- Name: Merle Poppke
- GLOCAL Cohort: Cohort 3 (2019-2021)
- GLOCAL Track: B (Glasgow-Barcelona-Göttingen)
- Job Title and Company Name:
Project Manager at the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce
You are currently working at the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), how did you get there? Did you start this job right after GLOCAL?
I didn’t start my job right after GLOCAL, and it was a pretty complex process to get there. While I was writing my master’s thesis, I was surrounded by other GLOCALs applying for jobs, so I felt compelled to apply for jobs as well. I had been working as a student intern in marketing at a small start-up company in Göttingen, so I thought a traineeship in marketing/communications would give me a good chance of finding a job, but I also applied to DIHK. However, when I received an offer for a traineeship in marketing, I realized that this was not the right path for me. I had always planned to take a break after submitting my thesis, and I had even saved money for it. It took a huge leap of faith, but I turned down the job offer and took 4 months off to travel. It felt almost illegal to answer “I’m taking a break” to the “What are you doing now?” questions at graduation, but it was 100% the right decision for me. When I returned from my trip, I continued to apply for traineeships but also took a chance on entry-level jobs. Since I had a good interview experience at the DIHK the summer before, I reapplied for an entry-level position and got it!
What exactly are you doing at your current job?
I work as a project manager for a networking project that supports regional industry initiatives throughout Germany. My tasks include acting as a point of contact for around 20 initiatives when they have questions or need support, organizing events around industrial policy, moderating workshops, writing research articles and generally acting as a bridge between the regional initiatives and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate.
Did you already know that you are interested in these fields during your GLOCAL studies?
Not really, during my studies I focused on NGOs, so I couldn’t have imagined working for a project that supports industry initiatives. But working for an association and with public-private partnerships has always interested me, and ultimately it was the tasks of the position that convinced me to apply.
How are the topics you are working with connected with GLOCAL?
Many GLOCAL courses focus on economic development, innovation, and public-private partnerships. In Germany, economic development is highly dependent on the industrial sector, and society relies on the social services provided by both government and business (think VoC). I work at the intersection of the federal government and regional initiatives made up of businesses, local governments, civil society members, and/or associations. We are funded by the federal government to help regional organizations strengthen their local economic activities and transformation processes and promote societal understanding of the contributions of German industry. At the same time, we forward information from the regional organizations and their needs to the Ministry of Economics. So we don’t connect the local with the global, but the local with the state level.
What skills and experience are valued in candidates applying to work as a project manager?
I think organizational skills are the most obvious. I handle many requests and events at the same time, so having a general overview of all activities and prioritizing tasks is crucial. However, you can also choose to focus on a specific part of project management that interests you the most, such as event management, public relations, or research. I think GLOCAL provides the necessary skills because we dive into different topics at the same time and have to manage multiple tasks. I mean, if you make it through the first semester in Glasgow, you are well prepared 😉
Do you have any tips for current GLOCAL students for their job search after GLOCAL?
I know I didn’t have to worry about visas etc, so experiences are different. But I would say don’t just focus on the job you think you “should” get, but the one that interests you the most. Of course, sometimes it’s easier to start with one job and then take time to find one that interests you more, but I had never worked in that field before and yet my skills were suited for the job. Also, interests change over time, so don’t stress too much about the first job.
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