I have been an upholsterer, military police officer, doorman, supermarket assistant, security guard, and a detective. Today, I am training as a process mechanic at MANN+HUMMEL. In my early thirties, I finally seem to have found my place.
Not every MANN+HUMMEL employee got top marks at school or studied for a degree. Here, even people like me with an eclectic resume get a chance. Naturally, you need to show commitment and determination and should be able to get by intellectually. Whether you have done one or two apprenticeships is moot. It is much more important to be grounded as a person and to deliver good work.
Otherwise, I would have had to ‘atone’ for the detours and diversions in my resume. My route into the world of work was the same as many other youngsters. I reached 16 and suddenly school was out. I had never thought about where things would go from there, so I had to take the only apprenticeship still available: I became an upholsterer. I finished my training in 2001, but the business was under serious economic pressure and they didn’t hire me as an employee after my apprenticeship.
I kept my head above water with casual jobs, sometimes in a supermarket, other times at a metal company. But this was no long-term solution. So I went to the district recruiting office for the military and signed up voluntarily on the condition that I could join the military police. Two months later, there I was. This was a very varied period that had a positive impact on my life. It taught me to be disciplined, structure my work, and manage people, and it also helped me to mature. I enjoyed the military police so much that I wanted to sign up for twelve years and become a sergeant. Unfortunately, these positions were already full for the coming years. I would have found a career in the rank and file that was available degrading, and switching to another corps was out of the question. Once a military police officer, always a military police officer, of that I was certain. So, for better or worse, I left the armed forces.
A little while later, my father introduced me to a man who had a business tinting car windscreens with a special paint rather than film; he was even registered with TÜV. He wanted to give up the company, and I sensed a large gap in the market and saw a great opportunity. So I drew up business plans and spoke with the banks until I got the okay to keep the business going. But then the owner closed his business overnight. He said that the business was his baby, he had built up the company, and nobody else was going to continue with it and enjoy success. I had truly reached the end of my tether, watching a year of planning, effort, and commitment turn to dust. I was extremely frustrated, completely demotivated, and suddenly found myself on unemployment benefits.
My year on benefits was the worst time of my life. I was living in northern Germany, almost 600 kilometres from my family, and had hardly any friends to whom I could turn. There were months in which I didn’t know whether I would even have a piece of bread to eat that evening; the money simply didn’t stretch far enough. Had it not been for the encouragement and support of my parents, who often helped me out when I could no longer manage, I would not have survived.
The unemployment office found me a new temporary job every 14 days. I worked in a mobile phone shop, in a chemical plant and finally as a lumberjack for one euro per hour. In the end, it was all a waste of time; none of those jobs helped me to progress either professionally or personally. So I decided to move back to Baden. Being back in Baden brought me back to the land of the living as I was now surrounded by friends and family in my home town, which gave me an additional boost.
My experience in the armed forces helped me to gain a foothold in the security services industry. Over time I worked for various security services as well as a detective agency. In early 2012, my employers sent me to provide security at MANN+HUMMEL. We manned the gates at plants 1 and 2. I quickly noticed the camaraderie at MANN+HUMMEL and the totally different culture. Employees would offer me small thoughtful tokens such as an apple or a bottle of water. That really impressed me. It was not what I received but the gesture itself that struck a chord. I realised that people actually cared about me and appreciated me. At other companies, I was just the stupid doorman or dumb security guard who they were constantly keeping tabs on. Here, I was a part of the company, a feeling I also got from my many conversations with people like Ms Fritz, Manager of Education / Trainings, or Mr Kranich and Mr Holzinger, who regularly met new applicants at the gates. And at some point, I too had the same thought: “You’re almost 30; you don’t want to spend the rest of your life standing at a gate. You need to decide which direction you want to take.”
One day, Mr Kranich asked whether I would like to do an apprenticeship. I had already thought about it, but dismissed it as an unrealistic pipe dream. It was just wishful thinking, and I really thought to myself: “That would be a great place to work, but they wouldn’t want someone your age who has already worked in so many places.”
I had almost thrown in the towel. But then I thought, if you don’t fight, then you’ve lost already, and if MANN+HUMMEL were going to give me this opportunity, then I wanted to take it. I handed in my application and was invited for an interview, the normal procedure, actually. In the end, I was given a place as an apprentice process mechanic and will finish my training in summer 2015.
Personally, I think I have found my place. I have a great girlfriend, a wonderful young son, a daughter due to arrive at the end of May and real career prospects. I don’t want to imagine what would have happened to me if I hadn’t been given this opportunity at MANN+HUMMEL.