Now that I have found a job in Sweden, I feel I can write this post with more confidence!
Note: The post is based on my personal experience and are my views and opinions on the topic but are in no way established rules! Your experience maybe different and please feel to share them in the comments.
This post starts with an overall introduction and then is divided into different sections and is mainly focused on graduates from Swedish universities. Let me start by saying that finding a job after moving to a new country is difficult anywhere in the world. For companies, often look at it as a risk to hire someone from a different country. And this risk is not unsubstantiated. A cultural fit into an organization and team is vital if the employee is to stay and contribute to the company in the long-term. And to me, that is the source of the risk. Companies want to know that you think similar to them, and still think a bit different and bring something new. Being an international student the dice is heavily favored to you in the ‘bring something new department’ but it’s more difficult to show them that you think in line with company culture. Companies in Sweden take a long time to hire and are usually have a stringent hiring process. This might be due to:
1. High salaries and cost of labour – Not only are the salaries high but the companies pay high taxes for employing anyone. So the cost to the company to hire anyone is really high!
2. Firing is not easy – Most industries in Sweden are unionized and it is difficult to fire someone even in 2016. So, if the employee is unproductive or does not fit into the company culture, it is difficult to simply fire them.
So this blogpost is a little bit about that. It is also not about racism, sexism and other kinds of discrimination one might face during the employment process. I didn’t face any of that in Sweden and I am sure it exists but this is how I think about it: I want to work here, and even if there is discrimination, I want to find that job. It is just another hurdle which I have to overcome.
Now let’s get down to it! Most tips and suggestions are fairly obvious and straightforward and most of it, you learn from making mistakes and failing.
One. Start early
I cannot stress this enough. I learnt it when I was looking for internships and I started only in January or February and that was wayy tooo late. My friends in Sweden told me starting in January would be okay, but well, apparently not. Also finding an internship is way harder than finding a job in Sweden.
A classmate of mine asked the class and the professors when it is hiring season in Sweden and when she should start. The answer was unanimous: It is never too early to start. Hiring season in Sweden is roughly as shown below. The first 3 categories have some serious competition. Many rounds of interviews, assessment days, presentations, group case solving etc. may precede an eventual job offer. This world is cray cray.
Banking – September to December – All my friends in Finance were trying to seal something by December.
Consulting – October to February – Consultancies hire all year round but as a young graduate finding a job after February is unlikely. The silver lining to applying after February is that the competition might be a bit lower as most people look for something before Feb it self. The really cool thing about consulting firms in Sweden is that you can contact HR via phone or email and say that you want to meet someone for a fika to get to know the company and they usually dont say no! Its a great way to get your foot in the company.
Global MNCs – Graduate Trainee Programmes – December to April – Most Swedish and international MNCs follow this pattern. Link to check for updates: http://www.traineedagen.se/
Start ups – No real deadline! – Stockholm has a very active startup scene and there are many opportunities for young graduates. SUP46 is probably the best place to start building your network and looking for a job!
Most other jobs – if you want to find a job before summer, you should have something 2-3 months prior. Swedes like to plan ahead and hiring someone is a big deal for most companies (work permits, union regulations etc.) so they would like to close shop 2-3 months before summer.
Two. Network, Network, Network
Networking is probably the best way to calm down fears employers have about cultural fit. If people they know have met you and think that you are fine, it is a big big positive. I feel like it is really important to network before submitting your application. Big companies or small companies, it is a huge plus if the people reading your application already know who you are. No matter how good the application is, it is really difficult to stand out in like 3000 applications. However, if you have networked before then the reader knows you and is more likely to read your application carefully. I know this sounds cumbersome and boring but it is an important step in the hiring process! I wrote a post about how to network here in Sweden here.
Whether it is while networking, in the application or during an interview, the stories you tell about yourself and your life, I believe, make or break your chances of finding a job. Other than the actual content of the stories, the stories also allow people to understand what you think about the world and why you think the way you do. It is a critical part of understanding YOU. Companies put in a lot of time and effort trying to understand you and see if you are a good fit for the company. Someone who can play in the team but still bring something different, something the company is looking for.
In class, they taught us how to tell stories and which stories are important. There are many ways of doing this but staying authentic is really really important. I usually choose stories that contributed to changing me or tested my character, stories that bring out how I am different from others, stories that made me question myself and tested my character. The crux is to highlight stories that have contributed to you making the choices in life that you have made to reach where you are now. When you first start you might come up with 5 stories, keep working with them and you will discover stronger, better, more meaningful stories. Reflect about your life, take a pause and really think about it. Why are you the way you are and why are you where you are? Knowing these things are crucial.
So, I have a repository for around ten stories and each of these stories have been tested and pitched to many people and their feedback has been incorporated in the way I construct and present the stories. I think these small things are vital. It is nice to have a process of doing these things, everyone story could be told better, made crisper. Sometimes you need to be able to tell the story in one minute, or two sentences, sometimes you need to fill five minutes. Its important to know why you are telling the story, what is at its core and then you can tell it in many different ways.
Four. Invest Time
Right from finding companies you like, to networking to building stories, applying and interviewing, everything takes time. It is really important to invest time actively. I don’t think there is any replacement for hardwork and effort. I looked at it like a project which required 10 hours a week. I had to divide time differently and really focus on this. All I can say is that this time is not wasted. Even if you don’t get the job you worked so hard for, it really prepares you for the next application. So start putting 5-10 hours a week on the job search, every minute is useful in long run. It is really connected to the starting early point. In the start you might not have much to do, but you can still try to spend 5-10 hours a week meeting people or crafting stories. I think the job seeking process is a lot about building momentum and putting in a steady amount of work on it helps build momentum. One cannot underestimate the importance of hardwork and just being persistent. There are going to be rejections and disappointments and how we keep going through those and keep working towards the goal is crucial!
Five. Learn Swedish
This is the only thing I didn’t do to find the job. I mean I tried learning but well, so far, I have failed. Learning Swedish opens up many more opportunities and makes the entire process less stressful. There are way more jobs open for you if you know Swedish. It also is a way to convince employers that you are serious about working in Sweden and that you fit in the culture of the country. There are many great posts about how to learn Swedish –
Learning Swedish, just like finding a job, requires time and effort and no one else can do those for you.
Best of luck!
Featured Image: http://cdn1.theodysseyonline.com/files/2016/01/09/6358796959740944001417665660_the-millennials_lowres.jpg