By Khalid Khalid, Peer for Career
Interning abroad is indeed exciting. It has been one of my main goals to achieve during my studies in Berlin, Germany. As an International Business major, I knew having such a practical experience would pay off in different ways down the lines in the future, which motivated me to take every possible effort to make it a reality. Although there were quite a few obstacles that I had to overcome at first, there were definitely plenty of valuable things to note and learn from the German culture along the way.
First of all, due to my high involvement on and off Baruch’s campus, I felt confident enough that I had what it took to get an internship abroad easily. But this was not necessarily the case. To nearly everything there is a price, and I certainly had to pay mine in advance as well. Unfortunately, because I took for granted the first internship opportunity offered through my host university, I ended up not getting it for two main reasons. Firstly, the company did not clearly state the available position they had open, and I quite frankly did not do enough asking to find out. This obviously put me at a disadvantage to be well prepared for the interview and to know whether it was in my best interest to intern with them or not. Secondly, there was a very limited correlation between the position offered and my career field, which I only came to realize after the interview. Reflecting on this experience, I learned to utilize my time more efficiently, take actions to find out every possible detail about companies, and be more prepared before walking into an interview.
Fast forward: with very limited German-speaking abilities, I felt left out and overwhelmed, given that all my German classmates were corporate students who already had been working with companies for years. I started sending out my resume through my host school not only to known firms, but also more obscure firms I found interesting on the internet. However, most of the companies I applied to either required some German speaking skills or no less than three months long-term internships, which would be virtually impossible because our spring semester in Baruch starts by the end of January.
Realizing that networking might be of help, after one of the lectures I asked my International Economics Professor about any multinational companies she might be aware of. The lecture was about international trade, and it was a great way to approach the discussion. And as they say, “You don’t lose when you try.” Sure enough, she had a perfect suggestion that seemed to be just what I was looking for.
A few weeks later, I received an email from my professor’s colleague and was informed of an exciting internship opportunity with Hoffmann Dental Manufaktur, where I could intern along with the Global Supply Chain Marketing Manager. I promptly started doing my research on the company, its history, mission statement, my prospective supervisor and the two people who were going to interview me. Most importantly, I researched the role in the company and other factors I needed to know about Hoffmann. Impressed by all the information I gathered, I even became more eager to be a part of a company that supplies dental products worldwide.
Due to cultural differences, I had to pay careful attention to my resume and cover letter and make sure they were precisely what Germans look for. In Germany, applicants are encouraged to have their resumes on more than one page and chronologically ordered, with colorful font and a personal picture on the top of the first page. Now this is something completely different from what we are used to here in New York. For instance, employers in New York (and across the country) think it’s more appropriate for students to have their resumes in one single sided page. This is so mainly because there usually will be a stack of resumes during recruiting, and employers just want to see very briefly the highlights of our achievements and experiences. In addition, including personal information on the resume, such as a photo, nationality, age, and marital status, while common on European resumes, is highly discouraged when applying for jobs in the United States.
To present my own American culture while also meeting the German hiring culture, I decided to go with a one-page resume and write a cover letter that meets the standards and expectations of German employers. And to figure out what Germans look for in cover letters, I stopped by the International Office of my host university. Luckily enough, I was able to have it looked over by the International Internship Coordinator, who provided me with helpful tips about Hoffmann as well.
Looking back now after making it through that the whole application and interviewing process, I feel honored to have been accepted to intern with a dental multinational corporation that has been successful for over three decades. With all the challenges I have confronted and the learning experiences I have gained, I can only say that nothing feels better than reaping the fruits of one’s labor!