Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Over the last months, I have had several conversations with people (mostly on the African continent) trying to find a way of migrating to Europe. One popular route that currently serves as a glimmer of hope for many young prospective immigrants is the German Social year program.
In a bid to address the shortages of manpower in the social services industry, Germany has made it easier for young people especially those of non-European origin to migrate, contribute and hopefully build a life in Germany. The goal is to boost the workforce thereby increasing the taxable population while filling the surplus of vacancies in the social sector.
Great news for you my African brothers and sisters because it means, this could be your gateway to Europe.
So what’s the catch? Well, besides having to learn the language, you need to find a placement to be granted the visa followed by a permit shortly upon arrival. Sounds pretty simple in theory right, but this is where most would-be immigrants face their metaphorical Goliath.
How do you get a placement? How do you attract the attention of recruiters or give your application and profile that competitive edge?
Here are 6 tips for getting a social year placement from your immigration coach.
No. 1- Learn the Language
I know, this is a no brainer, right? It says so in the requirements: “must have at least an A2 language proficiency. The keyword in this sentence is AT LEAST. What this means is the majority of candidates will have this level of language but what you probably didn’t know is that this level is uncertified, German language certification begins at B1. So you probably already know where im going with this… if you want to stand out in a crowd, you are going to have to do more than just the bare minimum.
Think about it this way, if you have to choose from 50 candidates and 5 of them have a B1 which candidates are most likely to give extra consideration?
Coach’s tip- “Do today what others won’t, and have tomorrow what others don’t.” Immerse yourself in the culture and language you want to learn. Watch films, read children’s books, listen to music. All this will help to train your ear to familiarise yourself with this new language.
No. 2- Identify a Niche
When you look at it, Social year is actually a precursor to social work which is in itself, rather broad. There are several branches which include elderly care, the underprivileged, marginalised communities, orphans and children or adults with disabilities just to mention a few. So when you say you want to do volunteer work, which group of people do you want to serve and what’s your motivation for working with this group in particular?
It's important not only to identify your personal skills and talents but also to dig down on a personal level to examine your motivation. What would it mean on a personal level to make an impact on this specific group?
Streamlining your applications to a specific area will help you maximise your visibility not only as a volunteer but as an asset to the organisation that will offer you a placement. You move from being just a jack of all trades to a passionate artist and master of one.
Coach’s tip- Do some soul searching to discover your passion. Then do some research on the different branches within the social sector. Your niche is that overlap where your passion triggers a desire to serve and make an impact on a particular group.
No. 3- Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk
Listen we all know that at the end of the day, this Voluntary social year is a saving grace and comes as just a gateway to a visa and residence in Europe. The German government knows this, The Embassy officials know this, even the recruiters for voluntary Organisations know this and that’s why you are going to have to prove that you are doing this from a place of genuine interest and passion.
I’m talking here about Authenticity!
What’s your volunteering track record? Have you volunteered locally? For whom and when? Being able to provide this information will not only serve as great references of character and conduct, but the hands-on experiences will help you find a niche that speaks to your passion!
Coach’s tip- Do some volunteer work where you are right now. There are plenty of organisations and communities looking for extra hands in Africa. As the saying goes, charity begins at home.
No. 4- Build on your skills
No skills learned are ever a waste of time. Blending your personality with skills and trainings that help strengthen your weaknesses, will definitely help you to stand out in a crowd.
Actively building on your existing skills not only shows your eagerness to learn and grow but the skills you acquire will always come in handy. Skills like planning and organisation, assertive communication and first aid for example don’t just look good on a CV but are can be put to practical use in the social services sector.
Make a habit of asking for feedback from colleagues and supervisors and then researching skills that will add value to your services within your chosen niche and make it a priority to learn and grow in them.
Coach’s tip-the internet is full of free courses and webinars on skills and trainings that could come in handy in your niche or branch of social work. You just have to look and listen and learn.
No. 5 Work on your social media visibility
We are undeniably living in a digital age and while everyone is entitled to living a private life on social media, when you want to stand out in a crowd, being a “ghost” will never work to your advantage.
Look at it this way, as a volunteer social worker, you will work with some rather vulnerable groups and communities. While it’s all good to have a beautiful articulated motivation letter and CV, the recruiters are also looking at the human aspect of their candidates. What are you passionate about? What are you vocal about? Who are you and what do you represent on Personal and Professional social media platforms? But most importantly, does who you are online, align with the views and values of the organisations in the social sector where you are seeking placement?
Coach’s tip- do a social media inventory. Examine where you are spending most of your time online? Examine the tone and language you are using in your online interactions. What do they say about you?
No. 6- Update your CV and Motivation letter
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, this is why your CV and motivation letter are so important. They are your first contact with a potential employer, so you want to catch their attention and address their requirements quickly in order to encourage them to read on.
When you think about it, you are not just trying to be a match in terms of your qualifications but you are also hoping to arouse favour and memorability with the content, grammar and format of your CV and motivation letter. Not an easy task, so the key is to research the position and formulate a CV and motivation letter for that specific vacancy instead of creating a one size fit all CV for all vacancies.
Coach’s tip- Format your letter according to the style and format that is used in the country you are applying to. Do the research and then get a professional to review your documents and offer you feedback to improve your documents before you send them.
the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little “extra”!
Leave a like or a comment if you found this useful, maybe share it with someone who needs to see it and of course, if you are on your own migration journey, subscribe to receive more information, tips and unique offers.