Germany′s Jobless and the Self-Help Solution | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 25.02.2003
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Germany's Jobless and the Self-Help Solution

Germany's jobless are turning to less traditional approaches in their search for work and as a result, self-help books promising fast-tracks to dream jobs are flying off the shelves.


Germany's unemployed are catching the global self-help bug

Germany's stubborn unemployment problem, which at 11 percent shows no sign of easing, is forcing often change-wary Germans to abandon the traditional methods of searching for work and turn in increasing numbers to "self-help" career books. These days, publications offering advice to the jobless on how to market themselves or acquire new skills have become surprise publishing hits.

Data from Frankfurt publishers Campus Verlag, the German company responsible for the distribution of American author Richard Nelson Bolles' book, "Restart Your Dream Job," says that more than 120,000 copies of his book have been sold in Germany.

"We already feel, since the autumn of last year, that the interest in our management and career reference books has sharply climbed," said a spokesperson for the publishing house in a statement to the German press agency DPA.

Dr. Joachim Stauder, the vice president of the Federal Association of German Management Consultants (BDU), told DW-WORLD that the boom in popularity may, in some part, be down to the increasing amount of unemployed "white collar" workers in Germany. Dr. Stauder said, "These people know a lot more about their career potential and know what they want." He added that those made redundant from management level jobs are more likely to search for a way to best help themselves, something the new flood of books offer.

Books focus on improving marketability

Arbeitssuchende in einem Hamburger Arbeitsamt

Take a ticket and wait your turn.

Competition in the German job market is such that technical knowledge and social skills have become highly sought-after commodities. Anything that improves and expands these is an advantage in searching for work in today's tough market. This has not gone unnoticed by authors of self-help bibles like Sabine Hertwig ("Competitive Tips for the Management Level") and Bolles, who have suddenly found a receptive, growing, and paying audience for their work.

Arbeitsamt: neue Arbeitslosenzahlen durch die Bundesanstalt für Arbeit

A Job Centre in Germany.

Up until now, most Germans have gone to the local employment office to look for work, or simply stayed on unemployment, since the welfare state has long promised unlimited and generous benefits. But as Germany slowly moves toward reforming the benefits system it can no longer afford, some see the writing on the wall. Jacket quotes on some of the best sellers reflect this. "When you can't find a job through the traditional methods," reads one, "then you are personally responsible - not the government, not the job agencies."

No panacea

However, moving away from the government job search services and employment agencies completely may not be the sole answer to the problem of finding work, according to Klaus Reiners, a spokesperson for the BDU. While he understands why Germany's unemployed are increasingly putting their trust in career gurus and their advice, "such reference books only qualify as a starting point," he said in an interview with the German press agency DPA.

His appraisal of the abundance of new titles is that the information and approach presented in them are often superficial. While they are good at pointing out trends in the job market and "not bad" as a source of reference and information, he said they could not replace expert analysis and personal counselling.

Dr. Stauder agrees. In his opinion these books are not an alternative to traditional job searching practices. "While Britain and the U.S. have had such books for a while, they have only arrived in Germany in the past five years. They are very different and offer individual stories of personal experience that may not be relevant to many job seekers here."

Career guides appeal to a wide audience

Petra Göhl, a spokesperson for Hesse/Schrader, a company which runs a national chain of career consultancies, told DPA that self-help career books had "wide appeal" and were useful for those searching for jobs in the current employment climate. By putting the power in the hands of the individual, the books play an important role in the development of the job searcher, said Göhl. Around one third of the clients that visit Hesse/Schrader career consultants have already read a self-help career book.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the resident psychologists and founders of the consultancy chain, Jürgen Hesse and Hans Christian Schrader, have their own book on the market, "The Occupation Brochure," which is now a best seller.

Dr. Stauder of the BDU agrees that the books can help position the job seeker in the market, by identifying strengths and weaknesses and offering advice on interviews and presentation. However, he told DW-WORLD that the inconsistent quality of some books on the market should be accepted and that the advice contained within should be used along with more reliable sources.

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