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'Swedes don't want to see gaps in your CV'

12 Feb 2013, 16:49

Published: 12 Feb 2013 16:49 GMT+01:00

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How did you end up in Sweden?

I initially came here as a love refugee seven years ago when I was 20. At first my parents were worried about me moving so far away from home, but after my Swedish boyfriend passed muster with my father, a member of the Mexican military, he gave me his full support.

What did you do to get started on your Swedish career?

I enrolled at Stockholm University where I studied political science. Overall it was a positive and very rewarding experience.

I also really liked the university's diversity as well. It is completely normal for a person of any age to be enrolled, whereas in Mexico and the US you mostly see people who are in their early 20s.

Have you kept in touch with people from university? Have they also helped you with advice in Swedish society, finding jobs?

Many went on to study abroad, and sometimes the classes run for such a short period you don’t always have time to make friends. However the few that I’m still in contact with have become really good friends. I wouldn't say they helped me get jobs, but they have been kind of the family that I don’t have here.

SEE ALSO: Click here for the latest listings for jobs in Sweden

I guess my best advice is to really go hang out after classes, that’s when friends are made.

And get involved in stuff on the side. I was always interested in development issues so took part in activities organized by the Swedish development forum, the Stockholm Association of International Affairs and other similar organizations.

So how did a young woman from Mexico end up working at the embassy of Tanzania in Stockholm?

I just applied for the job. I had always wanted to work in an embassy after I graduated, so I had my eyes open for those types of openings. Knowing what you really want makes it easier to put all your energy into making it happen.

Sweden and Tanzania has a decade-long developmental aid relationship. How does your political science degree help you in your current job?

My university studies gave me the analytic and theoretical skills necessary to better understand foreign relations and diplomacy. It has been really interesting to witness the economic and social shifts in Tanzania at it transitions from having foreign aid as its main source of economic support to relying more on trade and investment.

What does a typical workday look like?

I am the personal assistant to the ambassador, which makes my job pretty diverse. I take care of his schedule and assist him in anything he may need, from organizing logistics to serving as a gatekeeper for external contacts.

I also take care of the drafting diplomatic correspondence and reports on Swedish politics and how the local media covers Tanzania.

What are some key differences between Sweden and your home country when it comes to finding a job?

It’s been said many times about Sweden, and I completely agree, that you find jobs through your contacts. But it is the same in Mexico. It’s all about who you know.

However, one difference might be that in Mexico, if you speak English, it's a bit easier to get a job at a big, international company even if you don't speak Spanish, whereas in Sweden, you really need Swedish to improve your chances of getting a job.

Apart from "never give up", do you have any other tips for people looking for work in Sweden?

I’d like to emphasize the importance of a good CV. Before I got this job, I dedicated a lot of time really looking at Swedish websites giving tips on how to write a winning CV and examining different templates. I think it's important to keep your CV up to date and make a whole new one that follows a Swedish standard.

I may sound too philosophical but the whole "God can dream a bigger dream for you than you could ever dream for yourself" or for the more rationally-minded: "Good things come to those who wait" applies to me in this case.

SEE ALSO: Quick tips for writing the perfect Swedish CV

What other advice might help foreigners make themselves more attractive to Swedish employers?

It's also a good idea to do something while looking for a job, whether it’s volunteer work or an internship, preferably related to your area of expertise.

Swedes value experience a lot, so it's not only is good to acquire as much as you can, but it looks much better to have an activity during the time that you were unemployed than to have a "gap" in your CV.

I even worked as a volunteer at the Swedish Open tennis tournament. I’ve always had the conviction that you never know where one thing may lead, and in this instance, a fellow volunteer became one of my best friends.

Plus, you may never know if that "temporary" activity can lead to a job or if you might meet someone that could have something for you.

You need to explore it all.

Interested in sharing the story of your Swedish career with The Local?

We'd be happy to hear from you. Send an email with "My Swedish Career" in the subject line to news@thelocal.se and we'll get in touch.

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

To read more interviews from our My Swedish Career series, please visit our archive.

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Your comments about this article

17:04 February 12, 2013 by johan rebel
Dar es Salaam used to be such a nice, relaxed and laid-back city, without a single highrise building . . . .
17:54 February 12, 2013 by Twiceshy
I thought in Sweden it was not so rare to take a year off in order to go travelling or something like that. You can always use that as an explanation (although if it's a lie you may get caught at it, and that's never good).
17:59 February 12, 2013 by Rishonim
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
20:52 February 12, 2013 by polartwist
Swedes do want to see your CV, comma, if you have something interesting to show. For Swedish employers is important to see that you really love what you do and a big plus are projects that you were able to do and complete by your own. Full stop. Swedes, as I already told, have the freedom to hire whatever they want (also a dog if they think is appropriate). It's easy to bring racism as an excuse for YOUR failure. I have never seen so much racism against Sweden (the country where we are the guest, actually) like in this website!
23:21 February 12, 2013 by oddsock
They don't like gaps in CVs. But a Swede taking 8 years to finish a 5 year degree doesn't seem to constitute a "gap" for the HR people.
00:07 February 13, 2013 by Beavis
the problem is many that are in the hiring position in companies are quite clueless hr graduates who havent worked in anything else and dont have the ability to think outside the box that was drawn for them in uni. So you have to manipulate your cv and interview to suit them, unless you are lucky enough to be intervied by someone who is doing relevent work to what your being hired for. No offence to the Mexican lady, but your basically an overpaid secretary right?
09:15 February 13, 2013 by muscle
@Beavis: You are right atleast about one thing, the recruiters, the basic screening of the cv is being done by inexperienced HR graduates. And I must add, the consulting organizations have the worst HR people for screening the cvs!!
09:38 February 13, 2013 by salalah
I was unemployed for 5 years and I would never get a job with a Swedish company, but I got a job at an embassy and worked there for 5 years. Foreign people are not morons who think your brain is outdated just because your CV is!!
10:36 February 13, 2013 by PageyGB
Beavis, I am not sure what prompted your last comment? Couldn't resisit a jibe?

While a PA is different to a secretary... what is wrong with being a secretary anyway? And there is no pay mentioned here! I am sure she would LOVE to be overpaid. Something makes me think that working for Tanzania, in Sweden, as a foreigner means the pay won't be that great.

It is a good point about the gaps in th CV. I know when I was hiring in Stockholm I dismissed people with huge gaps without a valid reason. Travelling or studying IS a valid reason to me though. Live and let live.

Well done Miss Mexican Lady for getting a job in the field you wanted. Not an easy thing in Sweden. I am sure your experiences will be useful to some people out there.
06:25 February 15, 2013 by Jense
Yes, well done on studying and getting a rewarding job that you clearly suit! As someone responsible for recruitment and interviewing, I always look out for gaps in CVs. There can often be a valid reason for these gaps in a person's CV, caring for a sick relative, travel or other personal projects. I wish you every success in your Swedish career!
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