I had the opportunity to contact Andreas, a man who dreams about making the world a better place. But dreaming is not helping anyone to achieve what you want, so he launched a startup where he was the one to seek for funding, involved in the marketing, web development and so on. But let’s take a look at what he has to say about it.
Tell us about yourself and what is 400contacts?
My name is Andreas Wennberg. I am an entrepreneur who believes companies should exist to make the world a better place. I am the founder of 400contacts, an organization that helps newcomers find a job in Sweden. We have an app that has an eight week process that the users can go through in order to find a job in Sweden. 19 out of 20 people that used the app found an interview, a job, an internship or a freelance gig.
What is the biggest concern for refugees living in Sweden and how has the situation of refugees changed?
It is hard to give a general answer to this question. The group ofrefugees or asylum seekers is very heterogenous. The only real common denominator is the fact that the person has had to leave their home because of some kind of threat in their home country. So, I am always cautious about saying something about refugees as a group of people. Also, when I talk with people, the discussions are generally around jobs because that is what we are focusing on. So, some of the problems that people really have might not be discussed with me.
What I can share is what people in the community 400contacts have challenges with. Some of the major concerns that people have in our community is: learning Swedish, finding a job, finding housing, the long wait from the Migration Board, not knowing when they will meet their family and/or spouse again. We focus on helping people find a job because it is essential for many of the other things.
How do refugees cover their basic needs like food or other basic things?
All asylum seekers get around 720 SEK/month, three meals per day and housing. The monthly support should cover everything else and this is a challenge of course. Related to the job hunt, it is a big problem that transportation and internet has to be fitted in to this budget. For instance, if you live outside Uppsala at the asylum center there, then two trips to Stockholm for job interviews will exhaust all the funds you get for that month. So that is a really big issue. Making sure there is reliable internet at the camps and free transportation would help a lot.
How do refugees have access to jobs?
Most people that I have seen finding a job have done so through informal relations. That is simply connecting to people in their industry through one way or another, developing a relationship and finding a job.
Do you target a specific age group or field of study?
Yes. Most people that use the app have University/College education and understand English. No special age.
Why do they need 400contacs for finding a job? What is the reality concerning the possibilities of finding a job?
First of all, the government is not helping refugees to find a job because it is no one’s responsibility to do so. Migrationsverket arranges just something called “organiserad sysselsättning”. In theory that program is designed to help people get more active through internships and so on. But, the individual has a huge responsibility to actually find the internship. They won’t match people with jobs. But people don’t get jobs when they a get residence permits and go to Arbetsförmedlingen either. After 2 years and 3 months in Arbetsförmedlingen’s “establishment” programme, designed to help newcomers find a job, only 5 % have a paid job that is not subsidised by the government. In short, the government programs don’t work.
Also, the job boards are not really helping people either. I met tons of people who have applied for hundreds of jobs on job boards and got nothing in response other than standard e-mails saying “thanks for your application but we proceeded with other applicants”. So there is a need for people to get feedback, get motivated and also job hunt in a more efficient way. We are constantly reaching out to recruiters to see what they are looking for in candidates. One example of that is when we some weeks ago interviewed the recruitment firm Incluso to see what they are looking for. Then we spread that information to our community and in our app so that everyone can optimize their job hunt.
The first person to ever finish our program, Francis Awagu, said: “you have to arm yourself with knowledge” and I think that is an amazing way to look at it. 400contacts is all about helping people to understand how the job market works so that they can increase their chances of finding the job for them. As I mentioned before, that seems to be a model that works. 19 out of 20 people that responded to our user survey in the beta test expressed that they had progression towards a job.
What is the main problem that occurs during the job hunt?
There are many problems that occur during the job hunt. Some of the things are things that job hunters can’t do anything about themselves. I want to focus on the things that job hunters can be mindful of and change. The two main problems that we try to solve are demotivation and inefficient strategies.
The job hunt is very demotivating by its very nature if you do it by the book. Sending your CV to open positions on job boards often leads to either no response at all or some copy-pasted template. This constant rejection is very tough to cope with. Human beings take rejection really hard, science has even shown the body registers the same sensations from rejection and physical pain. This is natural. Think about hunter and gatherer societies in which we basically had to have a team of hunters in order to find food and shelter. The same is true today, we need each other. That is why rejection in for instance a job hunt hurts so badly and makes people demotivated.
One tool that we use to help people get motivated is seeing the job market as a game. Games have been studied in depth for the last decade. For instance, the neuroscientist Jane McGonigal has shown that games can make people more resilient. She mentions studies where people who regularly play games have an easier time facing adversities in other areas of life.
The second thing is inefficient strategies. It has been studied over and over again, that the big chunk of the job market is the hidden job market. That is, the jobs that are given to someone because they have an informal connection with the employer. For people that are newcomers in Sweden, this is obviously a big challenge. Oftentimes, coming to a new country means having little or no connections to local professionals. So, we advise people to build those connections early on. In the app, we share tons of resources that people can use to connect to anyone they want.
What future plans do you have and what does it involve?
We build our business around three metrics: impact, growth and retention. The plan for the future is to improve all these three things. When it comes to impact, we have seen that 19/20 of the users have found an interview, a job, an internship or a freelance gig. We simply want to increase the amount of people who find opportunities and help people find the right opportunities for them. When it comes to retention, we want people to come back to the app and actually do the whole process that we have designed, because we know it will help people. So, more visitors use us every week. Lastly, we want to grow this app both in Sweden and in the world.
In order to improve, we are always making new experiments that we think could provide value for our users and we regularly talk with the users through Skype to see what kind of problems they have and how we can solve them better. When it comes to specific products, there are a lot of potential products and services going forward. At the moment, we are focusing on the app, but it all comes down to giving the users something that will be helpful for them.
How do those in need find out about your organization?
They find us through a variety of ways. We have a partnership with the Newbie Guide to Sweden where we provide blog posts for them and they promote us on the site. Then we also produced a track in the app together with the recruitment company Incluso. Another thing we do is that we provide our app to Academicum that is one of the companies that is running Korta Vägen in five cities in Sweden. They have a separate track in the app. We are featured in the Setel.in site and finally people share our site in various groups on Facebook.