Category Archives: Work&study – general advices

International work in an international world. Part IV: The CV challenge.

OK, we talked about the Blue Card and the integration in an international company before. We even mentioned strange internationalization issues in some corporate giants. But how do you actually get a job? In order to be found by head-hunters or noticed by employers, you should bring a perfect CV forward. But how to do that if you have no idea, which country exactly are you looking for? Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Pay attention to the photo. In UK and US, many applicants do not include a picture in theirs CV to avoid discrimination. In Germany or in China, however, a picture pays a huge role in the employment process. In order to get an optimal picture, google something like “CV photo” in the local language. Does the person smile? Was he or she photographed till shoulders? Does he or she wear business or smart casual? Make sure the first visual impression about you is perfect.
  • Choose the right language for your application. It’s nice that you know the local language, but keep in mind: the HR officer might not know it. Therefore, always write your application in the language of the job advert if you were not told otherwise.
  • Understand the right order. Do you start with the education or with the college? Do you list from 2003..2018 or in the opposite direction? Recruiters read your CV in less than 2 minutes, so be nice and inform yourself about the right chronological order used in the country.
  • Give a clear explanation. Be clear and do the right translation of all degrees and positions. If you have a special degree, which is not usual to another country, or you had a technical position in an innovative field, explain what it means in brackets.
  • Forget about sending stuff in your language. Get European Diploma Supplements translating your degree into the European one with all the grading and ECTS; ask for letters of recommendation at least in English; translate your certificates into the local language. The more clear and international you will present your skills, the higher will be your employment chances.

International work in an international world. Part III: Why a Blue Card could be your ticket to a new life

Since the moment I saw a lady in the German Embassy in Russia getting her working visa so easily, I also wanted to get one. At least, to feel the same respect she was treated with. Of course, she has been invited by one of the largest international companies, which are looking for smart people for specific projects all over the world. Just one year later, I became a Blue Card holder with the Germany as my first destination. But what does this Blue Card actually mean?

  • Working where you wish. There are countries with a high unemployment rate and with the low ones. Countries with a high employment rates like Germany are focused on attracting the best experts in technical, medical and innovative fields, which leads to a more open visa regime. In other countries like Italy, the unemployment rates are higher. If you are a foreigner from a non-EU country, the Blue Card if your pass to work in Europe and to change employers and countries in a very flexible way, as long as you meet the BC conditions.
  • Taking your family with you. The Blue Card holders are often highly skilled professionals who are be found by large companies and offered a contract in the EU. Even though it is usually a limited contract, one receives an opportunity to move to the new place with the family and to get (often, depending on the country) free integrational and language courses.
  • Helping yourself out. Here comes a small hint: the visa legislation related to Blue Cards differs a bit in European countries, but you should read yours even before you get to touch your very own Blue Card. Why? Because, for instance, in Germany, if your contract expired or was cancelled after 1 full year, you are eligible to an unemployment insurance AND a visa for the job search (3 months with the Blue Card + 3 months usually offered extra) for the whole period of your insurance (which is 6 months if you worked at least 1 year).
  • Getting the permanent residence permit faster. Yes, this is also possible for Blue Card holders with some knowledge of the local language. With time, you will be able to apply for a permanent residence permit (incl. your closest family – wife and children) and stay in the country as long as you wish. Just keep in mind that there is usually am difference between the citizenship and permanent residence permit in a form that you should stay primarily within the country – whenever you want to move within Europe again, have a look at the current legislation 😉

International work in an international world. Part II: surviving as a foreigner in an international company.

If you are new in a company, many things can go wrong. Adapting yourself in an international company in another country may be easier than fighting with the language barrier in a small local SME, but still a challenge. If you found yourself away from home in an international giant, here are some basic tips:

  • Manage to eat: Eat with everybody what they all eat, where they all eat, when they all eat. Eating is one of the most ancient ways of getting closer to people. Your tasks are not your first priority – you REALLY should eat the way your colleagues do.
  • Manage to participate: Meetings are a necessity for your job, but clubs are the necessity to keep your job. If your colleagues do anything in their spare time, be it yoga, evening cocktails or even sailing, do yourself a favour and participate. The social game is the next most important ancient way of becoming a part of a group.
  • Manage to talk: Personally, I feel like an idiot when people are discussing football. I have neither love nor interest for football. I will be by no means able to support a conversation on this topic – but surely can ask 1-2 questions to be polite and show my respect to the interests of my colleagues.
  • Manage to avoid: Topics related to politics, critics of behaviours and cultures, personal life details, religion, talking about other colleagues. Many people know that those topics are taboo, but I still hear them every week.
  • Manage to observe: How people are interacting with each other. How are they reacting, responding, working, greeting others and asking about favours. It might be very different from what you are used to.
  • Manage to explain: Feel free to explain, why you do things differently. Feel free to tell that you don’t eat pork or should wear a head scarf all the time. Every normal international company should show acceptance to the basics.

International work in an international world. Part I: Looking for the right international company to work for

With this week, I will share some observations on the international work in German companies. They might be different from your experience, and I will be glad if you share yours in comments.

First of all, let’s have a look at how some transnational giants handle the diversity.

  • When I submitted an application for McKinsey & Company, they announced something like: By the way, we have support groups for women, LGBTQ and disabled! Wait a minute..did you really put me as a woman in the same line?.. I withdrew my application right away.
  • When I started working for a BIG4 company in Hamburg, we had about 8% foreigners and only one guy on the floor who did not speak German. Yeah, as international as it might be!
  • When I had an interview with the company I am working for now, I asked, whether they already have foreigners in their teams. They told: “Of course we have foreigners, we are a very open-minded company!” Sure, they have! I am the third one!
  • Every company I have an interview with asks me, whether I can work well in an international context. I am a Russian who moved from China to Germany after Spain, which one can clearly sees in my CV…but a question from a protocol is a questions from the protocol!
  • But enough jokes. If you are looking for a really nice international company..ask, which language is the official communication language in the company. Is it English? Congrats, you are one step closer to an open-minded employer!

Team culture vs. individuals-driven innovations

Some time ago, I attended an Assessment Centre of a major energy company, and the thoughts about it would not let me go. The negative part of my personal feedback was: “We need innovations, and you are not creative, because you did not propose any solution to the problem”. Our group was the only one to complete the task correctly though.

Choosing between different directions for innovation is not only the task for one’s creativity, but this is an issue of the right facilitation and personnel management. Most companies have enough talented people to bring innovations forward but concentrate all the efforts on finding the solutions somewhere else instead of motivating employees to bring ideas forward within the company. Moreover, while recruiters are paying attention to the knowledge of the “right” (well-known and certified) methodologies, the ability to listen carefully to others and to ask the right questions is never in the middle of the interview.

I went through many modern innovation approaches focusing on customers, internal processes, team-related brainstorming – but did not find any good concepts related to individual intellectual strength of employees. Let’s say, innovation is not business at first – it’s personal.

Many companies are strongly team building-oriented, while innovation-focused structured work of less social employees is underrated. The goal of the team management often becomes to make employees identical enough so they could work as an “effective team”. The amount of emotional energy every employee should invest in this theatrical masterpiece of acting like a “good team member” instead of his own work and relationships with the clients is not considered. This becomes especially visible in teams, which have only few introverts, who need to adapt to the “team culture” of others. Meanwhile, when did the “good team player” become the only way of distinguishing the “good employee”? A solid introverted scientist can be of more help in an innovation process than ten certified Innovation Managers can. I am talking here about employees, who are too shy or just uncomfortable to speak up for their ideas. In this case, their y).

Why do so few methodologies focus on what the INDIVIDUALS can and so many – on what THE TEAM can? Why do employers spend so much time creating “team cultures”, candidates are sitting with books on “how to become a person everybody will love during the Assessment Center”, team members are concentrated on the team brainstorming while competing behind each other’s backs. Excuse me, who is going to work in this structure on the innovative strategies and when?

Why do not we try to collect different ideas from the employees themselves one-by-one and then analyze them, as we do with the customers’ opinions? Why not to make our own talented people to our internal customers in the innovation process?

We do not use the individual strengths – we tolerate them. And later on we try to change the individual in order to be able to manage him more effectively. Similar people in larger groups are easier to coordinate. This toleration is a disease, as what we really need is to learn, how to integrate individual strengths instead and make use of them.

We also lack the ability to observe. When I read my non-marketing-related newsfeed on LinkedIn, 80% of posts are about people themselves (I was nominated..I visited…I achieved) and 20% declare the same in a more polite form “WE” (My team..my company..). There are only few to none posts about achievements of colleagues and partners, which mostly come from executives and headhunters. To survive, one should be self-centered, self-confident and very loud. The team culture in many companies does not motivate people to share innovative ideas with each other, as it is more of a co-existence culture under the conditions of a high competition within the “team”. Nobody is willing to share more than is required, even less are employees motivated to ask other team members about their opinions.

In my perception, the reason why many innovative startups are showing a sustainable fast growth is that they are small enough so the employees would use the individual strengths of each other and have less time for the process management. You MUST get to know others and learn their opinion to survive. The ability to listen and make others speak becomes crucial.

As the speed requirements for innovations processes increase, we need new concepts concentrating on making people speak up rather than making their opinions “acceptable” to the team. In the world of diversity, one should learn not only to accept differences in minds, characters, and working cultures – but also to benefit from them.

Kindly yours,

Russianladyabroad

Why confident talented Russians get fired in Europe

When working on this article, I thought I would write a list of reasons, why talented Russians (and guys from CIS-countries with the similar mentality) get fired in Europe already during the probation period.

Let’s take Germany, a usual job not involving IT or scientific research, where people will forgive you whatsoever if you do the job. The main reason why Russians get fired is that we are UNSOCIAL. Unsocial according to the European standards.

If you are Russian, you know for sure, how our satirist Zadornov made everybody laugh by telling, how people smile 24/7 in the US. If you work in Europe at a position where you see people at least twice a day – congrats, smiling is the easiest thing you are going to need. Here is my personal list, why you may be considered unsocial (and therefore get a label “you are not good for the team spirit” and get fired) while working, for instance, in Germany:

  1. You don’t spend the dinner with your colleagues. You just wanted to go shopping during the lunch break to have some minutes off from talking? Forget it. In Germany, people expect you to eat with them every damn time they want to eat together. Because you all are a team! The worst is, even if they eat somewhere very expensive and not tasty, you are still invited in an obligatory manner.
  2. You don’t drink coffee with your colleagues. We all know days, when you count minutes to get a project done and all your deadlines are burning. In fact, I have such days at least 3 times a week. Buuut….when your colleagues invite you for a cup of coffee, you go and drink a cup of coffee, even if it’s your 7th for today. Because you are a damn good team member.
  3. You don’t tell, what you did on the weekend. The question, which is usually asked on Monday, makes me sweat every week. Hmmm…what did I do on the weekend? Had sex with my BF, slept till lunch, watched TV?…Nope, I need a good story and everybody should see, what an interesting person I am. Because I am a damn team member. And I just love telling everybody about my personal life.. Read more

10 reasons why your education and work experience have no value abroad – and what to do with it, Part 2

Hi, please check out the Part I of this article to catch up on most important reasons why your CV may not work abroad! Here are the next 5 factors:

6. You have no experience in the country where you are applying

If you worked many years in Asia before, employers cannot be sure, whether you will be able to do the same kind of job in Europe. It is not easy to admit, but with every half of year spent working in Europe, you will see that your experience from other countries will be more and more valued. I suppose, in my case it has lasted 1,5 years until my Russian, Chinese and American experience was fully accepted in Germany.

What to do: Find yourself a job 1-2 levels lower than you are used to or look for a position in a company with offices in your country. In a couple of years you will be back on top as you will prove that your skills and qualifications are not worse than those of your European colleagues.

7. You are not studying in one of the top universities

Many foreigner students are glad to accept scholarship from less popular universities. This gives you more flexibility and security during the study, but might cause problems after the graduation.

Read more

« Older Entries