How to kickstart your career in Stockholm
Publish date: 24 August 2021
When Shaena Harrison moved to Stockholm with her Swedish husband she didn't have a job or much idea how the city worked. But thanks to a can-do attitude and a pro-active approach, that soon changed. Here she shares her tips on how to break into the job market.
I love living in Stockholm and have no intention of leaving but when I moved here first in 2011 finding a job was challenging. My husband is Swedish and was working in the HR industry, though being new to the country meant I had to push hard to open doors.
Over the years I've spoken to a lot of people in similar situations; they have moved to Stockholm either to be with their Swede or an international partner who has scored a job here and suddenly they have found themselves in an unfamiliar environment and without a network. I usually tell them about what worked for me in the hope that it will help others too.
Find a network
Getting off the couch and into a networking environment can be a daunting task at the best of times, but it can really pay dividends. And you don't have to do it alone. Try to find a friend who will accompany you to an event in your field. Stockholm's a great city for meetups and people are generally very open and willing to chat. If you're lucky, you'll plant a seed that can lead to something bigger.
Scatter your digital breadcrumbs wisely
Make sure you're visible on social media platforms and other forums pertinent to your line of work. Leave thoughtful comments on posts and personalize your messages when trying to make new connections. It's also important to sharpen your online profiles and CV to help you stand out from the crowd. Stockholm is an open city. I know there's this stereotype of Swedes being cold and distant but honestly, just pretend you never heard it. Sure, there can be initial reserve, but if you reach out to people you will be amazed at the spirit of generosity in this city and how willing people are to help out where they can.
Seek out mentorship programs
Signing up to a mentorship program can be a great way to meet Swedes who can offer a helping hand in understanding the job market in general or even the specifics of your sector if you're eligible for one of the tailored programs out there. This can also be a great gateway to workshops and community gatherings that you might otherwise miss.
I can't stress enough how important volunteering activities have been for me. In fact, it really gave me my breakthrough. What happened was that I volunteered to bring the Color Me Rad fun-run to Scandinavia. For one thing, I made a lot of connections, but I also found that I was good at it, and having that experience on my CV led directly to a career in the event sector. It's also a great confidence builder. Adapting to life in a new country can be energy sapping but when you volunteer to do something nobody else is doing you suddenly feel much more in control of your destiny, which breeds a confidence that can really take you places. It's something I continued with long after landing my first job. For example, I volunteered with TEDx and made so many great connections as a member of the production team.
Start your own company
It's actually remarkably easy to set up a company in Stockholm and doing so gives you a real inside look at how businesses work here from a practical perspective. I did it when launching the Color Me Rad event that I had intially volunteered for, and it was a such an important springboard. My first employer in Sweden could see how the entrepreneurial drive I'd shown to get the event off the ground could be harnessed, so even though my Swedish wasn't amazing at the time, or at all, they will still willing to take a chance on me.