It's the People that Count
The young German-Turkish woman Suzan Kablan had already given up hope of ever finding a job – she had received too many rejections. “As soon as a potential employer saw my headscarf, I was crossed off the list of candidates. A couple of times I was even sent home by the receptionist because I didn’t want to take it off,” she says.
Kablan’s family has lived in Germany since the 1960s. Her grandfather came to Germany together with 150 other young Turkish people after the two countries had signed a labor recruitment agreement. A year later he was joined by his 15 and 17 years old sons. Kablan’s grandfather eventually went back to Turkey, but his sons stayed. Kablan’s father married in Turkey and then returned to Germany. His two children, Suzan Kablan and her brother, were born in Germany. Kablan grew up in a bilingual environment. “My mother was convinced that a person who hasn’t mastered his or her mother tongue can’t learn to speak any other language properly.” Kablan therefore spoke Turkish with her family at home and German with her friends and at school. While Kablan was growing up with both German and Turkish culture, she adopted what she felt she needed from each one. From an early age she was very interested in Islam. She took courses in the Quran and learned to read and write Arabic at the age of eight. When she was 13, she decided to wear a headscarf. Her father was initially skeptical. He didn’t want his daughter to be bullied at school or to have problems later in her professional life. But Kablan did not change her mind.
"I was treated in the same way as all of the other candidates."
The situation became serious in 2010, when she graduated from high School and tried to enter a vocational college. She dreamed of gaining a place in a work-study program and applied to more than 20 colleges, but received only rejections. “I always sent my photo along with the registration form. I wanted my future employers to know right away who was applying for the job,” she says. On her mother’s advice, she also looked for openings at trainee programs. She found an advertisement for a trainee program as a clerical employee for financial services at Mercedes-Benz Bank Stuttgart, Germany. She didn’t have much hope of succeeding when she sent off her application, but only two days later she received an invitation to an assessment day. “I was very surprised. And then I saw that I had forgotten to send a photo of myself with the application form. I was stunned,” she recalls. She didn’t want to be sent home yet again by a receptionist, so she decided not to go there at all. However, her parents persuaded her to go – and then something surprising happened. “Nobody spoke to me about my headscarf. I was treated in the same way as all of the other candidates. In retrospect I even asked myself whether I had forgotten to put on my headscarf.”
For Kablan not being sent home was already a success. She had already gotten further this time around than ever before. The assessment day was followed by an individual interview. “When I entered the room, the clouds parted outside. The man who is now my boss welcomed me by saying, ‘Mrs. Kablan, you’ve brought the sun with you.’ I still feel grateful to him today for this warm welcome,” she says. Subsequently, she received a telephone call – and the offer of a trainee position at Mercedes-Benz Bank Germany. “It was the best news I’ve ever received in my life. Someone had finally judged me not according to my appearance but according to my performance and my strengths,” she says.