As most people would probably agree, 2008 (the year the financial crisis started to hit) was a pretty bad time to be looking for a job. That was the year I graduated from Lincoln, getting my BA in Media Production.
I needed a job badly and wanted to get out of Lincoln. I actually fell pretty lucky. Not that I got a job in my field of study. Nothing quite so glorious. A friend I’d worked with some years earlier was now a manager. He needed somebody, because a person he’d hired had pulled out. So, I returned to the company that I’d left because I’d gotten bored of it and wanted to study. But eating is far more important than staving off boredom. I spent the next year or so scouring job sites, trying to find something that would fit my skill set and interests. Months went by, applications went off, and I never even received a call-back. Needless to say I was pretty fed up. To give myself a leg up on the career ladder, I applied (and was accepted) on a Masters programme at Sussex. All was set. And then I saw a job advert, that I wouldn’t have seen had it not been for my friend’s offhand comment about how I “should work for Nintendo”.
It’s a pretty odd situation to see a job advert that so clearly matches you. I don’t think it happens to many people very often. Scanning over the requirements (and that lovely “desirable” attributes list that seems designed to make you feel inadequate) and genuinely be able to mark off each and every one. There was one big snag: it was in Germany. I wasn’t going to apply for that reason alone. Then my wife said, “Apply, you probably won’t get it. It’d be good practice.” I figured she was right. If I applied, I wouldn’t get it, and I’d go to Sussex in September as planned. If I didn’t, the result would be exactly the same. There’s never any real harm done by applying for a job you get rejected for.
Like many people my age, I grew up with Nintendo. Their games were an integral part of my childhood. So when I filled in that application I didn’t have to put down the normal garbage that I’d had to fill in on standard applications. “Why do you want to work for us?” Well, the answer is always money, but you had to convince them that you were really passionate about washing dishes, cleaning toilets, serving customers, or whatever. I don’t think any employer really believes what they read in those answers. But in this application, I didn’t have to lie. I didn’t have to embellish. Still, I never believed I’d get an interview, let alone be offered the job. So, when I received an email from the team’s manager, inviting me to Frankfurt for a job interview (the flight to be paid for by them), I was legitimately shocked.
Considering I’ve waffled on this long about those early stages, I guess you’ve already figured out I got the job. Indeed I did. So, I flew to Frankfurt the Friday before my official starting date (1st June 2009… which was a public holiday, as it happens), to give me time to settle down before heading to work. The company was kind enough to give me a week in a hotel, but after that I was on my own. And damn, those first few weeks were hard work and stressful. Registering with city office so I can be classified as a resident, then get my tax card (without which I couldn’t get paid), health insurance, bank account, finding a place to live. All in a country where I hadn’t got a clue how to speak the language. It was intimidating. Lucky for me, German foreign language education seems to be pretty great. Even the servers in Subway and Starbucks could speak perfect English (although they would always say “only a little”, when I asked).
But now I’ve been living here for seven years. When I first arrived, I said I’d be here for just a couple of years and get some work experience. Those ex-pat Brits I’ve spoken to all tend to agree that the country has a habit of capturing you. You have to make a real conscious effort to leave, for whatever reason it may be. Now I have two kids, who are both around school age for the UK (the youngest is due to start Reception year in September, my eldest will be in Year 2). I reckon it’s time to make the move back. I don’t think I’d change anything much except my own attitude to my daily life. Getting too comfortable can be the death knell to creativity.
My job at Nintendo has taught me a great many things. Looking back, I can’t believe how lucky I was. My financially stable life has made life very easy for my family. I mean, you couldn’t imagine living to the standard we are, even with an okay starting salary, and supporting a family of 3 or 4 on a single income back in the UK. But now, it’s time to move on. There really is no place like home…