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The A-List: Finding a job in Stockholm

Finding a job in Stockholm isn’t easy. One needs perseverance and dedication… and connections. So how does a new girl tap into the system? YLC’s arbetslös Solveig Rundquist bugs out and tries to figure out how to fly into the Swedish web.

Photo right: Dave Sutherland (Flickr)Photo: Dave Sutherland/Flickr (file)

Over the past few weeks I’ve read a lot of job announcements. My most-visited pages are Arbetsförmedlingen’s Platsbanken and Facebook, which should tell you a lot about where I am in my life right now.

You see, when you read some 100 announcements each day, you start to familiarize yourself with a lot of the terminology and cliché characteristics employers are looking for. One of the most common qualifications I see listed in job announcements is  “a spider in the web.” In other words, employers want a team player; one part of a larger functioning whole. Ironically, the metaphor could also be used to describe the importance of networking in Sweden…and just how hard it is.

The problem with the Swedish spiderweb of networking is that its strands are woven of Swedish culture and experience, not to mention language.

For those who don’t already know where to find this web, it’s practically invisible. You’ve got to look at exactly the right angle and even then the lighting has to be spot-on.

So how do you network in Sweden then? Apparently you just start by talking to every other bug you know, big and small, and hope that they know other insects.

Luckily, since I’ve lived in Sweden previously, I know a lot of busy bugs. I’m finally working to put money in my own pocket. But it’s not thanks to any of the countless CVs I sent out or personal letters over which I sweated and slaved. I didn’t even get an interview. Not one. Instead I had a third-degree connection; a friend’s sister’s boyfriend managed to get me in as an ice cream seller at a kiosk near a museum.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself employed. When you have an expensive foreign education behind you, selling overpriced sweets to gullible tourists doesn’t exactly seem like a career.

But when you choose to move to a country where you lack citizenship, experience, and professional references, you’re also choosing to move down the food chain. At least temporarily.

I thought I was a suave spider, but it turns out I’m just a fruit fly.

And as hard as I try to throw myself into the web, I somehow keep slipping through the cracks. It took me six weeks and an arbitrary connection to land a week’s worth of employment selling ice cream.

Moving abroad is humbling in many ways, and with a native population that seems so hard to get to know, it’s easy to act stereotypically Swedish and keep to yourself. But it’s a lot harder to find opportunities all alone.

So be friendly. Talk to people. Be awkwardly oversocial, even. Ask that Swedish acquaintance out for fika and work up a conversation about job-hunting.  I’m learning that, as reserved and impersonal as many Swedes may seem, they can be surprisingly receptive to random connections. A venerable viking who bought me a drink gave me some tips about getting in at various hotels in town. A friend with whom I was out walking shamelessly stopped a neighbor to ask if she knew of any open positions. Even the librarian at my local library insisted on adding me on Facebook so she could introduce me to a contact in the journalism trade.

So I guess I’m  in, if only barely. I got into the Swedish web by being stereotypically American and asking around. It’s true that perhaps ”selling yourself” doesn’t rub Swedes the right way; lack of humility is as distasteful to them as a can of rotten fish is to the rest of the world (barring Norway). However, simply saying, ”this is who I am and this is what I’m seeking” tends to work wonders.

Well, maybe not wonders. But if you’re lucky, a social Swedish spider will show you the way to the edge of the networking web and you can start scuttling along on your own from there.

And that’s better than nothing.

 

Lycka till!

 

Solveig Rundquist

 

Solveig is a recently-graduated American cactus who plucked up her ancient Scandinavian roots and transplanted them back to snowy Stockholm soil. When not writing for YLC she can be found cantering about town in search of culture, cheer and a career.

 

Follow Solveig and YourLivingCity on Twitter!

 

About Solveig Rundquist

Solveig Rundquist
Solveig is an American cactus who plucked up her ancient Scandinavian roots and transplanted them back to snowy Stockholm soil. When not writing for YLC she can be found cantering about town in search of culture, chai and cheer. Follow Solveig and Your Living City on Twitter!

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9 comments

  1. I am moving to Stockholm next month and have been stressing myself about finding a job. Reading this has given me hope 🙂

    • Solveig Rundquist
      Solveig Rundquist

      That’s such wonderful news, Heather! So glad you got something out of it. If you ever need any support or have questions don’t hestitate to ask us in the forums, too! 🙂 Welcome to Stockholm!

  2. I moved here in November 2013 and I will be honest, it has been a nightmare trying to find employment! I have applied for close to 100 jobs without even getting one interview. The confusing thing is that a lot of these jobs are a huge step down from what I was doing back home. Is it the case that foreigners have to be either very lucky to get a job in Stockholm or do they need to know the right person?

    • Hi Tom,
      I just saw your comments which was post two years ago, did you end up getting a real job now?
      I am also a foreigner who came to Sweden for my studies in very beginning. From my personal view, if you are not IT person, teacher or nurse, or person who is immediately needed in Sweden, looking for a real job is as hard as you experienced, unfortunately. I did experience that and it did drive me crazy! I tried any kinds of chance and no any interview at all. I even hated the society and suspected if strong discrimination exists in Swedish job market. However, I just tried over 100 times and then I got a real job. After rooting myself in Swedish job market, I got a bit more interviews and opportunities.
      Also, The reason why foreign job seekers take very long time to get a job may be because of complex Swedish labor law. Companies or organizations are not easy to fire an employee as employees are very protected by the law. So many employers are very careful to select their ideal candidates and this is one of reasons why an interview is hard to get. If you get an interview, you might have a very big chance to get a job, how much? I’d say 50-70% at least.
      So if you decided to settle down in Sweden, be patient and also be prepared to learn Swedish until you are confident to work/social in Swedish.
      So don’t give up, there is a saying in Sweden” keep shaking the bottle of catchup, you will eventually get some catchup”.
      Good luck!

      • I’m in this boat right now!! I am almost giving up on hope but I will keep trying! Been here just a couple months so gotta keep on keeping on (American here)

  3. I just moved to Stockholm from NYC where I was working with preschool kids, teaching them cooking classes and I would love to find a job in this field again. If anyone knows anything or has any Leeds please let me know. Thanks!

  4. Hi thank you all for your best advices. I am very new in Sweden. I have been an English translator and teacher back home in Afghanistan. I don’t know if can find any jobs. I know a few languages such as English, Urdu, Pashto and Farsi. I would be very happy and appreciate it if anyone help me find a job in any field.

    Cheers

  5. well i’m from Lima. Peru and ‘ll move on Stockholm about november this year is stressing me so bad, even tho i ve sent some mails to ngos aint helping at all, i would like to know if do some1 know about any job where foreign might try and if wants to share a flat in that date

  6. Allison Bushue

    I know these comments are a few years old, but I enjoyed this little series and wish it had continued! I was studying in Sweden from 2013 and have been working for the past year (just managed to get my work visa but I’d like to get different job and it feels like starting all over again.) I have not been able to find the forums on this website, maybe I’m just not seeing them. would love to have a look, the forums at the local can be a bit overly negative at times.

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