How to prepare for a career in today’s remote workforce

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a huge shift in the way we live and work, we spoke to Marcel Kalis, the Head of Career Services at ESMT Berlin, who told us how his team is supporting Master in Management (MIM) students during this turbulent time, how the new virtual landscape is introducing new opportunities for students and companies alike, and the skills students need to succeed in a remote job in Germany.

In short

MIM Career - ESMT Berlin

How ESMT Berlin's Career Services team supports MIM students

The Career Services team at ESMT Berlin (Germany) essentially supports students in two key ways: first, by providing services like career coaching and workshops on “how to write a resume,” and second, by reaching out to companies who are looking for talented students.

For MIM students who often look for full-time positions after graduation, Marcel says, “We organize a range of workshops, [covering topics like] how to write a resume and networking. We also give them an opportunity to meet alumni from various industries. What we would like alumni to do is to give students exposure to all the opportunities that…are there in the world for them.” (1:57)

When it comes to working with companies, Marcel tells us, “We work on relationships with organizations who hire our talent, and we do that via combined events. Companies do virtual presentations…We organize a lot of industry expert meetings, where representatives from certain industries bring on their experience to the current students.” (2:34)

Adapting to COVID-19: The age of virtual internships

“Last year – I will never forget the date – on 13 March 2020, we closed the school and we went online,” Marcel remembers. “And then on the first of April, we had 120 MIM students starting their internships. We were holding our breath, you know, what’s going to happen now? Because we had about 80 people lined up to start  on the first of April.” (2:35)

Fortunately, most students could proceed with their internships virtually. “There were only two internships canceled as a result, but everyone found internships in the end…I’m not going to mention the company names but believe me, they were not small organizations,” Marcel says. “Some of the internships were a little bit delayed to give the company the opportunity to adapt to the new system, but in the end, everyone literally had a virtual internship.” (3:37)

As a school, ESMT Berlin also loosened its own internship rules. For example, if students had to move the end of their internship to a later date, ESMT simply allowed them to continue the internship next to their studies. Furthermore, “Every student can work as a working student in Germany for 20 hours a week and earn some money next to it,” Marcel explains. “That was also counted as a mandatory internship. So, in the end, it worked out super well and there was no reason for panic at all.” (4:33)

The icing on the cake was the fact that the new MIM class actually expanded! “We had a new MIM class coming in September and…enrolment went from 120 to 150 students,” Marcel says. “So yeah, it was all very, very promising, despite the whole pandemic.” (4:54)

Career services in a virtual world

In January, ESMT Berlin hosted their very first fully virtual career fair.

With 43 companies in attendance and almost 250 new jobs posted on the online platform, the career fair was undoubtedly a success. Over the course of a day, companies “could interact with our students via chat boxes, but they could also organize company presentations and Q&A sessions,” Marcel says. (2:14) Students also had the opportunity to have virtual coffee with the head of HR from different organizations as well as attend alumni sessions.

“Virtual is the now and we have to deal with it if you like it or not – so companies have changed everything,” Marcel says. “The whole recruitment process goes online, you hire people you might have never met face-to-face – but that’s the new world.”

ESMT’s Career Services team has also had to adapt to this “new world.” Marcel explains, “We make one-on-one meetings with students via Zoom. We offer, for all the programs, what we call a ‘career cafe’: one hour on certain slots in the week for certain programs, where we simply open Zoom for everyone who would like to talk and we ask them how they are. We offer all our workshops online obviously. All the industry expert workshops are online, all the company events are online. And sometimes it’s a blessing because instead of booking a room or people driving to the school and taking the transport, they simply turn on the camera at home – and we have the same information.” (9:14)

Skills and tips for remote working in Germany

In today’s remote way of working, graduate students will need to learn a whole new set of skills in order to succeed. Skills like collaboration, communication, emotional intelligence, adaptability, flexibility, and time management are some of the must-have skills for remote work.

“You really need to maybe be more creative in how you deal with the fact that most of the people may be alone at home, staring at a screen the whole day,” Marcel says. “I think that there is a lot to be done on the organization side; giving all the tools to make people at home comfortable and that they can do their job well. But also, you need to take initiative as a person yourself not to get lost in anonymous work because that’s also part of being a human being. We are social animals, right? We want to interact and we want to exchange and we want to have fun, and that should still be possible.” (5:36)

Networking is another crucial skill if you’re looking to work in Germany after graduation. “Many of the jobs are not advertised,” Marcel reveals. “Many of the jobs – and we have proof of that – students get because they network so hard and because…they have those networking skills that they learn during the MIM. So, I would say that that is very important: to realize that you really need to network.” (7:45)

The good news is that for international students, Germany is a great place to study and work. “If you have student status, you can stay in Germany after graduation for 18 months to look for a job and if you find a job, you can stay in Germany. You get a work permit…and you can work straight away within those 18 months. And then within the 18 months, you can apply for another work permit. So, the visa part is super friendly,” Marcel explains. (6:58)

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