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I‘m currently doing a traineeship and I’m really unhappy with it, so much so that I’m considering to end it every day but I’m trying to pull through until I can end it prematurely while still getting the „degree“.

In Germany traineeships work a bit different than in most other countries. You get a tiny wage (usually less than half of minimum wage) while working full time and in return your company agrees to train you as well as let you go to school during work hours to learn the more theoretical parts of your job. After one is finished, it’s expected of trainees to stay with their company for at least some time to offset the „investment“ the company took into training them.

I am, however, not going to be able to stay at my current company for various reasons including personal differences with my boss, mental and physical health implications caused by my workplace, a strong dislike of the way the team works (not caring about security, not understanding version control, not writing any tests, giving trainees the feeling that they are worthless) and the fact that I don’t learn anything so I can’t grow.

My current plan is to start the job search as soon as I know when exactly my current employment will end so that I have the absolute minimum amount of time without a wage. When writing my CV it’s not going to look to great that I ended the employment right after my traineeship and if I’m invited to interviews, it’ll definitely be a question I have to answer. Right now I’m unsure how to handle that question.

My instinct is to be honest and (politely) talk shit about my old job, it might come off as me being difficult to work with so it might not be the greatest idea, so I’m considering to either only tell part of the truth (health implications for example) or lying.

What would be the best approach and if it is not telling the whole truth, which issues with my job can I disclose without hurting my chances of finding another one?

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    I think you need to take a step back. What is the evidence for some of these accusations? – Ed Heal Jun 11 at 18:16
  • @ed I do have proof, however since I work at a somewhat large tech company I won’t publish it because it might make it too obvious who I’m talking about. Also it might be considered off topic. In my opinion this site is mostly about general advice and from talking to other trainees I know that many are in this situation. Adding proof would not increase the quality or usefulness of this question. – throwawayPleaseDontFireMe Jun 11 at 18:33
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    Possible duplicate of How to respond to "Why are you looking for a new job?" – Dukeling Jun 11 at 19:20
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    “My instinct is to be honest and (politely) talk shit about my old job” - The world is small. You might talk poorly about your employer to somebody who knows somebody at your company. Additionally, if your willing to talk poorly about your current employer, that will be a sign you will talk poorly of the new company if they selected you. Don’t do this. – Donald Jun 12 at 3:40
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    I disagree this is the duplicate @Dukeling mentioned. This is specific to a particular national situation. While the answers to the other question are valid, they don't address this situation completely. – O. Jones Jun 12 at 12:23
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There are ways to be truthful while not being rude or insulting..

You don't seem to like the culture, or it isn't a good "cultural fit". What does that mean? I don't know, I just know that if I didn't like the work culture, or my personality didn't work well with the culture, I'd leave my job as well. People do it all the time, I love where I work now, I came to dislike where I worked in my previous job. Is my previous job a great company? Sure -- but it wasn't a great company for me for a lot of reasons, so I left.

The other answer mentions that potential employers can read between the lines, and there is a lot of truth to that. There are also a lot of ways to just say "It didn't work out for me, so I moved on." My suggestion would be to find areas that "didn't work out", which aren't negatives, and mention those as areas where you want to grow. "I wanted to learn XYZ technology, but it wasn't available." What are you bringing to the new employer that is a positive, instead of what are you leaving behind that is a negative.

What you don't want to do is say irrelevant things like "They didn't have free food, and I want to work at a start up which has free food." or "I'm vegan and all the free food had meat." That's "workplace culture" and every workplace has a culture.

7

I have done an apprenticeship as a software developer in Germany myself many years ago, and I have been the Ausbilder in two companies. Many of my friends have also done various tech apprenticeships (both Fachinformatiker and IT-System*).

There is absolutely no reason for you to feel guilty about leaving after your apprenticeship ends. There is no need for you to stay. Many companies use the apprenticeship as a means to get people long-term. We certainly did because we worked with a very rare technology that was hard to hire for. But not everyone stayed. We had people leave for different reasons. Those included them wanting to go to university, moving away, wanting to freelance or being not as good as we'd hoped and it was mutually agreed they wouldn't stay.

You don't have to justify anything. Your contract ends when you pass the oral exam. That day you are free. If you don't sign a new one, you don't need to go back. That would be burning bridges of course, so you want to be diplomatic about it. But you have no obligation to accept any offer.

My suggestion would be to ask them early what they think. Ask for the terms they will offer for staying on. Salary, holiday, the usual. Take it home, take some time, then politely decline. Thank them for the time and tell them you've decided to move on. You don't need to say why. If they then start to make your life hell, you just have confirmation that you've made the right decision. I will get back to solutions to that further down.

If you're in year three now, then you'll probably have given the written exam already. Start looking for new positions now. You've got the first two school years worth of Zeugnisse, if those are good you can use them as an estimate for your result.

If you still have half a year or a full year to go, you should bite through. Legally there are only a few ways to leave early, and they don't include not liking the company to finish somewhere else unfortunately, unless you can convince them to make an Aufhebungsvertrag to mutually end the contract.

Here's the relevant passage of the BBiG.

§ 22 Kündigung
(1) Während der Probezeit kann das Berufsausbildungsverhältnis jederzeit ohne Einhalten einer Kündigungsfrist gekündigt werden.
(2) Nach der Probezeit kann das Berufsausbildungsverhältnis nur gekündigt werden 1. aus einem wichtigen Grund ohne Einhalten einer Kündigungsfrist, 2. von Auszubildenden mit einer Kündigungsfrist von vier Wochen, wenn sie die Berufsausbildung aufgeben oder sich für eine andere Berufstätigkeit ausbilden lassen wollen.
(3) Die Kündigung muss schriftlich und in den Fällen des Absatzes 2 unter Angabe der Kündigungsgründe erfolgen.
(4) Eine Kündigung aus einem wichtigen Grund ist unwirksam, wenn die ihr zugrunde liegenden Tatsachen dem zur Kündigung Berechtigten länger als zwei Wochen bekannt sind. Ist ein vorgesehenes Güteverfahren vor einer außergerichtlichen Stelle eingeleitet, so wird bis zu dessen Beendigung der Lauf dieser Frist gehemmt.

The gist of this is that you can only leave for a "good reason". That typically means one of these (I am not being sarcastic here, this is the list I learned in my trainer training).

  • The company moves away and you cannot follow to another city
  • Your parents move away and you have to go with them
  • The company shuts because the owner dies or falls seriously ill
  • You die or fall seriously ill
  • You decide to stop the training and take up a completely different job
  • You decide to stop the training and stop working altogether

Note that working for a different company in the same job is not part of that.

Should it be really bad, and you feel you cannot go to work at all any more, there are different options. For immediate help, go and see your Hausarzt (GP doctor). Tell them how stressed you are. Put everything on the table. Get a sick note for a week or two. Burnout and mental illness are real. Paid sick leave is normal in Germany, and the sick note does not reveal the reason for your absence. Be professional about it, inform work according to the process and send in the yellow paper.

If that doesn't help, talk to IHK. They have people to support the apprentices. If there is conflict, they can help resolve it. They will be able to find you a different company to finish your training, and they have very good options to coercing your current one into letting you go (as in, revoke their training licence).

As to your CV and interviews, there are several simple explanations. In fact, lots of large companies such as Deutsche Telekom do not keep all of their trainees. When my friends were there, they had a lottery and several of the really excelling trainees were not kept around.

You will want to use a neutral tone to explain why you didn't stay. Don't lie, but don't give too many details either.

  • You weren't offered a contract (could be all kinds of reasons, e.g. financial situation of the company; doesn't mean it's your fault)
  • Their offer was not realistic (very normal, unfortunately; many companies think they can have their trainees for cheap once they're done)
  • You feel didn't really learn anything new there and want a fresh challenge
  • You didn't like the culture, but sat it out to get your degree (shows you're professional and have grit to see things through)
  • I just realised I've overshot a bit for the actual question. I hope this is useful anyway. – simbabque Jun 12 at 10:39
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"My instinct is to be honest and (politely) talk shit about my old job, it might come off as me being difficult to work with so it might not be the greatest idea, so I’m considering to either only tell part of the truth (health implications for example) or lying."

None of these sound like a good idea.

"I don’t learn anything so I can’t grow"

This is a better angle but leaves scope for misinterpretation. A prospective employer could (rightly or wrongly) be given the impression that you don't like doing work that is already within your comfort zone, i.e. good work.

You want to find something to say about your old job that is not a direct criticism but which gives a clear reason for you wanting to move on.

Maybe: "I wanted the opportunity to do X and learn skills Y, Z." (notice how this response doesn't even mention your current employer)

A capable employer will be able to read between the lines. The idea is to present whatever it is that went wrong in your previous job as a minor setback that does not reflect negatively on you personally. Being discreet about the workplace is a really good way to do this. Being indiscreet is not, as it makes you look unprofessional and therefore gives the impression that you might have been the problem, not your employer.

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Yes, these are really bad. However, the golden rule is

Never say any bad from your previous employer.

Yes, working further by the company is expected, but not this is the custom. Check others' work history on the Xing/Linkedin. You will see that most of them did not work where he was trained.

If they ask, why you did not work there after your degree, say some neutral. Roughly this: "It was only a ... month long project, I've made a ... for the project ..., beside my masterwork ... . I had happily continued the work there, but I am also open for other options". If you can talk well about, what you did there, no one will think that you want to hide anything - because you really don't want! (Except what is bad for the trainer company, and not for you. But if they see that you want to hide the "dark spots" of your ex-employer, it will sound positively for you.)

If they seem trying to get more details from you, then "I don't know" is a good answer, because no one considers a beginner an expert of the workplace politics. Even if you say some negative, package it to look positive. Never say, "they didn't even use a VCS!". Instead, say some this: I am yet new on the market, I think I should focus to more recent technological solutions.

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