Category Archives: Unemployed

Find a job by Praying

HowToFindAJobThe last couple of years it has been hard to find a job. Well, I still don’t have one. Everybody has their advice: ‘why don’t you become a manager’, or ‘why don’t you shorten your CV to 4 pages’. Which, if you then go to a company should be lengthened again to its original size. ‘Why don’t you take a nicer picture’. ‘Your font is wrong’. All these things are irrelevant to me. I studied long and I would like to use my abilities to find a job, but it seems that the environment is more interested in leaving the status-quo as it is. We don’t want to hire people that we don’t know. And we don’t want to know you. That has of course nothing to do with my qualifications.

So, I was quite surprised to recently hear my local doctor say: ‘if you don’t find a job, why don’t you go back to Belgium ?’ Quite an interesting view on things. Or the postman who had to explain me that it was god its punishment. And that I should be praying. He was going strong, until I explained to him that also ‘believers’ are unemployed; that was of course a matter between them and god. They must have done something wrong.

I feel like I live in the middle ages. To the right the leaflet I got to help me ‘pray’.

On the state of consulting firms in Basel

Finding a job nowadays is difficult. Especially if you are specialized in bioinformatics, and there is one company in special which attracts an immense force in basel: Novartis. They hire through many different ‘consulting agencies’. This gives them the possibility to hire and fire as they want. The problem end up in the hands of the consulting firm. Below are some of the experiences I had with this type of consulting firms.

A consultancy firm which provides people for Novartis. Their contracts are annoying. First they ask you that you will never (within the next 12 months) start working at ‘a firm that contracts through them’ (not that you would know which fiorms these are of course), and not work on a similar project (even if you were not hired by them as a result of the interview). This is probably a safeguard for them, but it oozes distrust off the person applying and the company potentially worked for. And if one thinks about it. The person lookign for work has much more to loose when signing this than the consulting firm itself.

A seond observation is that their initial contract quite literally stated that if they got the contract, that I would pay Hays. A very strange wording of the contract. We solved this after some back and forth calling, but it is weird that they try to get such a thing signed.

Their potential payment however seems good.

In this particular case, I applied for a Dat IT Pipeline Spezialist and was rejected after the job interview (that was also routed through Hays, they _really_ don’t trust any of the parties involved do they ?), in which I noted that the people at Novartis were completely incompetent. They had no idea at all what they were doing. On a question like: ‘did you consider tuplespaces to drive the dataflow’ they had no answer. When I asked about the database backend they had no clue.

How to not get unemployment benefits in Switzerland/Germany

Documenting my experience on obtaining unemployment benefits across two countries (Switzerland/Germany) as a Belgian citizen. Briefly put: nobody seems to find it necessary to inform you of what is going on and everybody assumes that in a distributed system like this you should know your rights and know all processes before you go through them. Of course this is not possible if the information you receive from the various agencies is wrong. The bureaucracy on the other hand took great pride in their process of rejecting people.


I have been working at ETH Zürich for 1 year at a department in Basel. By the end of that year I figured out that my contract would not be extended and consequently I called the people at the arbeitslosenversicherung to ask how I could obtain unemployment coverage. They told me to do nothing and that I would need to come to their offices the first day that I was unemployed. This is what I did.

Arriving at the ALV in Basel, I talked with Tosca Fey, which from my perspective is somebody who has too much power and behaves as if she has something to settle. She is supposed to help me and advice with proper information. When I entered her office, she started to ask me for my credentials: essentially what I did, lebenslauf and so on. So I showed my curriculum (, on which she comments that I should have come prepared and that I should organize my life better.

She continued to ask whether I was looking for a job. I explained her that I had been in contact with a variety of people and organizations. After the grilling, during which I had the feeling she continuously looked at me as ‘what a looser’, she stated: ‘good, you will get your unemployment benefit. Just write down what you just told me’. This is odd for two reasons: if she was in a position to judge me, then this should have been perfectly clear from the start, not after the facts. Secondly, when I finally figured out that she had to decide whether I was ‘truly’ looking for work or not, she refused to tell me how many entries I should list on the respective form. (During the writing of this document, I also went through old documentation I received and even on the RAV form itself it just states: ‘quantitative or qualitative insufficient attempts to find work can lead to a penalty’ without specifying how many entries are necessary. It turned out it was 18. Mind you, if you read this, ask them directly because they recently changed the requirements to 7 attempts per month, making it 21 !)

Now, in any case, I had actually been looking for a job at the end of my ETH period, so I was happy to list a number of very solid attempts to acquire a position. Of course, since I didn’t know how many entries to list, I listed the most useful ones (no point in stating: ‘I have been polling this person and this person’ if you cannot prove it). So,
after sending back the data, I received a letter that stated that I have not been looking sufficiently hard enough for work since I only could document 6 attempts in the past 3 months’.  Odd:

  • they seem to think that finding a job in an academic environment is mainly a matter of shotgun attempts. There is absolutely no point in having 18 entries if they are uninvolved attempts. To find a job one must talk with people, get to know them, and see whether it is possible together to acquire funding etc.
  • I did not know that the RAV expects people to look for a job while they are still full time employed. I actually called them in advance and they only said ‘just come by when this job finishes’.

The penalty was written as ‘Art 17 Abs. 1 und Art 30. Abs. 1 Bst c ….’, one can wonder why they didn’t bother to point out the law in advance. This dichotomy between ‘let’s talk as humans, not inform them properly’ and then ‘punish them with the law, which they can’t read anyway’ is becoming all too ridiculous.

The punishment stated that I would receive a 9 day penalty on my unemployment benefits, I was quite surprised to receive the first payment from the arbeitlosenversicherung, which penalized me for 14 days, leaving only 8 paid days !

At this point, we bought a house across the border, because a loan would cut down on the Swiss renting rate, so we emigrated to Germany. I informed the RAV about this with the following sentence: ‘From May 2009 onward, I will be living in Germany. My new address is …. Because I will probably no longer receive unemployment benefits from the RAV, I would like to denounce myself’. Now, a year later I figured out that there is a manner by which an unemployment benefit can be extended across the border. This would be with an E303 form (‘Authorization to export unemployment benefits’), that would extend the unemployment coverage for three months.

Think about the following:
– Can I hold the person I contacted beginning of January responsible for the misinformation ? He should have told me that I needed 18 attempts before coming over to the RAV; then I would have focused less on the quality but more on the quantity of attempts.
– Can I hold Tosca Fey responsible for not providing proper information ? She should have told me that the unemployment benefit could be extended using E303.
– Can I hold Tosca Fey responsible for refusing to answer a very simply question: how many entries are necessary ?


Arriving in Germany I went to the Arbeitslosenversicherung to announce myself as ‘looking for a job’ and to try to obtain unemployment benefits there. I explained them the situation with a nice diagram containing a timeline: when I lost my job, when we migrated and that I received unemployment benefit in Switzerland. The person involved here (somebody called ‘Suhr’), was remarkably crude: While she was registering my information she plainly refused to enter my doctor title. Probably because I’m not a German; who knows ! She also refused to enter my previous employment correctly (and this crippled database entry existed for more than a year). Even if I attempted to try to get this fixed: the RAV simply refused to enter the information correctly. Some people even believed that I had only worked for 1 year so far (I have been working for more than 10 years !).

Now, regardless of her unwillingness to enter the information correctly, she told me that I should obtain an E301 form from the Swiss administration to extend the unemployment benefit. This doesn’t sound suspicious because it is a form which is a ‘Statement of insurance periods to be taken into account when calculating unemployment benefit’. So I went to the Swiss administration again to obtain this form, which I received with the nice notification: ‘We would like to point your attention to the fact that this is an original and that the contained information is not copied by us’. Honestly, I couldn’t care less if it was a copy or not. Why didn’t they provide more useful information, like for instance: the proper procedures to extend the benefit across the border using form E303 ?

Back in Germany I got a rejection of my application for unemployment benefits because E301 is not valid for non-German people.  The argumentation is that I was not Swiss, nor German. (And after the facts E301 was the wrong form anyway)

Infoblatt für arbeitnehmer, die vor ihrer Arbeitslosigkeit in der Schweiz gearbeitet haben Diese Kurzinformation richtet sich an diejenigen Arbeitnehmer, deren Leistungsansprüche ab 1.6.02 enstehen, da die bilateralen Verträge zwischen der Schweiz und der EU und das entsprechende Sektorenabkommen ab diesem Zeitpunkt in Kraft getreten sind.’…

Arbeitnehmer in der Schweiz, die nicht Grenzgänger waren: Es gilt auch für diejenigen Personen, die in der Schweiz gewohnt und gearbeitet haben, aber in diesem Falle nur dann, wenn diese die Deutsche Nationalität besitzen.

I fell through the mazes here I thought. I was not sure whether it was worth fighting this because it was probably legally correct (although I’m no longer sure this is quite legal). In any case I also only had 4 weeks to defend myself. I find this bizarrely odd. If it is about taxes and giving money to the state, things can be backtracked 10 years and
sometimes even more; however if it comes to this type of insurance you have 28 days to figure out any problems involved. Most agencies don’t even respond within 28 days.

More information on the same leaflet also explained the details of this new process (well since 1.6.2002). Remember: this is an information sheet for people that previously worked in Switzerland. Nowhere on this page is the existence of E303 mentioned !

In order to find work I stayed ‘on’ with the German RAV and got my personal ‘Beratner’: A guy called Merkert: talks a lot, listens little. Refuses to update my CV properly and tells me to update it myself, which I couldn’t because I didn’t have rights to enlist my own capacities. Through him I followed a course on ‘Existenzgründer’ which made clear that I would not be able to set up a company in Germany due to the prohibitive amount of administration and bureaucracy.

6 months later I secretly fell from the database: I was no longer unemployed. A very tricky thing because I got no notification whatsoever of this. The reason I figured this out is that I _really_ wanted my capacities listed correctly on the German Jobbörse, so I created myself a new account and listed the information correctly. Then they invited me again, since the Jobbörse seemed directly linked to the agency. One might wonder what is so tricky about this: well, the registration at the Arbeitsagentür is necessary for your Renteversicherung. Why did the RAV not inform me of the cost this would bring me at a later stage ?

I believe it is their job to listen, try to understand someones position and inform them properly, instead Merkert found it more useful to talk about his family, which was studying manners to measure vibrations in tubes through audio recordings. After another meeting with him, it became clear that he was of the opinion: ‘if you don’t find work here, why don’t you move away ?’. Short answer: I have been moving around the world sufficiently: it is time to settle.

Recently I received a new beratner, (Frau Erfurt), who was much more knowledgeable in the matter and could explain many things properly (in particular the part about the renteversicherung).

Things to think about:
– Can I hold the Arbeitsagentur responsible for not providing the proper information ? E.g: nowhere did they mention E303. Of course, if you tell somebody to fetch the wrong papers and then reject them because of it, it is beneficial for the agency, but I believe it is also the job of the agency to provide
proper information.
– Can I hold the Arbeitseagentur responsible for not finding a job ? They crippled my online presence through a refusal to update my Lebenslauf correctly.

Trying to fix things

So, about this time I started to inquire at various locations to see if I could get things straightened out. This was even more ridiculous.

First letters

I sent two parallel requests to the German unemployment agency and the Swiss unemployment agency.

To the Swiss I complained that they did not provide proper information and that this has costed me money to which I was entitled.

Sehr geehrter Frau Fey,30. April 2009 habe ich mich ausschreiben lassen beim Regionales Arbeitsvermittlungszentrum. Der satzt der ich genützt habe war: ‘Da ich wahrscheinlich nicht langer Arbeitslosengeld von der RAV bekomme, möchte ich mich ausschreiben’

Ich habe nie ein Antwort auf meinen Schreiben bekommen und habe auch kein weiteres Arbeitslosengeld bekommen. Warum haben Sie mich nicht informiert das mit einem E303 Formular ich noch 3 Monaten langer Arbeitslosengeld empfangen konnte ? Ist es nicht ihre Arbeit richtige Informationen zu geben ?

Jetzt brauche ich solches Dokument. Können Sie mir bitte ein ausgefülltes E303 anschicken.

Their response, which came from the legal office (!), was a shitty: ‘too bad, but your too late’ and that is how the law is. We’re sorry. they also had lost the communication with Tosca Fey (how odd) and they pointed out that I bought a house (which has nothing to do with the insurance anyway), and that I was planning to become self employed (which is a self-fulfilling prophecy: If they could not help me further, then I must use all possible future avenues to earn a living, including the possibility to become self employed).

To the German office I complained that they too had provided crap information.

In Mai 2010 habe ich mich Arbeitslos gemeldet bei der Agentur für Arbeit. Wenn ich dort war, haben Sie mir gesagt dass ich, um Anspruch zu haben auf Arbeitslosengeld, ein Formular E301 in der Schweiz holen soll. Dass habe ich gemacht.Etwas später (23. Juli 2010) habe ich Rückmeldung von Ihnen bekommen dass mein Antrag nicht entsprochen werden konnte.

Kürzlich habe ich gelernt dass ein E303 Formular das richtige gewesen war, und nicht ein E301. Ich finde es bedauerlich dass Sie mir falsche Informationen gegeben haben und dass ich dadurch 3 Monaten Arbeitslosengeld (ungefähr 10’624 EUR) verpasst habe.

Weiter ist auch das empfangene Infoblatt unvollständig. Es sagt überhaupt nichts um ein E303 Formular (Im Anhang: ‘Infoblatt für Arbeitnehmer, die vor ihrer Arbeitslosigkeit in der Schweiz gearbeitet haben’).

Ich hoffe dass wir eine Lösung finden können. Momentan lass ich Ihnen die Wahl eine mögliche Lösung vor zu schlagen.

Their response was along the lines: we reject your complaint on our rejection, and you might need to pay our legal costs if you don’t shut up. They never responded to my complaint that they did not provide proper information.

Second round

So, since both of them tried to weasel out under their responsibility: I send two new letters:

To the Swiss people:

Sehr geehrter Herr Bolick,[…]

Im Anhang finden Sie den Brief den ich Frau Fey am 30. April 2009 geschickt habe . Es ist etwas merkwürdig dass dieser Brief verloren gegangen ist weil er die 8 Bewerbungen für April 2009 umfasste, und diese notwendig sind um Arbeitslosengeld zu empfangen !

Es stimmt dass ich überwogen habe Selbständig zu werden, aber solche Überlegungen sind keine Bestätigung dass ich es auch machen werde. Glücklich sind sie damit einverstanden: ‘For Mrs. Fey it was unclear at that moment in which particular directons your future plans would go’. Dieser Satz stimmt ganz genau und weil es für mich und Frau Fey undeutlich war, soll sie doch die E303 Möglichkeit erklärt habe.

‘It was never any hint from your side you want to receive unemployment insurance money in Germany’. Warum glauben Sie dass Leute bei der RAV vorbei kommen ? Hätte ich keine Interesse an Geld, wäre ich auch bei der RAV nicht vorbei gekommen !

Falls jemand umzieht von der Schweiz nach den Ausland während er Arbeitslosengeld in der Schweiz empfangt, dann ist es doch die natürlichste Sache der Welt die E303 Möglichkeit zu vermelden. Wann sollte man es sonnst tun ?

Sie erklären mich das ich jetzt keinen Anspruch mehr habe auf das E303 Formular, und ich glaube dass ich Ihren Grund verstehe: ‘The law asks for a “controlled unemployment” before leaving Switzerland’. Im Anhang finden sie 34 Bewerbungen für die letzten 3 Monaten. Ich hoffe dass das genügend Material ist als ‘controlled environment’ und biete Ihnen diese Sache so Menschlich möglich ab zu handelen.

To the german office, it required some more toe dancing, since I might put my neck in the wrong place. I did not want to be treated as somebody who was complaining about the rejection (which was strictly speaking correct, given the wrong information). So I wrote the following:

Als Antwort auf Ihren Brief von 11. August 2010.Zuerst, ich beanstande nicht die spezifische Ablehnung von 23. Juli 2010, denn sie wurde basiert auf das E301 Formular, und war somit jedenfalls sinnlos. Deshalb war Ihre Auswertung meiner Schreiben etwas unpassend.

Worüber klage ich dann ?

1. Ich klage darüber dass die Agentur mich angefordert hat eine unrechte Aktion aus zu führen; ins besonders das holen eines E301 Formular war unsachgemäß.

2. Ich klage über die offizielle Dokumenten die über ein E303 Formular nichts gesagt hat. Selbst Ihre Ablehnung von 23. Juli 2009 führte nichts an bezüglich eines E303.

3. Ich klage über die Unfreundlichkeit und den Widerwille von Frau Suhr um Informationen richtig aufzunehmen. In April 2009 habe ich ihr ein Diagramm gezeichnet um die Situation aus zu klären aber Sie wollte nicht zuhören. Sie war zu angestrengt um Menschen zu helfen.

In dieser klage geht es nicht um die Ablehnung. Es handelt sich um die fehlende Informationen und die Anforderung von der Agentur mich eine unrechte Aktion ausführen zu lasen. Diese Aktion hat mir Geldverlust verursacht und ich behaupte dass die Agentur Ihre Verantwortung aufnehmen soll und die verursachte schade Rückerstatten.

Darum möchte ich dass die Agentur für Arbeit ein Schadenersatz in Höhe des Arbeitslosengelds für drei Monaten überweist, basiert auf mein Arbeitslosengeld in der Schweiz April 2009; oder am Mindestens einen Vorschlag macht um die Sache zu lösen,

The responses from both of them were useless. The Swiss: no response. The Germans: ‘yes thank you for your complaint’.

Third round of letters

After a month neither of them had responded anything useful. So I sent them again two letters to ask what was up. To these I retrieved the responses:

  • Swiss: just repeated what they had said before (but this time impolite) and that I could forgot the E303.
  • Germans: that Suhr had given me correct information, but that I could still try to get the E303 form in Switzerland (which would not have been correct information then ?).

At this point, I’m so fed up to fight for the basic right I have to be covered in case of unemployment that I rather share this information with people over Internet as to help you avoid being ripped off by these two agencies. I have send a notice to the European instance dealing with this type of problems and will send notices to the German and Swiss offices so that they can correct or give feedback on this report.