Student job-seeking tips: ‘just go out and ask’

Students in Sweden, especially foreign students, can be left struggling when looking for extra work to support their studies. For this week's JobTalk, we find out why it's a problem and how it can be tackled.

Student job-seeking tips: 'just go out and ask'

In university towns like Uppsala, north of Stockholm, and Lund in southern Sweden, competition for a part-time job is fierce in the best of times.

So fierce, in fact, that many students end up working for peanuts in the student “nations” in order to afford their weekly dose of microwave noodles and rice.

But why is it so hard to find work in Sweden’s student towns compared with other towns in Europe and the world? And how can it be tackled?

Susanne Linné, Career Communication Officer at Lund University, admits the current situation is “rather bad indeed”.

“But it’s not a surprise really, Lund is a student town full of young people,” she tells The Local.

“Yet every year we have students arriving who are surprised they can’t find any extra work. Perhaps it’s because they’re young and don’t know any better.”

With over 47,000 students in the small town, some even travel as far as Copenhagen in order to pick up some extra pocket money – providing they have an EU passport.

“We hear of people trying their luck in Denmark because it’s only a short trip away and it’s a capital city. The chances are much better there than in Lund, Helsingborg, or Malmö,” Linné explains.

In Uppsala, one of Sweden’s biggest student towns, the problem is much the same.

“We don’t have a job agency on campus like other universities around Europe might,” Charlotte Nordgren, Study and Career Councillor at Uppsala University, tells The Local.

“We encourage people to sign up to our newsletter and to take advantage of our small job database. But Swedish students are competing for the same jobs as the international students, which makes it even tougher for the foreigners to find something.”

For those students not content with trying their luck online, Nordgren suggests simply knocking on doors with an armful of CVs.

“You’ve got to go around and just ask. Go to the pubs, the restaurants, the hotels and just ask for work,” she explains.

Failing that, many students turn to the “nations”, a collection of student bars and restaurants that can be found in both Uppsala and Lund. But the pay is abysmal, according to one ex-staff member of the Upplands Nation in Uppsala.

“The average worker in a nation gets around 25-35 kronor ($3.90 – $5.45) an hour,” the ex-worker, a 24-year-old woman who wished to remain anonymous, told The Local.

“And it’s really long hours – from four in the afternoon to around two or three in the morning. I did enjoy the experience, but you get so worn out – it’s not really worth it.”

While Nordgren in Uppsala admits that the wages for nations staff are “a problem the university is often asked about” she stresses that the university gets mostly positive feedback from the students who have enjoyed the “social experience”.

Outside of the nations, representatives from both Uppsala and Lund concur that learning Swedish is the key to finding a job.

However, Catarina Ystehed, an advisor at Sweden’s Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen), believes the problem runs deeper.

“It’s already hard enough in Sweden, where the unemployment is high, especially compared with nearby countries such as Germany and Norway where the economy is strong,” she tells The Local.

While students often opt for staffing agencies while looking for work, Ystehed explains that employers in student towns are usually not even looking for extra staff.

“I’d advise students to translate their CVs into Swedish as employers will always be more interested in reading it in Swedish. Then, if door knocking doesn’t work, the best bet is to talk to job advisers at the universities, or check out for information – even though it’s in Swedish.”

Susanne Linné in Lund suggests that the translated CVs should be taken to places where language skills are not a necessity.

“Foreign students should try looking for jobs where there isn’t much talking involved, like cleaning. Or we hear of some who strike lucky with big companies that use English,” she says.

“The best advice, however, is to come to Sweden with enough money so that you don’t need extra work…or to simply learn Swedish – even if you’re not planning to stay.

“But it’s even hard for Swedish students here, the competition is huge” she adds.

“I wouldn’t go to Lund expecting to get a job.”

Oliver Gee

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Obama reveals he wants to work for… Spotify?

Barack Obama may be leaving the White House, but it looks like he's got his future all planned out.

Obama reveals he wants to work for... Spotify?
Barack Obama on a visit to Sweden in 2013. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

One of Obama's favourite trips abroad was his 2013 visit to Sweden, US tech entrepreneur, podcast editor and former The Local blogger Natalia Brzezinski has revealed the president told her.

She and her husband Mark Brzezinski, who was the US ambassador to Sweden 2011-2015, were invited to the White House on Wednesday evening along with other diplomats appointed by Obama.

“I finally got the chance to thank him for the life-changing appointment to Sweden,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.

“He said word for word: 'I loved visiting you in Stockholm, it was my favourite trip. I plan to go back there really soon'.”

Obama went to Stockholm on an official state visit in 2013. And Brzezinski, the CEO of creative tech festival Symposium Stockholm, revealed she tried to tempt him back to attend its Brilliant Minds conference in June.

He did not promise anything, but did at least urge Brzezinski to “send him the details”.

Obama leaves his post on January 20th, handing over the reins to Republican president-elect Donald Trump. As for the outgoing president's future, it looks like he's got his heart set on a certain Swedish music streaming giant.

“I'm still waiting for my job at Spotify… 'cause I know y'all loved my playlist,” Brzezinski quoted him as saying.

We are pretty sure he was joking, but it is not the first time Obama has praised Sweden.

Former prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt revealed in an interview last year that the US president had told him on his visit to Stockholm that he would love to return again with his family.

“Shortly thereafter I met Michelle and Barack Obama again in New York and Michelle confirmed that Barack talked to her about it after his visit to Stockholm. I said I hoped they would find time to return after his presidency,” Reinfeldt told the Aftonbladet tabloid in September.