Retraining as a UX Designer in Berlin: How the German Jobcenter Helped Me Change Careers

Julian, a psychology graduate from San Francisco, found himself unemployed in Berlin after the company he was working for shut down. With the help the German Jobcenter, he was able to secure a Bildungsgutschein (training voucher) and study with CareerFoundry for free! Here’s how he retrained for a career in UX design.

by Emily Stevens on 16 May 2023

Julian Gerdes, who changed careers and retrained to become a UX designer in Berlin.

How do you become a UX designer in Berlin? Where do you begin if you don’t have any previous experience? And what if you’re unemployed and need financial support to change careers?

In this article, we’ll share a success story from Julian Gerdes, who asked himself all of these questions and faced the challenges in his career head on.

When he moved to Berlin five years ago, Julian wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do career-wise. His love of creativity and tech drew him to the city and, once there, he worked as both a teacher and a community manager. However, when the company he was working for shut down, Julian realized he’d need to regroup.

Around the same time, he came across CareerFoundry on Instagram—and that’s when it all started to come together. At his previous company, Julian had, in fact, worked very closely with UX designers and gained first-hand insights into the field. At a turning point in his career, it seemed like the perfect time to actually pursue this path for himself.

“I’ve always been inspired by design. I’m a visual person; I love films and photography. I decided to get into design so I can continue working with people and helping people, but also learn some creative skills and become more creative myself.”

Being unemployed at the time, Julian was registered with the Agentur für Arbeit— the German Jobcenter. This meant that he was able to apply for a training voucher, known in Germany as a Bildungsgutschein, to fund the UX Design Program.

CareerFoundry has been working with the Agentur für Arbeit since 2016, offering invaluable training and skills not only to career-changers, but also to those looking to get back into work.

As Julian explains, applying for and obtaining the training voucher turned out to be fairly straightforward:

“To get the Bildungsgutschein, I explained to my Advisor at the Agentur für Arbeit that I wanted to learn new skills and develop myself more before I jumped back into the workforce. I told her about the CareerFoundry course and all the things it would teach me, the things I could do afterwards, and she was all for it. No hassle at all.”

Find out more about how to take our UX Design Program with a Bildungsgutschein.

Once on the course, Julian appreciated both the UX of the platform itself and the human connection offered by his mentor, tutor, and the wider student community. He admits that online classes have never really been his thing, so having this seamless user experience proved crucial in keeping him focused:

“There were a lot of things I enjoyed about the course, but my favourite thing was the layout of the site. I’ve never really been good at taking online classes and that was something I usually tried to stay away from, but the UX design of the website and the interaction you have with mentors and tutors really motivated me, especially at a time when I needed a lot of motivation.”

Studying full-time can be intense, and as an Agentur für Arbeit student, Julian had to stick to a very tight schedule, in order to complete the program on time. This meant embracing a steep learning curve and quickly getting to grips with tools and programs he’d never used before—something he found rather frustrating at first.

However, all CareerFoundry students are assigned a dedicated expert mentor, and this helped to keep Julian motivated when things got tough:

“The one-on-one mentorship aspect of the course was a big motivator for me. To have someone on the other side of my computer, going over my work, giving me feedback in real-time via Skype was a really big booster.

It gave me a lot of motivation when I was doubting my skills, and helped to keep me focused. Had I been completely alone for those three months, I probably would not have done my best on certain assignments.”

A quote from Julian Gerdes about his career change to UX design

Upon completing the program, Julian felt ready to take the next step in his career:

“CareerFoundry and the Agentur für Arbeit gave me the skills and knowledge about the UX field that enable me to believe that I will be successful as a UX designer. It’s also given me a different kind of confidence that I didn’t have before. I really feel like I can take on more difficult projects, work in different teams and have more responsibility.”

Recommended reading: How to Apply for a Bildungsgutschein in 2023

Julian also has some words of advice for anyone considering the UX Design Progam:

“My advice to future UX design students would be to do your research, know what you’re getting into, because there’s a lot you can do with UX. Knowing what your options are before you start can be a big motivator.

I would also say to just go for it and believe in yourself. It can seem intimidating, all of the research and different elements that go into making a product, but just stick to it, create a schedule and have fun with it!”

Update 2023: Since talking to Julian for this article a few years’ ago, his career has gone from strength to strength. The confidence he picked up from his time with CareerFoundry has stayed with him, and although he’s not working in a UX designer role in Berlin right now, he has accumulated some excellent experience and is able to leverage his transferable skills in his role as an account manager and producer.

You can hear more from Julian about the importance of transferable skills in this video, and be sure to check out this new article from Julian, five years on from the original where he looks back on his career change journey: Letters To My Former Self: Julian’s Career Change Story

If you’re unemployed in Germany and are considering a career change—perhaps you want to become a UX designer in Berlin—then CareerFoundry is here to help. Try one of our free introductory short courses in design, development, digital marketing, product management, or data analytics.

Or if you’d like to learn more about studying with CareerFoundry, book a call with one of our expert program advisors. They’ll answer your questions about the UX Design Program or how you can apply for a training voucher if you are currently unemployed in Germany.

You can also check out our Agentur für Arbeit full career-change programs, all officially certified by DEKRA, which means you can take a program free of charge with a Bildungsgutschein.

We hope this success story has answered some questions about how you can become a UX designer in Berlin, and how you can study for free with CareerFoundry if you’re unemployed in Germany!

If you’d like to hear from more CareerFoundry graduates who have studied with a Bildungsgutschein and made a career change in Berlin, check out these success stories:

by Emily Stevens on 16 May 2023

About the author

Emily Stevens

Emily is a professional tech writer and content strategist. She spent over a decade in tech startups, immersed in the world of UX and design thinking. In addition to writing for The CareerFoundry Blog, Emily has been a regular contributor to several industry-leading design publications and wrote a chapter for The UX Careers Handbook. She also has an MSc in Psychology from the University of Westminster.