Ten commandments for a Swedish internship

The internship looked amazing on paper, but in real life you drag your feet to the office every day... fret not, The Local has ten top tips for making sure you and your boss get the best out of your internship in Sweden.

Ten commandments for a Swedish internship

Many of us have done them. On paper they sound great. “I got an internship with so and so!” we tell our friends excitedly. But what’s next. You’re not getting paid (hopefully you’re getting academic credit) and your boss is too busy to even remember your name… some internships are downright depressing.

But what makes an internship hurrah-worthy rather than horrible?

“You might get very different answers from the intern and the employer if you asked what the key to a good internship is,” Ellinor Rindevall, a CV coach at a Swedish trade union, told The Local.

IN PICTURES: Top ten tips for a Swedish internship

Rindevall herself had an internship which she was mostly happy with, and contributed to her finding work afterwards.

“I do know it’s an art form to get it right. My best advice for a well-spent internship is to really figure out what you are aiming for. Why do you want this specific internship? Why are you in this specific place?” she added.

“Make sure your supervisor knows what you want and create a plan for your work and time there.”

Once you get to the office, you may be nervous, excited, even scared. So what to do?

We’ve rounded up our ten top tips for interns. These are flavoured by the fast-paced and rather macho editorial environment, but are applicable basically anywhere in any Swedish office.

There are some basic rules, of course, that don’t even need to be written down… or do they? It goes without saying that looking the part is what the Swedes call “A och O” (the fundamentals) of basic etiquette. You don’t need fancy outfits or branded gear, but get a feel for the dress code at the office and fit in.

Many Swedes are preternaturally adverse to conflict, which means your boss may not be good at communicating what he or she thinks you need to get better or quicker at.

“If you have a clear idea of what you want to get from your internship, then speak with your supervisor who will hopefully organize your work accordingly,” Rindevall told The Local.

“Ask, ask, and ask again. Show what you’re working on. Ask for feedback often.”

So ask. Just ask politely. Make your boss’s task of managing you easier. It’s called “managing up”, or getting the best out of your boss. It’s not easy, because frankly why should you have to manage your manager, but it is effective and it sets a nice tone.

So ask what you can do better next time. But first, follow our ten internships commandments…

Ann Törnkvist

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Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”