wore off, I instantly missed being in Berlin. It was my home and no matter how many rough patches we went through, I was in it for the long haul.
Then I went into job search overdrive, sending out a handful of applications a day. Finally, one job responded and invited me to interview. After one Skype interview and another in person, I was offered a full-time job contract in less than two weeks.
It seemed like at the blink of an eye I got the exact job I always wanted – the job I moved to Berlin to work towards. But while the job offer came quickly, the road to get there was long. If I had given up after the first few months of dead ends, I would’ve never gotten to this point. No matter how many times doors are closed in your face, they’re really guiding you in the direction of exactly where you’re supposed to be. So don’t give up!