Leaving Big4 to learn German. Will that help me with job opportunities later?

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Hello everyone,

 

First, disclaimer that I am aware that you probably get these same questions a lot, and that there might be a similar topic/thread somewhere already, but I looked and nothing quite fit what I was looking for.

 

My situation is kinda..messy I think could be the right word. I moved to Germany in October with my military husband (we are here until 2020 at least). I worked at a Big4 in US and I "transferred" to the same Big4 here in Frankfurt, aka I had to quit in US and reapply here, and they "demoted" me from a senior in US to an Assistant III here. So I have about 2,5 years of experience in public accounting, and I am also a licensed CPA (from the impressions I get this certification is recognized among the people in the profession here). 

 

I spoke barely A1 level German when I came here, and I took one Goethe Institut A2 class in November (and did great).

In December I started working, and that is when my German learning substantially slowed down -  anyone who has worked for a Big4 knows how insane the workload and the hours are, and how everything is always hectic and everyone needs everything done immediately, preferably yesterday. Due to this, nobody (including myself) will take the time and pain to talk to me in German because they just want it done and they will speak to me in any language necessary (everyone here speaks English so it is not an issue to them at all). I have a long commute to home every day (because my husband works in Kaiserslautern and I work in Frankfurt so we have to live in between and drive 2 hours every day) and I use that to do audio courses (Pimsleur) and keep learning German that way.

 

Here is where I need some insight from someone on here. I want to quit this job because I am miserable in it and I hate pretty much everything about it. Ultimately I want to work in accounting industry, but it seems that those jobs are almost impossible to come by unless you speak German. So my plan is to take German classes for about 7 months (from A2 to C1 level), and take the tests along the way to be able to prove my language proficiency in the end. After this, I plan to job hunt for finance/accounting jobs in industry.

 

I think my biggest weaknesses right now are 1. German (which I plan to eliminate - fingers crossed) and 2. the fact that I am here on a military assignment with my husband which will likely turn employers down because they will figure that I am leaving in a couple of years.

 

Realistically, what do you all think are my chances of finding work if I quit and learn German in 7 months? I would be looking at all areas including Kaiserslautern, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Heidelberg.

 

I would appreciate any input you can give me.

 

Thank you all!

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I wasn't aware that job interviewers ask what spouses do. Is that even legal?

 

Otherwise, it sounds like you have a good plan.

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Quote

I think my biggest weaknesses right now are 1. German (which I plan to eliminate - fingers crossed) and 2. the fact that I am here on a military assignment with my husband which will likely turn employers down because they will figure that I am leaving in a couple of years.

 

Realistically, what do you all think are my chances of finding work if I quit and learn German in 7 months? I would be looking at all areas including Kaiserslautern, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Heidelberg.

 

Although I usually recommend foreigners learn German,  I don't think it is worth it for you. Tax law in Germany is very complicated and even with the level of C1 German that you'd reach in 7 months it'll still be difficult to understand German tax laws.

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First question is can you afford this financially?  Not just the courses, but not working.

Even if you can afford it financially, how would you adapt to your change of circumstances.  If I assume you have no kids and two incomes then you are probably living well and have a lot of financial independence, this will change.

 

Assuming you realise this then I would say don't underestimate the time it takes to learn a language really well.  By this I don't mean the time to take every lesson and all the tests, but the time it takes to really understand things and read between the lines and understand what is behind it.  Somethings can't be simply explained and take time to sink in.

 

Then I would say that you also need to do extra work in the financial area for your German studies.  Because there are of course a lot of special terms and phrases, but also, kind of what @engelchen is saying, is that there are also special rules and regulations which you won't know.

To be honest, I would expect this to be a problem to finding a new job.  Even if you have perfect German, and know all the right financial phrases, you will lack experience in this area in Germany and that will put off a lot of potential employers.

 

 

Having said all this.  If you are not happy where you are then I would still go for it.  You need to be happy in life, and learning German like this will be challenging and great fun and is a skill that you will be able to use in the future even if you do go back to the US in the right company.

 

Also, as a note I would avoid such a long commute.  If the traffic is OK then it works fine, but when there are issues then it can be a nightmare. Better to take a lesser paid job locally to avoid this IMHO.

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@jeremytwo They are Accounting firms (though they do more than that. The 4 most often referred to are:

 

- Deloitte & Touche
- PricewaterhouseCoopers
- Ernst & Young

- KPMG

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21 minutes ago, dj_jay_smith said:

First question is can you afford this financially?  Not just the courses, but not working.

Even if you can afford it financially, how would you adapt to your change of circumstances.  If I assume you have no kids and two incomes then you are probably living well and have a lot of financial independence, this will change.

 

Assuming you realise this then I would say don't underestimate the time it takes to learn a language really well.  By this I don't mean the time to take every lesson and all the tests, but the time it takes to really understand things and read between the lines and understand what is behind it.  Somethings can't be simply explained and take time to sink in.

 

Then I would say that you also need to do extra work in the financial area for your German studies.  Because there are of course a lot of special terms and phrases, but also, kind of what @engelchen is saying, is that there are also special rules and regulations which you won't know.

To be honest, I would expect this to be a problem to finding a new job.  Even if you have perfect German, and know all the right financial phrases, you will lack experience in this area in Germany and that will put off a lot of potential employers.

 

 

Having said all this.  If you are not happy where you are then I would still go for it.  You need to be happy in life, and learning German like this will be challenging and great fun and is a skill that you will be able to use in the future even if you do go back to the US in the right company.

 

Also, as a note I would avoid such a long commute.  If the traffic is OK then it works fine, but when there are issues then it can be a nightmare. Better to take a lesser paid job locally to avoid this IMHO.

 

Hello, thank you for your response. 

 

To answer your questions, I can afford this financially, and yes, I have no kids and I am 27 so it is still early in my career/life I am doing this. You are right, I have no experience with German accounting (I have some experience in doing IFRS which is what the world, including Germany, is moving towards to) - all the more reasons why I am scared to make this move, not because it will cost me financially, but professionally. I have already taken a "demotion" to move here to Germany, and I am afraid that if I leave this job now, I am taking on a lot of risk that 1. I will not be able to learn German well enough (kinda as you said) 2. I will not be able to find work in industry 3. I will have this resume gap which will continue hurting my chances in the future. Those risks are what I am worried about, but then again, can I really better my situation anyhow without taking risk?! I look around me some days and I think: "Can anything really be worse than this?"

 

I plan to continue searching for jobs within an international company where my US accounting experience will be useful, even after I learn German. I have also considered taking German accounting (HGB) and IFRS training as I am learning German, so I at least can get familiar with it. In my current work, the way things are right now, I am scheduled on a project for the entire 2018 and it has nothing to do with German accounting nor IFRS (so staying here will probably not help me in that regard it seems).

 

Anyways, thank you for your input. 

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1 hour ago, GenG said:

Realistically, what do you all think are my chances of finding work if I quit and learn German in 7 months?

 

Slim to none, sorry.

You're already with one of the few employers in Germany who have need of a CPA.

The only other alternative employers would be big international companies, which would again mean Frankfurt and that long commute.

 

Please also read:

I see only three possibilities:

  • quit your present job and resign yourself to spending the time until 2020 learning German and maybe getting a non-related job with the military (though from what I understand there's stiff competition for these jobs), or
  • find a new family home that's half-way between your husband's workplace and yours, i.e. split the commute, or
  • get a small apartment in Frankfurt to avoid the commute and visit your husband on the weekends
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52 minutes ago, fraufruit said:

I wasn't aware that job interviewers ask what spouses do. Is that even legal?

 

Otherwise, it sounds like you have a good plan.

 

They almost always do based on my own experience (and other military spouses I know) - It is a never ending battle when it comes to military spouses. The conversation at the interview usually goes: "So what brings you to the area?". You try to be as vague as you can (without lying) and say: "My husband has a job here". Next question is always: "So what does he do?". 

 

Thanks for your response btw.

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I do suppose they have a right to ask questions like that when you don't have a German passport. Makes sense.

 

You did get some very good advice from those who know a whole lot more than myself.

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2 hours ago, GenG said:

2. the fact that I am here on a military assignment with my husband which will likely turn employers down because they will figure that I am leaving in a couple of years.u

 

1 hour ago, GenG said:

 

They almost always do based on my own experience (and other military spouses I know) - It is a never ending battle when it comes to military spouses. The conversation at the interview usually goes: "So what brings you to the area?". You try to be as vague as you can (without lying) and say: "My husband has a job here". Next question is always: "So what does he do?". 

 

I know this isnt your question, but you could just outright state that you are looking for a long term engagement, that your plans are to stay in germany for X years, etc.

 

I obviously cannot speak for the people interviewing you but in my experience avoiding answering the question is likely to be seen as a negative, whereas answering with "my husband is in the army but we are staying for at least 5 years because..." is likely to end the concern that you are about to leave. And you get to demonstrate that you are assertive, understand their concerns etc etc.

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On 6.3.2018, 14:14:59, GenG said:

, not because it will cost me financially, but professionally. I have already taken a "demotion" to move here to Germany, and I am afraid that if I leave this job now, I am taking on a lot of risk that 1. I will not be able to learn German well enough (kinda as you said) 2. I will not be able to find work in industry 3. I will have this resume gap which will continue hurting my chances in the future.

 

In order to avoid having a gap, you could consider a master's degree in Finance at Uni Frankfurt (it is one of the few schools here with a reputable programme taught in English) and/or taking the CFA.

 

How are you with American tax law? Could you help expats here file their American taxes?

 

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15 hours ago, diding said:

so have u decided?

 

 

She just posted on 3 days ago! ;)

 

 

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On 3/6/2018, 2:14:59, GenG said:

... and I am afraid that if I leave this job now,... I will have this resume gap which will continue hurting my chances in the future. ...

 

I don't necessarily see a gap in your employment as negative if you have  good reason for it. Learning German full-time is a good reason. And when you return back to the U.S. and maybe go a Big4 again, you'll have a leg up on competition because you'll then know German. Don't underestimate that. You'll build up a great rapport with someone if you can speak their language.

 

Now, there are many agencies around the world who are helping US expats file their US taxes from abroad (many don't know they are required to do this, and the talk of FACTA and FBARs makes people quiver with fear) and they claim to have representatives in all those locations. So I can image, your CPA skills will come in handy even after your 7 month (or longer ) break. You'll more that likely be able to work, probably as a freelancer I'm guessing at one of these agencies. It might not be what you want to do, but just in case I'd say. I'd say you're the right person to understand how complicated it can be.

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1 hour ago, Elfenstar said:

 

I don't necessarily see a gap in your employment as negative if you have  good reason for it. Learning German full-time is a good reason.

 

It is still a negative,  just with an upside to go with it. Maybe enough upside to overal come out ahead, but i wpuldnt count on it. 

 

Bear in mind that almost every expat  with a large gap claims to have been learning german in the time.  As long as you really do come out of it at least B2 ir better C1 it might be worth it, but C1 from A2 in 7 months is challenging for most people.

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3 minutes ago, zwiebelfisch said:

 

It is still a negative,  just with an upside to go with it. Maybe enough upside to overal come out ahead, but i wpuldnt count on it. 

 

Bear in mind that almost every expat  with a large gap claims to have been learning german in the time.  As long as you really do come out of it at least B2 ir better C1 it might be worth it, but C1 from A2 in 7 months is challenging for most people.

 

Claiming to speak a language and then being called on it- very embarrassing!

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On 3/6/2018, 1:13:06, GenG said:

 an Assistant III here. So I have about 2,5 years of experience in public accounting, and I am also a licensed CPA (from the impressions I get this certification is recognized among the people in the profession here).

 

Why worry? Presumably "even" an Assistant III (whatever that is) at a big 4 still earns far more than the average wage in Germany, or possibly also in the USA. So is money an issue? Probably not?

 

If you don't plan to stay longer than a few years, what's your end game? Keeping the CV at a high level for return to USA?

 

Taking some new quals or something seems like good advice - especially as 2.5 years doesn't sound like a massive amount of experience.

 

Definitely keep up the German.

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11 minutes ago, sos-the-rope said:

 

Why worry? Presumably "even" an Assistant III (whatever that is) at a big 4 still earns far more than the average wage in Germany, or possibly also in the USA. So is money an issue? Probably not?

 

 

Even someone on minimum wage in germany earns more than the worldwide median average wage so why does anyone worry about money?

 

Maybe its because life isnt that simple, being above average is nice but doesnt necessarily translate to a life of luxury nor does it necessarily mean the work is fullfilling or satisfying for the employee

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