I knew I was in Germany when I was told to wear a suit to the event. Not just any suit … but a black suit.
Nervously, I smooth down my (black) lapels for the umpteenth time. Today, Lufthansa is participating in a job fair being held at the Frankfurt airport. With over sixty types of positions to represent, we have about thirty volunteers from across the company to man our booth, talk to interested students, hand out information and giveaways, organize tours of Lufthansa Technik and the Lufthansa Flight Training Center, take photos, and more.
My job is to help set up and take down our materials, get our photo release forms signed, take photos, and lead the tour groups to their guides. Now, if I were in Canada? No problem! But as a Canadian freshly arrived in Germany, with admittedly poor language skills? … I can feel my stomach churning, and I briefly regret not packing any antacids.
Fortunately, my German colleagues are incredibly understanding and accommodating. As I stop by each one to get the forms signed, we have a quick chat (in English), and I can feel the tension in my shoulders start to dissipate.
It’s just in time, too – promptly at 9:00, students begin to flood our stand. By 9:30, the space is positively packed. I weave my way through the throng, doing my best to catch snippets of conversations. Unsurprisingly, the Lufthansa pilot is in high demand; as I squeeze by, he’s speaking intently to a young man about the training process. As I stroll by the apprentice chef, I see that she has a temporary lull – and I quickly snap her picture.
I lead two tour groups to their bus, focusing carefully on my German conversation with one group member – and as I do, I commit the faux-pas of calling him by his first name. Wincing, I quickly apologize and reiterate that I’m not from Germany (which, of course, is already very evident at this point), and then give him what I hope is a winning smile. Fortunately, he laughs with me at my mistake and waves it off. Whew.
Later in the afternoon, I have a special opportunity to visit Lufthansa’s Flight Training Center, along with fifteen interested fair attendees. I can see their eyes widen as we tour the mock-up cabin, and our guide explains the various trainings that flight attendants receive. The service aspect is only small portion; they also have to know how to deal with medical emergencies, evacuations, unruly passengers, and more. The biggest excitement, though, is seeing the simulators in which our (and other airlines’) pilots train; one student cranes his neck to watch three men walk in, close the door, and fire up a Boeing 747-400 simulator.
Arriving back at the airport, I notice, with a small swell of pride, that ours is still the busiest booth. In Canada, Lufthansa has a relatively small presence; in fact, when I tell people what I do, I have to explain that Lufthansa is an airline. Here in Germany though, Lufthansa is a behemoth – and it feels good to work for a company with such a strong brand presence.
By the end of the day, my feet are screaming, my brain is exhausted from so much German, and I have a goofy grin plastered across my face. I survived. I more than survived – I didn’t (royally) screw anything up, I used more German than I probably ever have before, and I met some fantastic colleagues. The event was a resounding success; we talked to hundreds of interested applicants, took people on once-in-a-lifetime, behind-the-scenes tours, and generated fresh interest in our many job programs.
I change into my functional Birkenstock sandals, pack my bag, and run to catch up with my colleagues. It’s time for a well-deserved, celebratory beverage.
Thank heavens, that doesn’t require advanced language skills.