Ross’s experience as an international job seeker in… | Undutchables

Ross’s experience as an international job seeker in Stockholm.

Undutchables Blog – Ross’s experience as an international job seeker in Stockholm

When my contact at Undutchables asked me to write something about my experiences moving to Sweden I wondered what I had to offer or what I had to say that would be insightful to anyone else. I’m not working in the traditional sense with a 9-5 office job, instead I’ve been drumming up a career as a freelance writer and a consultant, but maybe that’s just it, my experiences of moving to Sweden are of course my own, but on the other hand they’re typical of the stories you hear speaking to so many other expats. Despite a first year of truly struggling I wouldn’t have things any other way and 18 months on, this is a great opportunity to share some of the tips that I’d wish I’d known (or wish I’d paid more attention to) when I first moved to Sweden…so here are my five main tips for moving to and working in this country.

1. Persevere

If you haven’t already read this, or been told by other expats, the Stockholm and Swedish job market is one tough nut to crack and, as my opening piece of advice, I probably can’t emphasise this enough. However, please do not let you put this you off, Sweden is crying out for international talent, regardless of any language barrier; you only need to visit Stockholm’s clean streets and see the amount of construction taking place to know that this already great European city is still very much ‘on the up’ and where there’s growth, there are jobs!

The one thing you’ll need to equip yourself with is a thick skin and some unbreakable will because even the most experienced, the savviest and the people with the most accomplished CVs have struggled to find their first opportunity here and, like them, you may have to persevere to get your foot in the door. If there’s some solace in all of this it's that you won’t be alone in your struggles, you’ll speak to other expats, to recruiters and your work colleagues (when you have them) and definitely discover you’re not the only one.

Photo Ross Kb Undutchables For Blog

The one thing you’ll need to equip yourself with is a thick skin and some unbreakable will because even the most experienced, the savviest and the people with the most accomplished CVs have struggled to find their first opportunity here

Ross Keatley

2. Network, Network, Network!

It's one you’ve likely heard before, and whilst networking is important in any country, job market or field you’ve really got to network here in Sweden. There is, whether rightly or wrongly, a certain degree of nepotism at play in this country, and what’s really important is to not only be aware of this, but to make sure you are utilising this to the best of your advantage in your own job hunting and as you’re approaching prospective employers.

When I first moved here I struggled to breach the gap between firing off my CV and cover letter for a position and actually sitting in an office interviewing with a prospective employer; it was only as I approached a year of job seeking that I truly started to get to grips with the importance of a network. There are a few simple ways to get the ball rolling, firstly speaking to recruiters like Undutchables, these are your guys in the know with the contacts, not only can they put you forward for prospective jobs, but they’re also the ones that have existing contacts in the companies you’re applying to and this can be the tiny push you'll sometimes need.

There are also some great networking services out there to keep you busy, Meetup and Facebook, spring straight to mind and both are an easy way to get in touch with other people in your situation as well as hooking you up with events and mixers for newcomers. But, also just talk to people you know, people you’ve met, most Swedes are pretty well connected in their own circles, so if you’re at a Swedish house party (and you will be because it's much cheaper than drinking in the bars) chat to people, tell them about your skills and experience, because you never know who they might know themselves.

3. Ask for Help

Yes, I know it seems basic, but your whole existence in the Swedish system is all tied to your 12 digit number social security number, personnummer and this makes everything beautifully simple yet frustratingly complex at the same and navigating this system, like any country, can be tough. Whilst Swedes have the highest level of English proficiency in the world, everything from the state is going to be in Swedish, and this can be a real challenge even for those already with some understanding of the language, but especially so if you’re completely new to Swedish.

I was lucky and moved here already having a Swedish partner, so he was (and still very much is) my one stop shop for complex translations, queries and general frustration venting. This advice is not just for job hunting, but for your day to day life here in Sweden, so when you get stuck seek help and, in my experience, Swedes will always be happy to help as they appreciate the challenges newcomers face, but the more you get familiar and integrate yourself with the language, even to a very basic level, the easier you will find it to get by here.

4. Think Outside the Box

If I had to share the one piece of advice that worked the best for me then this would be the easy front-runner, I moved to Sweden with very entrenched views on my own skills and strengths; however, a few months of job searching in Sweden had me thinking otherwise. I had believed I was going to almost pick up where I had left off in the UK working in the same way I had for the last ten years, but 18 months after my move I’m a freelancing, working one or two days a week from a co-working space and spending the rest of the time working at home or out of a coffee shop (you’ll soon learn the importance of coffee to Swedish culture) and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

But, getting here took me a long time, quite a bit of soul searching and a lot of self-critique to utilise my skills in a new and creative way. My big tip is to look hard at your CV, think about your skills and experience and ask yourself what new doors they could open up for you, recruiters can be great for doing this, even half an hour with a recruiter, asking them to have a look a through your CV can do wonders for getting you to see things from a whole new perspective. Remember Sweden is a country of innovation, tech and start-up - so be part of this innovative trend and open yourself up to new possibilities that you never knew you had. I did it, so can you.

5. Be Relentless

My final point feels like a bit of a cliché, but I also learned this one the hard way, and like nearly everything in life you don’t get anywhere without a lot of effort and a little bit of relentlessness. I’m not just talking about slogging away at those applications, but being prepared go that little bit further. Sometimes it’s not going to be enough to just apply, if there’s a contact give them a call first to discuss the role first, get your name out there before they’ve even received the application, put yourself on their radar. You can take this one step further, if you’ve haven’t received a response within a reasonable time give them a call, I think there’s some real power in speaking to someone in person. If you’re getting an automated ‘no’ response then ask for feedback, this way you’re going to be able to strengthen your hand for the next application.

My closing remarks are hopefully ones of hope and, whilst the complexities of the Swedish way of doing things can seem a little daunting, moving to this country remains one of the best things I have ever done in my life. Like all expats you’ll be able to find your own path and navigate the different ways of doing things, but the reward you’ll receive is the opportunity to live and work in this amazing country, with truly endless opportunities, unique and very special culture, a beautiful language to unlock and an unmatched standard of living to enjoy.

If you are interested in any professional and corporate writing services, please connect with Ross via linkedin.

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