“Obviously, if you can’t see them, you can’t apply for the jobs and many vacancies are filled by people employers know in a professional context or through informal networks,” she explains
Öngörur is co-founder of an organization that encourages Swedes not only to network, but also to really help each other up the career ladder. Although originally set up to help women network, the group now has many men among its active members.
Is there a networking culture in Sweden?
What we do know is that Swedes like to join in. There is a strong culture of taking part in clubs and associations (föreningsliv). That could be anything from playing football to joining a choir, or volunteering.
Whether this can be seen as a structured type of networking is a different question, but it certainly provides arenas to meet people.
There are a lot of well-educated and competent job seekers out there, but it's not always only about doing the job effectively, there's a social aspect. I perceive that some employers need to feel that you would also be nice to work with, that you have to fit in well with the group.
Joining a club or an association also gives you a place to talk to people about things that you don’t usually discuss at work, like your personal interests or your political values – topics that you may feel awkward talking about with your colleagues.
Because Swedes don’t talk much about their private lives or their interests when they're at work, these clubs and associations become a place to meet like-minded people.
Why do you think it is important to network in Sweden?
We know that there are these hidden job opportunities, not just in the private sector but also in the public and NGO sectors, both at the local and national levels. Getting wind of those opportunities depends on people knowing who you are, and getting the job means they have to trust you.
So you need to have access to places to meet would-be colleagues, or even employers.
When we started Give It Forward last year we were four people and a few hundred people signed up straight away. Now we have 8,000 members, so clearly people felt a real need for our type of organization, or for some kind of structure to meet people and network informally.
The value of networking is also true for entrepreneurs. There are so many people who have business ideas but don’t know how to make a company grow. Meeting more experienced entrepreneurs can help them go from idea to action.
Do you have any concrete tips to people trying to network in Sweden?
Don’t be afraid to mingle, be curious and ask questions, and really listen to what people have to say.
I usually send off an email a few days after meeting someone, partly to say hi and partly so I have a record of people's contact details - it's so easy to lose a business card.
In some cases, social media is a good way to keep in touch, especially with international contacts. But it requires that you leave out private stuff or tailor your social media accounts, or at least that you should think about what overlap you yourself are comfortable with.
And don’t be a know-it-all. You might be talking to someone who knows a lot more about a topic than you do.
Stay tuned for the next installment of JobTalk Sweden for more insights on how to network successfully in Sweden.