Succeeding Far From Home

Succeeding Far From Home

Those wishing to start a career abroad often face difficulties. Expertise from overseas is a benefit in many cases – particularly among MBA students. It is just important to use it right.

Lenett Heerde, MBA at HHLWho hasn’t dreamed of living and working abroad? A new culture, exotic food, a different language. The unknown has always attracted curious people, even more so now in these times of globalization.

Lenette Heerde’s curiosity took her to a place 8,000 kilometers from home: from the West Coast of the U.S. to Franconia where she now works in the Marketing Department of Adidas. It has been almost seven years. And she feels good: everything is international and cosmopolitan. “We only speak English,” says the 32-year-old. This is just the right working environment for the American.

Heerde is one of about seven million international employees driving Germany’s economy. The majority of them come from other EU states and Asia but also the United States. They are well-liked guests. Demographic change and a lack of skilled workers require strategic rethinking of how to solve societal tasks. The outlook is often rather pessimistic: people argue that the next generation does not seem to be able tackle the challenges that tomorrow’s society will face.

The German job market is very welcoming

“Applicants with a broad academic and professional background are in high demand in Germany,” says Martina Beermann of the HHL Career Service in Leipzig. A Master of Business Administration can quickly open doors. “MBA graduates are being sought particularly in the field of software and IT services,” Martina Beermann adds.

Companies are currently reporting 600,000 open positions in Germany. The country is ranked among the leading economies in Europe. The numerous small and medium-sized businesses are good places to work as well. Many of them are so-called hidden champions, the kinds of companies who often reach their target groups better because they are closer to the customer. It also tends to be easier in these SMEs to reach leading executive positions. E-commerce, big data, IT and the financial industry are booming sectors are booming right now.

When Lenette Heerde came to Germany, she did not have a specific plan for how to gain a foothold here. Her great advantage: she was not new to this. When she was only 17 years old, she participated in the German American Partnership Program and attended Immanuel-Kant-Gymnasium, a high school in Tuttlingen, for a month. While completing her Bachelor’s program in Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of Washington with a focus on German and International Economy, she experienced life at a German university for a year. The German language and culture, her new friends – all of this made a deep impression on her.

In 2005, she came back to work as an au pair while thinking about her career prospects away from home. She did some research, asked around and eventually decided to enroll at HHL in Leipzig. “It was important to me that my degree would be recognized in the U.S.,” the MBA graduate says today. She would like to maintain the option of returning to her native country one day.

An MBA or M.Sc. as a career opportunity

Not only in Germany but also in the U.S., global players as well as mid-sized companies are searching more and more for MBA graduates. Particularly a degree from a reputable university increases the chances of finding a good job. It is not only the graduates’ broad education which promotes entrepreneurial thinking and the general knowledge of how a company works that makes them attractive to the players on the job market. Extensive career consulting and a good network of companies and classmates have also helped people to find a position

“Field projects and conversations with network partners are important for international applicants to align requirements and personal expectations,” explains HHL career consultant Martina Beermann. An internship often represents the start of a professional career: more than two thirds of the German companies recruit their employees through internships and other contacts with a practical relation. Beermann therefore recommends applicants to interconnect through social networks in a strategic manner and to showcase their experience.

Natalia ChurikovaLenette Heerde started off at Adidas as an intern. She obtained her first work experience in retail marketing and today, she coordinates the entire strategic planning relating to external communication. “When I came to Germany, the MBA was not as well known as it is today,” she remembers. That has changed since. Particularly industries such as consulting, technology, consumer goods, pharmaceutics, biotechnology, health care and the energy sector are growing and therefore looking for staff. Immediately after graduating from HHL, Natalia Churikova from Russia, HHL M.Sc. student, accepted a trainee position at Daimler Financial Services in Stuttgart. For a year and a half, she has been familiarizing herself with the company, its structure, strategy and products in Germany and abroad. “As part of the trainee program, I have the opportunity of getting to know various departments,” Churikova says with excitement. She has worked for Daimler in Rome and Moscow for three months each. In addition to the projects, she gains expertise through national and international training courses and workshops. One of the last courses took place in India. Her intercultural background is a great advantage. However, it has not always been easy to start a life far away from home.

Important requirement: language skills

“The decision to go to Europe, the application for a scholarship from HHL, the subsequent studies as well as the job application all required a lot of preparation and effort,” Churikova remembers. Her great advantage is her excellent command of German. Like Lenette Heerde, she is fluent in her host country’s language. This helps a lot, even if she sometimes gets homesick. “You have to be prepared to learn a lot and step up your game because you compete against people from the country that is not your native land,” says Churikova. She and Lenette Heerde made it though: thanks to their profound education and their strong will they managed to hold their ground in a foreign country, making them tomorrow’s high flyers today.

Event information

Career Prospects on the German Job Market With an MBA From HHL” webinar on Thursday, January 14, 2016, from 3.00 to 3.45 pm (CET).

Further informationyou can find here.

Five keys to the German job market

Five keys to the German job market

Language skills. A good command of German and English

Strong character. Commitment and assertiveness

Network. A good social and relevant network is helpful

Work experience. Internships reflect requirements and personal expectations at the same time

Career Service. Support during the application process and contact with employers


read more » “The Job Prospects for International MBA Graduates are Very Good

About the Author

Lis Schulz
Online Marketing Manager at HHL