When you're living in a foreign country, don't speak the language fluently yet, and have studies and essays up to your ears, it may seem overwhelming to look for an internship. Can it even be done?
Indeed it can! As long as you know where to look and how to act, finding an internship in Sweden can be easy – and a life-changing experience.
1. Create an opportunity
You can always start by looking at ads, for instance at Sweden.se or at GraduateLand. But don't just look for intern advertisements. Look for opportunities that aren't even there yet.
If you only apply for the internships which are advertised, you are only applying for the internships which everyone else is also applying for. And you’re ignoring a whole new world of opportunities.
Look for your own internships. If there is a company you are interested in, don’t wait for an ad. Contact the company yourself and ask if you can intern. Ask the contact person out for coffee to discuss it.
2. Be persistent
Don’t give up. Once you find an internship you want, your first step might be to cold call – that means just calling them up, explaining who you are, and saying you would like to intern there.
If you don’t hear back from them, send a friendly reminder email. Maybe even show up at their door.
But make sure you know it is who you need to talk to (usually in the human resources department). It’s no use nagging the wrong people.
3. Do your homework
If you apply for an internship with the company, make sure you read up on it before your meeting or interview. You should be familiar with the company’s background and its operations, particularly in the field in which you are interested in.
Don’t show off, but be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge and your interest in the company. This shows that you genuinely want to be involved, and aren’t just looking for any random internship.
4. Don’t say sorry for your skills
You may think it will be harder to find an internship if you don’t speak Swedish. Well, it certainly will be if you keep apologizing for it. Instead of saying sorry for the skills you don’t have, focus on those you do.
Focus on why your native language or your specific experiences would benefit the company.
In Sweden it’s important not to brag, but it’s also important to be clear about what you can contribute. Don’t be negative.
5. Be on time
Once again, we’re back to that Swedish punctuality. If you tell someone you will call at 10:00, you better call between 9:59 and 10:00. That is your window. If you tell someone you will meet them for coffee or fika at 15:15, be there no later than 15:10.
Being on time is even more important once you’ve actually got the job. If you get an internship at a Swedish company, never be late. Make a habit of being early – they will notice, and they will be impressed.
6. Try anything
Being an intern is all about getting your foot in the door. You may have a billion ideas about how to boost the company’s international relations or revenue, but you also need to be eager to attempt any and every task you are given.
Does your boss want you to write a press release? Try it. Did someone ask you to make coffee? Do it with a smile. Did they ask for your ideas? Offer them.
Not every task will be glamorous – the most important part of an internship is your attitude.
7. Take initiative
The work doesn’t stop once you get the job. Many companies go through intern after intern until it’s all just a blur.
Make yourself stand out by coming with your own ideas, and always figuring out if there’s something more you can do. Don’t wait around like a lump on a log to be given tasks all the time.
Take initiative to make your boss or colleague’s life easier – they’ll remember it and appreciate it.
8. Network, network, network
Much of Sweden’s job culture is about contacts and connections. Knowing the right people can make all the difference in your future job hunt.
So don’t just treat it like business – actually get to know your colleagues, other interns, and everyone you can. Try to ask them not just about work, but to show genuine interest in their personal lives as well.
Hang out, go fika, get some phone numbers – or at least add each other on LinkedIn. It could lead to something – perhaps a future job offer.
9. Get proof
After your internship is completed, make sure you ask for a written recommendation. This is called intyg in Swedish and is proof of your time with a company. It also makes it much easier to get an internship or job the next time around.
Depending on how long your internship is, a week or two from the end of your internship might be a good time to bring it up. Be polite and ask your manager if he or she would mind writing you a recommendation.
Once you have it, make a few copies, save it to your computer, and keep the original. You don’t want to lose that paper.
10. Have fun
The most important thing is to do a good job – but you can, and should, also have a blast! So work hard but know when to take it easy.
Sweden’s business culture is fairly relaxed; you may see colleagues wearing jeans with their blazers and taking regular after-work drinks together.
Join in, have a good laugh, and get to know people – the after-hours experience can be just as valuable.