I’ve been in Germany for a little more than six months. These six months have been both relaxing and terrifying. I came to Germany without any definite personal plans.
I initially planned to finish my full ten years in my company – which meant I would have stayed until July 2, and then made preparations to go to Germany then. I had a pretty comfortable life back home. I had a good job working with people I cared a lot about. My friends and family were always close by. I had most of the things I needed within walking distance from my place. I thought the wait would be easy.
All these comforts couldn’t really shield me from the sadness and worry I felt from being away from my wife, however. Happy places seemed a little less happy and a little more empty when visited alone. Home began to mean solitude. The sight of our bed began to bring melancholy. Yes, I’m a fucking cheesy fool. I was a very sad, fucking cheesy fool.
And so after a couple of months of testing that “living alone” thing, I finally admitted defeat and decided to drop everything and follow my wife to Germany. When you do such a thing, people naturally ask you what you intend to do once you get to your destination. I really had no firm prospects. I tried applying to a couple of software development companies, but got rejected.
The best bet I had back then was an application to the University of Hamburg for a master’s degree in intelligent and adaptive systems. It was the perfect crutch against the weight of judgements this patriarchal world imposes on an unemployed married man in his thirties. The application period was long, so when people asked me what I was doing, I could always say I was still waiting for the results.
I got here last March and accomplished my only real goal, which was to be with my wife. In that same moment when I felt relieved and whole again, I also found myself asking, “Now what?”
Well, my crutch was as good a plan as any, so I started to train for it. I did a course on Machine Learning from Coursera while anxiously awaiting the admission results. Judgement day came and I found out I was waitlisted – the worst place to be in my opinion. If you get accepted or rejected, you know either way. You have certainty. If you get waitlisted, you are fed some hope which, in my case, was never fulfilled.
We weren’t in bad financial shape or anything, mind you. We could actually afford having me as a stay-at-home husband for our entire stay here in Germany. Living frugally, we found a sustainable groove. We wouldn’t have a lot of savings, but we wouldn’t be in debt as well. Keeping within a certain budget would even allow us to go back to the Philippines for a vacation every couple of years. Let me put it this way: if we were filthy rich and future-proof, I was happy to continue living the way we were.
We’re far from being rich, though. Being an only child, I worry about what how I can take care of my parents in their old age. I worry about my skills deteriorating to the point when I may no longer be employable when we go back to the Philippines. I also worry about the judgements our society places on unemployed men.
The longer I waited, the harder it was for me to tell people “sorry I still have no news regarding my university application”. It also got harder for me to keep the worries about future security at bay. Last May I began seriously hunting for jobs in various job boards online.
Two months in and I’d found no takers. I considered myself a smart person – I have this sense of self worth I’ve built from graduating magna cum laude in college, to having a good career before I left the Philippines. When none of these could even get me an interview, I honestly felt a little shaken. This was the time I started blogging. Hey, maybe I can develop enough skills to do this for a living, right?
I wasn’t really expecting it to be this hard. First of all, there were only a few job postings that did not require business-level German language proficiency. My infant-level German won’t cut it there. Secondly, I spent most of my time doing C# development with Web technologies. Companies hiring C# developers here were in the gaming industry, and required a portfolio of at least one or two games released on an app store.
I scoured the different job boards for positions where only English was required. All told, I applied to more than 25 openings, for positions like project manager, developer, tester, people lead, consultant, scrum master, researcher, and even game narrator. Of these, only two gave me the time of day for an interview. The first one rejected me on the last day of our Spanish trip.
The second really put me through my paces in three separate interviews – including running a retrospective for an actual team as well as an evaluation by a psychologist. It was the first time I had my word choice dissected and become a topic in an interview. I must say it was unnerving when it was happening, but I’m glad I got to experience it.
Which is exactly the same thing I can say for my last six months of unemployment (nine if you count the months I spent in the Philippines after leaving my previous employer). In my most stressful times at work, I often wished I could have taken a long break after college before jumping straight into the grind. Ten years after graduation, I got my wish. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it also scared the crap out of me. I gained a lot of skills – from machine learning, to cooking, to blogging. I gained a better perspective and appreciation about having a job. I developed more compassion towards those who are unemployed.
For better or worse, though, this period of reflection is coming to an end. In a little more than two weeks I’ll be kicking off a new career. It’s funny how I’ve been unemployed for the longest time, and yet I still somehow wish I had more than two weeks of “vacation” time left. Wish me luck!
To anyone in a similar situation – and to me in the future, if ever this gig doesn’t work out – just keep trying. Send your CV to as many companies as you can. Spend some time crafting cover letters for your application. Sooner or later, someone will bite. I know it’s hard. I know sometimes self-doubt creeps in. But just do your part and let the universe take care of the rest. If you get accepted, great. If you get rejected, at least it was because of merits and not inaction. Paraphrasing from one of my mentors, if you try something there’s a chance you will succeed. If you don’t try at all, you never will.
Can you relate to this topic? Do you want some tips on how to get a job in Germany? Anything you’d like to share? Post some comments and let’s talk 🙂
I guess I have to change “overSharing means caring unemployment” soon.