If you want to live in Sweden and you’re not an EU or Swiss citizen, you’ve got basically three options: one, study; two, have a lasting and genuine relationship with someone else who has permission to live in Sweden; or three, find a job.
Choosing to study in Sweden is probably the one you have the most control over; the second is a little more up to fate. And then there’s the third option.
Finding a job in Sweden is tough, especially since the EU has certain protectionist laws that make it difficult for European countries to hire non-Europeans. (This does not necessarily apply to international companies, which are free to transfer employees throughout the organization.)
I get questions about searching for a job in Sweden all the time, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences as well as a letter from a blog reader.
Here’s the letter I got from Gaby (abridged and published with her permission, of course):
I have been trying to find a job in Sweden since November (sending CVs or applying at companies’ web pages). Almost nobody has answered me, and the one person who did asked how they can hire me if I am not available for an interview. It’s a little frustrating.
I am Mexican (live in Mexico), 35 years old, and at the moment I work at the US Embassy in Mexico City as a visa clerk. I have family in Denmark, so it would be good option to work in Sweden and visit my family on weekends (that’s why I am trying to find a job close to Helsingborg, Malmö or Lund). I started taking a Swedish course three weeks ago, but it would be better and easier if I were living there.
A: Do you know if I am doing something wrong?
B: What happened if I go as a tourist to find a job and be available for interviews
C: Or maybe I am too old to move there??
You’re never too old
First things first. I don’t think you’re too old for anything at age 35. If you need a little inspiration, check out the Work Blog here at blogs.sweden.se. Kristin’s story is a clear example that it’s never too late to make big changes and do the things you want to do. If you want to live in Sweden, don’t let your age hold you back!
Before I found out about the sambo visa, I tried to get a job in Sweden from the United States, and I also had a really hard time. At that time, I was a qualified ESL teacher with work experience within that field, plus a degree in English from a top college in the US. Even so, I didn’t hear back from a single job that I applied for.
It’s all about networking—no matter how tenuous the connection
The way I eventually got a job was through very, very random networking. I was taking Swedish classes (SFI) and went to buy a snack during the break. (Surprise, surprise, right?) I started talking to the woman next to me about which candy bar I should get, and it turned out that she was Swedish and studying to be an accredited ESL teacher. She said she would refer any new clients to me because she was too busy with her coursework to take new students.
I never heard from her again, but she passed on my name to another ESL teacher, who I still have never met, who passed on my name to a private language school that was in desperate need of an English teacher at the last minute. The job interview (conducted over the phone) went like this: “Do you have any experience? Ok, that’s good. Do you have any sort of degree or accreditation? Ok, great. Could you possibly start tomorrow? Ok, you’re hired.” I’ve been there ever since.
All of this is a very long way of saying that I think networking is everything in this country. I have a friend who was really successful finding a job here (also as a teacher) by setting up informational sessions and interviews with a bunch of principals while she was still in the United States. She came during her spring break and traveled all over the place to meet with them. At the end of 10 days or so, all of them had offered her a job. Providing you’re qualified for the job, the biggest challenge is getting your foot in the door.
Connect with people through social media or international groups
If you have friends or family in the area—or any contacts at all—the first thing you should do is ask them to network like crazy for you. This is not the time to be shy!
If you don’t have any personal contacts in Sweden, then you should try to network over Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn. Start conversations with people in the fields you want to work in. Demonstrate how committed you are to finding a job in Sweden. Ask for advice. You never know who might refer you to a friend who might connect you with an opportunity that just so happens to work out!
Another way to network is to get in touch with people through expat or international groups, both in your home country and abroad. I’m a member of the American Women’s Club (you don’t have to be American or a woman to join) and a nominal member of Internations, which is a very vibrant group throughout the world. Put it out there that you’re trying to make connections with Sweden when you’re in your own country, or schedule a trip to Sweden and try to meet as many people in person as you can while you’re there.
Attend a conference or enroll in a program
This is in the same vein as before: connect, connect, connect. I have a friend who came to Sweden to teach a summer course at a university here as a fun way to take a trip to a new part of the world. They liked him so much they offered him a job—two years later, and he’s still here. Once again, as long as you’re qualified for the job, just getting your foot in the door is the biggest challenge, regardless of whether you’re planning on falling in love with Sweden or not!
Another strategy might be to do a 1 year Master’s course in the field you want to work in. Although this is more expensive and time-consuming, you’ll have a full year of networking and connection-building built in, and you’ll have a structure and contacts at your school to get you started.
So, readers. What do you think?
Expats—how did you get your job in Sweden?
Swedish people—am I missing something?