Jessica is the first to admit that Sweden was not an obvious choice for the 28-year-old HR professional.
After finishing her bachelor’s in Rwanda, she held a position as a project coordinator and did some work in general business administration, but felt she was not completely finished with her studies.
Looking to augment her early career experience with another degree, she applied to three programmes in three different countries, opting to let fate determine her next career move.
“I decided that I would go to whichever school accepted me first,” she explains.
As luck would have it, she heard back first from Gothenburg University, where she had applied to a master’s programme in international business and trade.
“It was a bit of roulette, but since Gothenburg got back to me first and I had heard good things about both the city and Sweden I decided I’d go,” Jessica adds.
“Life in Sweden is expensive, however, and it’s hard to find an apartment, so I have to admit it was hard at first.”
But Jessica managed to adjust to student life in Sweden’s second city, and was excited to pursue a PhD after completing her degree in 2011. But due to lack of sponsorship in her preferred area of research, she had to give up the dream of an academic career and instead try to build one in industry.
But it was slow going at first, as finding a job proved no easy task, despite having a degree from a Swedish university.
“I felt bad when I was unemployed, but it did give me time to learn the language,” she explains.
When things were at their worst, she took solace in the fact that she was not alone.
“I saw people with PhDs, architects, pharmacists; well-educated people who couldn’t find a job,” she recalls.
“It’s tough out there.”
Having met with countless representatives from Sweden’s national employment agency, Arbetsförmedlingen, without getting any closer to landing a job, things seemed pretty bleak for Jessica.
She wasn’t getting any concrete employment offers, and small freelance projects such as translating texts for companies failed to feed her intellectual appetite and could not satisfy her financially.
However, Jessica Nkusi remained steadfast in her determination to stay in Sweden and find a job.
“With interesting PhD prospects in Stockholm I moved there,” she says.
“I also knew that there were more chances of a private sector career in Stockholm than in Gothenburg if my PhD aspiration were ever to backfire.”
However Jessica’s fortunes changed when she was assigned an external job coach through the employment agency.
She found herself hooked up with an agent from Academicum, an Uppsala-based company that helps university graduates in Sweden find jobs.
The agent helped provide Jessica with important insights on Swedish business etiquette and coached her through a number of job interviews.
“It’s important to learn how to behave during Swedish job interviews,” she says.
“You can’t boast about yourself too much and you should focus on team achievements instead of personal ones.”
Three months later, she found herself with a Stockholm-based consulting firm internship, working with Swedish IT giant Ericsson on sales and competence development.
While Jessica was unemployed for six months, she is quick to admit it could have been much longer.
“My agent was absolutely amazing, I would have never gotten a job so fast without her,” she says with a smile.
Not long into her internship, however, Ericsson informed Jessica and her colleagues they were being made redundant.
But rather than take the news lying down, she instead decided there was nowhere to go but up and applied for a position through Adecco, a consulting firm that had Ericsson as one of its main clients.
“While I’m not actually employed at Ericsson, I still work at their offices and the job is really interesting,” she says of her position, which has her dealing with human resources issues in both Asian and European branches of Ericsson.
“I love working for Ericsson because it’s a highly international company,” she says.
“It’s given me a lot of experience and a lot of opportunities to develop my skills and capabilities.”
With just a few months left of her probationary period, Jessica feels that her Swedish career is finally taking shape and that she has learned a few things about finding work in Sweden.
“It can be very demanding to wait for a job,” she explains.
“The two most important things are to be equipped with patience and perseverance. Without those, waiting for and landing the job can be an excruciating process.”
Jessica has now lived in Sweden for three and a half years and despite being out of work after finishing her degree, she does not regret the move. In fact, she now looks back on it with fondness, realizing that she is gradually becoming more like the stereotypical Swede, at least when it comes to the weather.
“When I first came here I dreaded the weather, but last year I was actually excited about the first snow falling,” she quips.