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I currently have a huge problem. Normally when you leave school in my country (Germany) you do an apprenticeship for a specific job or start studying. Well I decided to try my, or let's say our, own way and started to be self-employed together with my parents. We started to be successful at first in our own created company, but then it slowly went to financial crisis until it finally completely collapsed.

I early on noticed that this concept won't be my future as I was bound into the family and all the problems that I and my other siblings who walked the "normal way" normally did not have "insight into" and as you can guess, if there were financial problems, I also received no money "because the family needs it" and sometimes even got blamed for things I couldn't control. Therefore my motivation went to 0 quickly. But I started to continue doing my own things, that they did not see and I also didn't want them to see, and went into developing and creative stuff. I had the problem that I started many things but did not really finish them. I earned some bucks and also "respect" from companies for several things but those were in "special places" where they could not offer jobs for.

And now my current situation. All the jobs I want to apply for want an application. I tried to ask for an internship, to avoid the need to send an application, by visiting the company or calling with the CEO directly, but it ends up with "send us an application, we will look into it." The problem is: My application is shit. I cannot show exactly what I did, because there's nothing I've finished. I thought about creating a creative application with photoshop or some graphics, at other places I wanted to apply with a website but there I would use a bought template.

I had / have a chance to launch my first own project, but now I need to look for an apartment because we as a family again have financial problems and live in a small space where I'm extremely stressed and get to bed sometimes crying because I feel overwhelmed. Partly because of family issues and partly because of problems with depression and worse, which makes it even harder (but I don't want to get deeper into this). I love being alone so I would love to have a very small apartment for myself. But till today there was always something preventing me to get one. So I am thinking to accept "any job" to get my own apartment and from there on continue my life.

So now to my question, you might have experienced similar issues: How can I apply in the best way? Does it sound bad if I tell the employer that in the last years I did nothing professionally but that I am ready to learn new things? And should I also go for "higher jobs"? And how can I overcome having low self confidence? When there's an opportunity, I always tell myself that I am too bad for it, they will find better guys and I cannot do this job or I do not have enough qualities for this. I really get nervous thinking about working at a job and not being good enough and then maybe even getting fired. And I look up to the team and see how experienced they all are, what school they visited and then there's me. I saw an offer for example for a level 1-2 support, which would be great because I work on a computer (what I like more than in a factory or store) but they for example require a training as mentioned above.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Feb 24 at 20:24
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    This is a huge load of very diferent questions. could they be sperated so there is focus on one question to answer? – Zaibis Feb 25 at 9:58
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The problem is: My application is shit

At your next visit to the Agentur für Arbeit, ask them for a Bewerbungstraining (application training). When your counselor believes that it might help you to find a job, then they will pay for it. I participated in such a training a long time ago and it really helped me a lot. There is really a lot you can learn about how to make your failures sound like successes, downplay your weaknesses and focus on your strengths. Such a training also helps a lot to build confidence.

Partly because of family issues and I partly problems with depression and worse

Seek professional help. Depression is a medical disorder which can affect anyone. It is not a sign of personal weakness. There is no shame in going to a psychotherapist.

And should I also go for "higher jobs"?

You might want to apply for a Ausbildung (apprenticeship). The pay is quite bad: Between 500€ and 1000€ per month depending on profession (IT professions are at the upper end, though). But it's easy to find an Ausbildungsplatz (apprenticeship position) without any work experience, because the whole system is designed for people straight out of school. Very few companies will be willing to hire people for any skilled jobs who have neither a university degree nor an apprenticeship, so this is often a necessary first step for a professional career.

I love being alone so I would love to have a very small apartment for myself.

This is more of a topic for Personal Finance & Money Stack Exchange, but there might actually be ways for you to finance one:

  • Apprentices can receive BAföG (government-sponsored student loans) in some situations.
  • When you can't get BAföG you can often get Wohngeld (the government pays part of your rent).
  • When your salary as an apprentice still isn't enough for an own appartment and living with your parents is no longer feasible for personal and mental health reasons, you might be eligible for partial welfare ("Aufstocken")
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    But it's easy to find an Ausbildungsplatz (apprenticeship position) without any work experience Highly dependant on the position. IT apprenticeships are not free, they usually want at least Gymnasium education and reasonably good grades in math. Generally speaking you're correct, but apprenticeships still aren't an option for everyone. – Magisch Feb 22 at 14:05
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    @Magisch I am hiring and managing apprentices myself at a large-ish IT company. I usually pay more attention to the application than to the grades. When someone writes that they already did some IT stuff on their own, then that usually outweights a few bad grades for me. – Philipp Feb 22 at 14:12
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    +1 for practical actionable advice for the specific country of the OP. – fridaymeetssunday Feb 22 at 14:23
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    I would add that if you don't mind living in a small town you could possibly afford your own small appartment even if you only earn 500€. – M. Stern Feb 22 at 18:37
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    @M.Stern 500€ is not really a good number to live in my opinion and what I have experienced till today. If I earn like 1.000€, which is quiet common and possible, that's a good amount to go. I can rent a little appartment (it starts at like ~400€ where I live) and from there on still have some money over to walk into the direction I want to be one day. – Mark Feb 22 at 22:03
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because there's nothing I've finished.

So, finish some stuff.

You can do what a lot of people do, find a job that pays the bills while you work on your skills and projects for the industry you want to be in. I did everything from manual labouring, to bouncing, to office cleaning before breaking into IT, but when I finally did I did so fully qualified with work to show.

Give yourself advantages, don't set yourself up for failure.

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    Thank you, that are exactly my plans. Do a "not-so-fine" job but having room and space for myself and building me up. Thank you! – Mark Feb 22 at 10:52
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    +1, I worked in a call centre, post office etc and didn't have my first programming job till I was 28. I did work experience in IT support and sharpened my skills in my own time waiting for a chance. – Dustybin80 Feb 22 at 11:08
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    When possible, try to find a job in a company that has a job that you would like to do one day, e.g. work in the mail room for google because you want to be a programmer one day, etc. Do your job well, move up to higher paying positions with more responsibilities, take advantage of training available within the company, make your desire to succeed at your current job and future plans to gain additional skills and potentially move to other departments known. Most have to start at the "bottom"... or at least a job that is less than desirable. What you do after that determines future success. – JeffC Feb 22 at 17:32
  • Thank you, @JeffC. That sounds understandable and reachable for me. – Mark Feb 22 at 22:00
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All the jobs I want to apply for want an application. I tried to ask for an internship but it ends up with "send us an application, we will look into it."

Well, yes. I'm not really sure how else you'd expect it to work?

My application is shit. I cannot show exactly what I did, because there's nothing I've finished.

Focus on what you did - you mention having done some paid work. Get descriptions of that on your CV, what you did, what skills you used and who you did it for. Contact some of the companies that you say "respect" you and see if they would be willing to provide references to this effect. If you're not sure whether your application/CV is any good or not then get a friend or family member to check it over and give you some pointers. Heck, there's usually someone kicking around in Workplace Chat who will be happy to give it a once over for you.

I thought about creating a creative application with photoshops or some graphics

If you're applying to a creative/design position then this can be useful. Anything else don't - nothing screams "I'm trying to distract you from my flimsy application" quite like graphics and other fripperies.

I wanted to apply with a website but there I would use a bought template.

If you're using a website to showcase your creative/design skills I'd avoid using a template.

How can I apply in the best way? Does it sound bad if I tell the employer that in the last years I did nothing professionally but that I am ready to learn new things?

It depends on the position you're applying for - everyone has to "start" somewhere so there are entry level jobs where there isn't the same expectation of having experience. In these cases "I am ready to learn new things" is exactly the right attitude!

Regarding "I did nothing professionally" while it might not feel like it you have. You mention some paid design/development work, even your family business venture counts! So rather than saying "I've done nothing" say something like:

After school I joined a family business that unfortunately was unsuccessful and I've been doing some freelance work since then but I'm really keen to grow and develop that into a career using those skills so I'm very motivated to learn and develop my skills.

Success in getting entry level jobs is at least 50% showing the right mindset!

And should I also go for "higher jobs"?

With all kindness I have to say no. The higher level the job the more likely companies are to want to be seeing some pretty substantial evidence that you've got experience and can do what they need. The rewards are greater certainly but so is the expectation and it just doesn't sound like you are there yet.

Regarding the depression

This isn't really something we can help with here at The Workplace SE but I didn't want to just ignore it - depression royally sucks and can have an inordinately crippling effect on your ability just to get through the day. But you aren't alone and it's not your fault and it can be treated/beaten, see your doctor, see a counselor, do both and above all cut yourself some slack and be nice to yourself.

Hope things start looking up for you soon!

  • Thank you very much. My initial goal was to apply for a "higher job" as an intern. I do not mean professional job when saying "higher" as almost everything above working in a production, like even working in an office doing entry stuff, is for me already a higher job because it feels like I'm not able to do them yet. But you pointed me some important things, thank you for this! Regarding the depression, it's not that it destroys me or so, but it had a deep impact regarding my life and especially social life. The thing with my "creative application" is, that I can cover the years with more t... – Mark Feb 22 at 11:00
  • ... with more than text. For example instead of "I tried to learn X" I show for example a graphic I did or explain the exact task I did but in a creative way. I am not a professional webdesigner so I would need to use templates. But the company I wanted to apply at also used templates on their homepage, even one from 2012. That's where I could have helped. – Mark Feb 22 at 11:02
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    "even your family business venture counts!" I upvoted just for this. @Mark: You grow up/learn a lot more through something like this than by attending any course. I've experienced this. And if you put it the right way, this is really something that can actually be a huge plus in an interview. – dim Feb 22 at 21:28
  • @dim thanks! Yes I am sure that courses can teach much. – Mark Feb 23 at 12:38
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Your low self confidence and harsh self-criticism are results of your abusive family

Look at your language when talking about your family:

Well I decided to try my, or let's say our, own way

This is a red flag. There should be a clear boundary between what's 'my' way and what's 'our' way. It sounds like those two were entangled in the past. I'm glad they aren't anymore and you are starting to think about leaving.

I was bound into the family

Your family is holding you back.

I also received no money "because the family needs it"

Your family is not treating you well.

live in a small space where I'm extremely stressed

Your family is not healthy for you.

get to bed sometimes crying because I feel overwhelmed

Where is your family when that happens? Are they concerned about you? Are they helping you? They should be holding you when you cry. If they are not, then they are not being family to you at all. If they never have, and they never will, then don't try to fix them. Just leave.

Partly because of family issues and I partly problems with depression and worse, which makes it even harder (but I don't want to get deeper into this)

You must get deeper into this if you want to solve the confidence, the harsh self-criticism, and the never finishing projects.

So I am thinking to accept "any job" to get my own apartment and from there on continue my life.

Do it. And start reading as much as you can about abusive and neglectful families. When possible you will eventually benefit from severing the unhealthy relationships you have with your family. It doesn't necessarily mean no-contact, but you should focus on gaining independence from them and keeping them at a healthy distance.

how can I overcome having low self confidence? When there's an opportunity, I always tell myself that I am too bad for it, they will find better guys and I cannot do this job or I do not have enough qualities for this. I really get nervous thinking about working at a job and not being good enough and then maybe even getting fired.

These are all results of emotionally abusive parenting. I can recommend books that may help you heal from this. Specifically you might want to look for books on CPTSD.

My email address is listed in my Stack Exchange profile page. I am being serious when I say that if you email me, I will send you a copy of the book that helped me.

  • I lived in an appartment with a good friend for a year before going back to my parents. Since I am back I really regret not enjoying the freedom I had there and I also learned through all of your comments in this thread that I actually am already on the right way - going my way - but did hold myself back because of things that shouldn't be my thing. Actually, yes, you're right, I experienced a life that some people didn't and I wish, that my grandpa, who was quiet the only one who helped me at black points, did not go that early. – Mark Feb 22 at 21:52
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    I learned a lot today, because your objective comments helped me a lot to clear my mind. I won't take an appartment with any of my family members, despite loving them, but I now need place for myself. Thanks for a comment that brought me some tears... – Mark Feb 22 at 21:53
  • I agree with this point, but not the language used to describe it. As an example: OP said 'I also received no money "because the family needs it"' This response said: 'Your family is not treating you well.' I suggest that this needs to be reframed. It's hard to tell the OP's exact motivation, but I think something along the lines of "I worked in my family's business without pay because my family said that they needed the money more than I did and I was unwilling to stand up for myself." Until the OP accepts full responsibility for his actions it will be impossible to fix this. – Itsme2003 Feb 23 at 16:45
  • @Itsme2003 It was not by accident that I put "the family needs this" in 2 ". The family did not need exactly the amount I normally would've get. There was never really a need for not paying me. Money surely is also a motivation when working in a family business, but when not receiving anything, quiet the opposite, there will be no motivation left. Jared does not know all circumstances, but still was right. – Mark Feb 23 at 21:38
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    "because my family said that they needed the money more than I did and I was unwilling to stand up for myself." It's correct that I could've stand up and say that I want what was agreed together long ago, but I was alone against 3 persons (my parents and the sibling which also was in the business). I had no other option at that point than accepting that I do not get anything out of this. Looking back, I could've and should have done much things different. But that's always easy when looking back in anyones past. – Mark Feb 23 at 21:40
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Hello and welcome to the workplace!

I have been in your place before (sort of).

When I moved to the UK I did so alone, I stayed at a family friend's house for 3 weeks but then it was time to move. Moved into a room in a shared house and eventually into a flat and now into a house.

Things take time, take one step at a time and don't worry about the rest.

My first job in the UK was in a factory, it took me some time to get into customer service as I was branded as a factory worker as that was my first job. I have recently (2 years ago) moved into IT through internal applications and I am now working as a business analyst.

As you can see, things can be achieved, but you have to break it down into processable chunks.

For what you mentioned your first priority is leaving alone so:

1 - Get a job anywhere! - Use agencies, local businesses, fastfood chains. Keep a steady income from your workplace and move out.

2 - Move out! - No this is a tricky one. You want to go into IT so you will need to use most of your disposable income in training/certification for you to achieve this. Budget, budget, budget. Check how much you can safely pay each month for acommodation + expenses. Ensure you can always safe at least 10% of your income for a "rainy day" fund and still have some disposable income to use for the courses.

3 - Set yourself goals! - Set a goal of how long until you sign up for a MCSA or Comptia certification course. Set a goal for what your salary needs to be to sustain your lifestyle + further certificates (which are usually pricier than the entry level ones).

4 - apply for support jobs, apply for anything that has any sort of IT component in the title or specification. Use all the interviews as training sources so that when the job you REALLY want shows up, you know how to behave.

5 - (possibly should be number 2) Find a hobby! If you struggle with depression being alone might not be the best if all you do everyday is work. Find a hobby that makes you stretch. This can be anything from gaming (TCG like magic the gathering are great for this) or indie game development and anything in-between.

That is my 2c piece of advice regarding your job position. Regarding the depression and personal problems, please seek professional help. All of this means nothing if you are not happy nor enjoy life.

  • Thank you, your 2c are way more worth than that for me! Your story really motivates me and it becomes clearer for me, what steps I have to take. My first step therefor is taking any job and an appartment. Then I have much less stress but time for me. And from there on build up step by step. Thank you, really appreciate that! – Mark Feb 22 at 10:55
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    @Mark just remember life is not a lone walk. Surround yourself of people you love, friends, family, whatever they may be. Religion can be a good comforter as well. I have been in the UK now for 7 years and went from earning 12.000 a year to 41.000 a year. You get out of life as much as you put in, but there will be stumbling blocks on the way. Always have the attitude that, other than death, any problem has a solution. But there is no need wasting your time worrying about the problem, the solution is what matters. – fireshark519 Feb 22 at 10:58
  • Thank you very much! Actually I currently prefer being alone or selecting a few friends as I had only fake friends over the past years even tho I only had like 1-2 at the same time. Thank you! – Mark Feb 22 at 11:10
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    MTG can be an expensive hobby so maybe not the best choice until Mark has some income coming in. Once you do have a little disposable income though I agree it's a great way to get out of the house and meet people and those people are likely to be reasonably non-judgmental types! – Tim B Feb 22 at 15:11
  • Sorry, but what is MTG? – Mark Feb 22 at 21:58
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You might want to try some accredited courses in the field that you want to work. This is if you are set on a specific field and somewhat sure that you want to pursue a certain career, because this would mean a couple of months when you just learn, not earn any money and also have to pay for the courses. During this time you could get "any job" to cover the costs (I believe most jobs are paid decently in Germany). This could help you build a better CV even if the school system failed to teach you marketable skills. It's never too late to change your career direction, if you're willing to learn.

About being afraid to apply or not being good enough at your job after you get it, this is something most people experience at the start of their career. What you need to focus on here is that it's the company's job to decide if you're good enough and it's your duty to apply no matter what if you desire that position (and be truthful in your CV). After that, if they select you and despite you doing your best, you are still not up to the tasks, it's their recruiting process that failed. Good luck!

  • We in germany have a minimum-wage which covers the most needed costs. Depending on where I want to live (I actually could live quiet cheap), I could have some money left to use it for education and learning. For me it's more the fear of applying and especially losing / not being good enough that holds me back. – Mark Feb 22 at 11:04
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    In that case, focus on the second part of my answer. Study and finish personal projects until you are confident enough and don't let interviews that go badly bring you down, we've all been through them. And if your employer decides you're good enough to be employed, odds are that if you put some effort, you'll do well – Sarbus Feb 22 at 12:03
  • Thank you very much! I look more positive now into my future. You guys are helpful! – Mark Feb 22 at 12:34
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Your first problem is money and living space, so fix those. Get a job at Aldi's if you have to - but get a job. Then find a place to live. Somewhere cheap, 'roommate needed', whatever.

Then, spend time working on your own website, and design work, and whatever else you can. For pay if you can find it, for yourself if you can't; but that's how you get a portfolio going.


I graduated college with a useless degree during an economic downturn, and failed to find a job for months. Eventually I found a job working at a bookstore, and spent about five years there working my way up - proving my customer service and management skills.

Finally, I managed to find a position doing what I should've gone to college for in the first place - programming/development - and have been happily employed in that field, making plenty of money, ever since.

The key was to start with a job, though, instead of holding out for the perfect job (that I wasn't really qualified for either) - just finding a job. Once you have a job, you can do the rest in your own time; and if it takes five years of working at Aldi's, well, at least your meals will be cheap.

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    And added to this - come on over to Personal Finance & Money once you are ready to start budgeting in order to move out, we've got lots of good questions on the subject, and lots of folks over there who can help! – Joe Feb 22 at 15:55
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    This seems US specific, OP is in Germany. Or am I reading you wrong? – Jared Smith Feb 22 at 15:59
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    Aldi started in Germany. But it may be just an example. Could also be Lidl or Simply or fast food or some other low-skill minimum wage place to start. – WGroleau Feb 22 at 16:08
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    Yes, Aldi is an example, but it's an example of a German chain (my sister lived in Germany down the road from one, in fact!) – Joe Feb 22 at 17:29
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    Yes, Joe was right. I get what he tells me, and he is absolutely correct. Here in germany you get easily into such jobs. Not that easily but they're some great starting points because the tasks mainly are ready for everyone. You're right and that's the path I will take. The beginning will be hard but I am sure that with the additional own space it will be way easier than it is for now. – Mark Feb 22 at 21:55
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First of all, you DO have experience, just not in the industry you want to join.
...AND you have multiple issues to tackle.

  • decision between work or education
  • decision between unemployment, employment and self employment
  • financing a new appartment
  • financing daily living

You have numerous support systems in Germany. (i.e. "Sozialhilfe", "Hartz IV", "BAföG", "Bundesagentur für Arbeit")

A logical step many take, would be to gain a degree or profession("Beruf") in the industry you're interested to join.

Most schools ("Fachhochschule", "Berufsschule", "Universität", "Abendschule") in Germany are free or cheap and you have "BAföG" to help finance your education and living expenses if you're eligible, as will "Sozialhilfe" and "HartzIV".

The "Bundesagentur für Arbeit" will also help you to find educational courses or jobs in addition to financial support while looking.

Another possibility, if your capabilities are good enough is to just become self employed within the industry you want to work in.

You can be a freelancer or a company providing their service.

  • Upside is, no CV and no education or experience necessary (provided it's not a protected industry).

  • Downside is, as you already experienced, you need to find clients and sell yourself / the company, the business needs to be maintained and you don't always have enough income.

You also have the option to take on work that pays the bills (full- / part-time, mini-job) and finish an education and / or your projects in your free time, which leads me to

The CV and demo projects.

That work you did while being a partner in a company should be in your CV, including the fact that you were a founding member if I understood cortectly.

Include also bookkeeping, managing, office work etc. if you performed them, not just the primary work you did for the company.

As for industry specific experience, attempt to finish one, maybe two of your projects.

Pick those that will demonstrate your main interests the best.

Keep it simple though!
Something you can finish in a week or two, a month at most.

A note about the own apartment.

If you really want to break free from your parents household and live on your own, apply for "Sozialhilfe" and potentially "Hartz IV" (if you were employed by your / your parents company or paid into the system while self employed".

If you want to look for an appartment yourself rather than relying on the "Sozialamt" to designate one that might not be in an area where you'd like to live or in general not to your liking, look for small, cheap 1 bedroom places (around 400-500€) that they should accept to cover, at least partially for one person.

If you can keep living at home, with relatives or friends, I would recommend it, as you obviously save a lot of money, not just for rent but also in groceries and utility bills.

Another note:

You don't have to use these governmental bodies like "Agentur für Arbeit" and "Sozialamt" if you'd rather rely in yourself.

That "just" means, you'll have to find income to provide for your living expenses and rent / utilities if you get your own place until you finished your studies or created those demo projects for your CV.

You also can apply for internships or try to find an "Ausbildungsplatz" to learn at the company. Many will take you on as employee afterwards if you're good and they need to fill positions.

...and a last note:

You seem to have good english skills.

That opens up the whole world to find a company to work at.

Europe, especially th U.K. is the easiest choice if you're a EU citizen but other countries like Canada, the U.S. or Australia and New Zealand are great choices as well.

Countries with other languages should be fine too but you're limited to companies that accept english / non native language speakers.

  • Even tho that the thread exists only like a bit more than 24 hours, I am clearer than a long time ago on which steps will be the right steps for me. I've done much progress in writing my application which I will customize depending on the job/company I apply for. I already had such helps like "Hartz IV" but those are really only emergency solutions. It will end up on the same path than I am already - taking any job. They do not really support self-employment as they see no substance behind it - and I couldn't show. So I will try the suggestions I got from others - start low, but start. – Mark Feb 23 at 21:49
  • Regarding our business, I had not really learned anything. I've teached everything myself as my parents didn't really have the desire to teach me things. It was more like I am following their dream and only theirs. We had a little store where they did customer support etc. and I felt like I am more a bin which took their bad mood when days were rainy. I also honestly lost my patience, because I found so much opportunities that I just can't do when being constantly fit into issues I do not want to be in and being stress all day long. But I got clearer now on what I have to do. Thank you! – Mark Feb 23 at 21:54
  • @Mark I'm glad we can help in some way. It's obviously trying times to go through a bancruptcy of a family business and you seem to need to concentrate on yourself and your aspirations indeed. Remain to be there for your parents but also let them know that you now have to concentrate on earning money with your own interests. There is huge potential in creative and IT professions for that. The fact that you're an autodidact will help you immensely and belongs in your CV as well, alongside your demo projects that will be even more impressive without formal education in the field. – DigitalBlade969 Feb 23 at 22:08
  • Yes that is true. I also can help them better when I personally feel better, than I can currently. I can't help a drowning person when I can't swim, eventually we both will drown. I am thankful for you putting out my strength and giving me a great help, you guys really do and did! I would like to hear your opinion on one more thing: As I wrote, I have bad grades but one good in a thing I liked to do (programming). Do you have an idea how I can use the "school certificate" without it ruining the other things? Should I maybe comment it? – Mark Feb 23 at 22:13
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Although I'm not based in Germany, I experienced a similar situation where companies were particularly critical of applications (often with the catch-22 of 'you need experience to get experience') and equally as dismissive of apprenticeships (in my experience they just did a fast turnover to get cheap labour and preferred younger candidates).

The problem is: My application is shit. I cannot show exactly what I did, because there's nothing I've finished.

Gain experience by doing volunteering

If there's a specific sector of work you want to get into, the easiest way to gain experience and overcome the hurdle of 'need experience to get experience' is to do volunteering in the charity sector in a job similar to the area you're interested in. For example, I did IT work for an animal rescue shelter.

Although the work is unpaid, you'll be getting several things in return; experience to put on your CV, references, and even social contacts.

Charities are less picky than corporations when it comes to applications, because of course, the work is free. Note that there is an uptick in volunteering so there might be some declinations, but persist.

Once you gain sufficient experience, you can use volunteering as a foot in the door to get a paying job.

How can I apply in the best way?

Personalise your applciations

Whether it's the cover letter or the CV. Learn about the company you want to apply for, and modify your CV to list only skills that are relevant to the job. Omission of data isn't dishonest, either - you're saving the interviewer important time by narrowing to only the facts they would be interested in.

I got more interview offers with custom CVs and letters than I did with boilerplate sendouts.

Does it sound bad if I tell the employer that in the last years I did nothing professionally but that I am ready to learn new things?

Focus on the positives, or what you've learned

You should just say you're eager to learn things. Avoid mentioning negatives about yourself. Regarding any 'failures', they're not failures - they're learning experiences. Focus on what you learned from it. If something went wrong, what did you learn from it? What will you do differently next time?

And should I also go for "higher jobs"?

Keep it realistic

Your application might not be suitable for netting higher jobs - yet. You should aim for lateral job prospects, which means you start off in a job less relevant to your skills, but within the company, you demonstrate the skills for the job role you want.

I was once offered a web development role after applying for a cleaning job (as I had hinted at having web dev skills), and in another role I was promoted from a temporary job role to fixed term because of my demonstrated IT skillsets (which were demo'd whilst working at the company).

One way to do this is to show any interesting side projects that you've done at home in your free time to your manager if you feel they're might be receptive to it. Obviously, don't share anything you not okay with the company taking for themselves.

And how can I overcome having low self confidence?

It'll come with time

You'll naturally start to overcome some of it when you see your work being valued by others, for example, at a charity or within an organisation. I think at the moment you're seeing all these false signals that make you think you're worthless (like 'agh, my CV has gaps in it!') but in truth everyone has been through an empty CV at some point, and you'll gain that confidence with time.

Focus on small steps

Break any problems down into the smallest unit possible, and then try to solve that problem. With small steps, eventually everything else will start to fall into place.

And I wanted to add, for the record, you're not a loser, you're a human being like the rest of us. Don't feel like mistakes define you, everybody makes mistakes. The way to win is to learn at much as you can from them.

  • Thank you very much for this very deep analyze and the great responses to it. It will definetly help me to take small steps and see the small image instead of focus on the big image only and setting my mind to this nice job or nice position. I actually, as it might be readable trough other comments, did not really think about working up, but more on jumping into a good job directly. And thank you for the kind texts :) – Mark Feb 23 at 10:44

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