People in general, but especially immigrants with an academic background, may find it hard to understand the right way to find a job in Sweden. Advice abounds everywhere, but which ones are worth taking? Who could really help you out? No one is looking for an easy way out, but everybody needs to find the right answers if they want to fulfill their dreams.
We had the chance to talk with Magnus Berg, who shares his opinions about the best way to become the person that you want to be.
Ledarna is the Swedish Organization for managers and I read in your presentation that Sweden needs more managers with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. At all levels. Why is this infusion so important for Sweden?
First of all, to mirror the multicultural Sweden. Today a total of 22% have a foreign background, i.e.born outside Sweden (17%) or with both parents being immigrants (5%). This is a high percentage compared to most other EU countries. But it’s also important to, more actively, meet the globalization of markets, trade, services and competition.
Managers’ Express is a program for immigrants with managerial experience. What are the conditions that a candidate must have to be able to access the program? What will they be able to do at the end of program?
We welcome both asylum seekers and permit holders, those who haven’t been in Sweden longer than four years. They should have some managerial experience and/or an academic degree. We are not that super-strict, it’s also about personal ambition. Managers’ Express is meant to be a great boost. Participants get the necessary knowledge, in only four days,to improve chances to continue their careers in this new country. It includes subjects such as work culture, Swedish management, basic labor laws, hands-on as career coaching, company contacts as well as interviews and further contacts beyond the actual program. You can check it out and apply at ledarna.se/managersexpress.
The Swedish and immigrant professionals come from different socio-economical environments. What are the major differences, in your opinion?
Experience in project management often differs. In Sweden, the employer expects you to be more independent than the immigrants used to in their homecountries. And you are allowed to make mistakes as long as you move things forward. On several occasions employers have told me that the immigrant employee is very good, but nothing much is happening. And this is because they are not used to the mandate and independence at work. This is vital for the employer and the immigrant to know and talk about during the first week at work.
Secondly, most Swedish workplaces are non-hierarchical and casual. You can discuss things with your boss at any time and you’re expected to speak your mind regardless of your position. This is news to most immigrants, and this may take some time to adapt to. Thirdly, the implications of Swedish labor laws are important to know. They affect everything, in a positive way. You can’t be fired for simple mistakes here. The laws give you a security at work, but also courage to perform.
I met professionals in medicine, engineering, research and so on, with extensive experience from their homeland, but unfortunately they find only unqualified jobs. What is your advice for those who are in such situations? How are they going to be able start to practice their professions as soon as possible?
I think they may have to accept starting over, but within their field of competence. Even if they were big bosses at home, they have to understand that they cannot go directly to the same position here. This is my advice and I know it’s not easy. All the people that have succeeded have started from a lower position. And there are possibilities, but they only have to know how to handle them, how to find the possibilities.
You worked previously at the Migration Agency assisting immigrants with professional backgrounds to get relevant internships and jobs, to be part of Swedish society. If I ask you to make a list with title “Don’t do that!” for an immigrant with a strong CV, which would be your main points?
a) Jobhunting in Sweden is much more of a process. It’s not about knowing the right person. You must connect to many people and you need to do lots of things at the same time. Jobhunting here is a full-time job in itself.
b) Emphasize your international experience. Describe it, “sell it” and put it in the beginning of your CV. Most immigrants are like living bridges between markets, cultures etc, so promote that!
c) Help the ignorant Swedish employers to understand by comparing your degree or work achievements with something equivalent in Sweden.
d) Tailor-make your application and CV to every new job opportunity. Adjust to the specific needs of the industry and individual company. Do your research, then apply.
e) Use Linkedin actively.3 million Swedes are members there and every single employer will check your profile before an interview. And add relevant contacts, follow, comment and like the groups and posts that fit your plan.
f) Expand your Swedish networks. You must not be afraid to connect with Swedes. There are many organized ways to do it – for example through yrkesdorren.se, where you are quickly matched with someone in your field.
h) Don’t oversell yourself. When Swedish managers sense desperation, they back down. Describe your achievements with details and facts, not too many superlatives.
What must be changed in the Swedish labor market so the newcomers could find a job easier?
It’s all about closing the gap. And especially the Swedish employers need to do better. We know that the majority of them don’t know anything about the competence that has arrived to Sweden and they’ve never really met or been in a job interview situation with an immigrant. In our meetings between companies and immigrants, the Swedes are always surprised by the professionalism and ambition they meet.
In addition to that, the trade unions and employers federations play a major role. And they need to open up a lot more and create better possibilities, new ways for entering the labor market.
In an interview for The Local Voice you said, and I quote “Swedish employers are hypocrites”. Do you still believe that? I ask this because it is less common as a Swedish citizen to say something like this about his compatriots. What was the feedback from your partners about your direct opinion?
Well, this is connecting to the ignorance we talked about before. I strongly believe that employers in Sweden need to be challenged. Way too many of them don’t walk the talk; ignorant about the true competence, have never met anyone, feeling sorry for the “flykting” – focusing on the problem, don’t realize the business-oriented benefits, etc. The gap between Swedes and inmigrants in terms of employment rate is the widest within the OECD. And my experience is that the ignorance of Swedish employers is a major reason for this. So they have to be educated and that is also one of our priorities.
Which are the main discriminations in your opinion in the Swedish labor market, if there are any?
Facts tell us the ”Mohammed” application is more often rejected than the one from”Anders”.
Mostly due to ignorance and a lack of experience. There are probably more examples of discrimination, but this one is very obvious. And it makes recruitment very inefficient. Swedish companies miss out on so much competence, new perspective and international experience.
Ledarna has more than 90.000 members. How many of them are women?
More than 40% of them are women.
Which are the sectors that struggle the most with a lack of competence and employees?
The IT sector is screaming for people, primarily programmers and specialists. Swedish schools need a lot of teachers and other personnel. This goes for the health care and construction sector as well. So these sectors represent true possibilities for immigrants.
They just need to conduct their jobhunting processes in a better way and Swedish managers have to learn to be more professional in the search for new competence.
I also suggest to every company and organization I meet, in both the private and public sector, that they should hire a qualified immigrant at their HR (human resources) department next week. That would quickly help them find candidates within this important group.
How can people contact you?