Job market matchmaker hooks up 1,300 newcomers and Swedes

A Swedish professional network pairing newcomers with Swedes recently celebrated its first anniversary. The Local Voices met some of Yrkesdörren’s members to find out how it all works.

Job market matchmaker hooks up 1,300 newcomers and Swedes

A not-for-profit venture funded by the Axfoundation, Yrkesdörren brings participants together for an hour at a time to discuss their lines of work and any social codes job seekers need to be aware of. 

Established a year ago as Sweden grappled with how best to integrate unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers, the group – whose name translates as “professional doorway” – has helped bring together more than 1,300 new arrivals and established Swedes. The Local Voices met some of them. 

Ameer Abdulal, Syria, sales and marketing expert, holds a masters degree in business administration

Tobias Mossop, Sweden, head of internal communication at Martin & Servera AB

Martin & Servera, the Swedish catering company where Tobias Mossom works, “wants to take the lead in terms of diversity,” according to its head of internal communications.

Mossop said the company was convinced of the importance of bringing newcomers into the job market and that his employer “challenges us to reach out to foreign talents.” 

It was with this in mind Mossop that signed up to Yrkesdörren, where he was paired with Amir Abdulal, a Syrian newcomer with marketing experience from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. 

“We need to be more open to the forgotten 20 percent of our community, to those like Amir. Diversity is fundamental for integration and innovation –  for the country,” said Mossop.

Ameer Adbulal has lived in Sweden since 2013 and currently works as a marketing analyst for steelmaker SSAB. He signed up to Yrkesdörren to broaden his professional network. He admitted he sometimes found it difficult to socialise with Swedes. 

“Swedes are really nice people, but newcomers needs to find the proper way to approach them, because they have their own mannerisms.”

“I believe that Swedes can sometimes be very cautious, and less flexible. Swedish companies demonstrate this idiosyncrasy too, which I think makes them miss opportunities. Sometimes you need to act quickly, be audacious and try new things, such as being more open to including newcomers,” Abdulal said. 

Yrkesdörren, he said, offered a  gateway for newcomers to penetrate a difficult job market.

“Swedes want us to work, we want to work, so let’s work!” he said with a grin.

Tine Walter, Germany, architect

Charlotta Rosén, Sweden, urban development project manager

Tine Walter moved to Sweden with her husband in 2015. She started taking SFI languages classes and felt she was slotting in nicely in a country that was similar to her homeland. 

But she soon realised there were also some small but critical differences. 

“For example, when I first came here I didn’t really take the ‘fika’ tradition seriously, but after interacting with Swedes I found it really important. You can’t tell them that you don’t drink coffee, or that you don’t ‘fika’!” 

The 38-year-old architect also advises against falling into the trap of trying to get by with just English in Sweden. Unless newcomers learn the language they run the risk of being left on the margins of the labour market, she said.  

It was this realisation, allied with a need to build her network, that prompted her to get in touch with Yrkesdörren.   

“I think networking is very important. If you send your application to a company that has never heard of you, then it’s likely that you’ll never be invited for an interview, even if you have the requisite skills for the position,” said Walter. 

Her professional match, Charlotta Rosén, a CEO and urban development professional, was quick to extol the virtues of Yrkesdörren. 

“It’s a place where I and other established participants can provide a contact list of our expert acquaintances. This makes it a focused niche of like-minded people where everyone exchanges their contacts.”

“If you’re a newcomer to Sweden and have no contacts at all, you sign up, join the club, and will find it easier to get a job.”     

Mansoor Bibak, Baluchistan (Iran), software developer

Donna Hanafi, Sweden, project manager (

Mansoor Bibak, a software developer from Baluchistan who studied computer science in India, joined Yrkesdörren to learn more about Swedish cultural and professional codes.

“I moved to Sweden in March 2014, and have been working ever since. However, I’m aiming at finding a new job, and that requires me to meet new people and network.” 

“That’s why I turned to Yrkesdörren, to crack both the professional and social codes and to know how best to communicate with people. I am hoping this will help me present my skills and convince employers,” said Bibak.

The developer’s Swedish match, Donna Hanafi, is a second-generation immigrant whose parents are originally from Egypt. 

She said she signed up to the programme because she knew how hard it can be to get to know people in Sweden and wanted to help out.

“The process is super easy and smooth, and I think established professionals have no excuse not to sign up and reach out to new talents,” said Hanafi. 

“I am a developer myself and I like to meet people with the same interests.

Are you a highly-skilled newcomer in Sweden wishing to network with professional Swedes, seek advice and find your place in the job market? Check out Yrkesdörren’s website, register, and start building your local network.


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‘History will record how everyone reacted to the Syrian tragedy’

Erik, a 21-year-old Swedish volunteer, reflects on his experience helping refugees in Sweden and abroad.

'History will record how everyone reacted to the Syrian tragedy'
Photo: Erik Gerhardsson

Opening or shutting doors. Defending or discrediting refugees. Caring for or turning our backs on vulnerable people fleeing Syria’s cruel war. All is going to be written down, believes Erik Gerhardsson, a 21-year-old Swedish volunteer.

“Syria’s war is intricate and I think history will record how we, individuals or groups, reacted to this tragedy,” he says.

Gerhardsson wants his own entry in this still-being-written saga to be a positive one, even if his efforts only amounted to a very small detail in the perplexing tumult of the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Here’s what he had to tell us, in his own words.


I completed high school at the start of the refugee influx. I’d been working and saving money but didn’t have any real commitments. And I had always wanted to volunteer and help.

So in September 2015 when I saw that refugees were suffering from the long journey across Europe, and agonizing in the very same spots where I used to go on holiday, I couldn’t not react. I had to do something.

The first thing I did is donate ‎€500 of my own savings; I started offering what I had on hand. Then a friend of mine who was volunteering with a Swedish humanitarian organization told me that people were in need for blankets in Hungary.

I could mobilize people in our municipality to collect blankets for refugees – and so that’s what we did.

But that wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to be more involved.

Heading to Hungary

It was obvious that many people were not doing anything to help. And then came calls for the borders to be closed. I and three friends of mine took a different stance. We managed to raise ‎€3,000 in donations from family, friends, and people in our hometown that allowed us fly to Hungary to aid refugees en route to Austria in September 2015.   

Trains carrying 1,500 people transported refugees closer to Austrian borders every hour. Nonetheless, refugees still had to walk for two to three hours to reach the closest Austrian customs checkpoint. It was a tough journey on foot. 

So, we decided to walk part of the way with the refugees and did our best to offer them what they needed along the way. We gave them information to guide them throughout their march to their final destinations.

We offered water, food, and helped carry their kids or bags. Many of them were about to faint from the journey since they had already suffered through harsh conditions before arriving in Hungary.

Helping closer to home

In October we were back in Sweden and found many refugees were arriving to our hometown of Ingarp, part of Eksjö municipality in Småland in southern Sweden.

Here again, my friends and I created a small initiative called Medmänniskor Hjälper to prop up newcomers among us.

Locals in our town donated clothes and other household items that we later distributed to newcomers. We organized more activities such as sports and movie nights. Refugees needed a warm welcome.

Next stop: Greece

The scenes from Lesbos in Greece saddened me indeed. I still can’t get the terrible images out of my head showing hundreds of people sleeping on the ground without a roof.

It was December 2015 when I saw countless refugees shivering in despair in the freezing winter on that island. There weren’t enough places in camps to shelter everyone. I joined a group of volunteers at the notorious camp Moria on Lesbos. A few months later, in March 2016, I joined volunteers with another Greek NGO called Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI).

It was very frustrating as we wanted to share the burden with others, but it felt like we really weren’t able to help much at all.

However, we helped as many families as we could among those suffering most from the freezing temperatures. They were cold, wet, and soaked to their bones. We gave them clothes and hot food, and a small taste of relief.

Heart-breaking moments

In 2016, hundreds of refugees were still arriving to the Greek shores. In March I moved to Lesbos and joined ERCI there also to patrol the coastline and help refugees who might struggle to make it ashore in the rough and unpredictable seas. We basically worked as lifeguards, spotting boats and helping prevent people from drowning.

Throughout the time of my volunteering I came across both hopeful and heart-breaking moments. Some boats arrived with everyone healthy and alive and smiles on their faces; others arrived with people crying and moaning out of fear, or from losing their loved ones.

One time a boat arrived with two corpses aboard. That shocked me. However, there wasn’t time to think much; only to act, and that’s what usually happens in such moments. My colleagues and I pushed the bodies off the boat and continued to help the other lucky ones who survived.

Emotional recovery usually came during rare moments of rest, and talking to each other helped us volunteers ‘heal’ and get over the trauma. Spending the day aiding people and making sure I could stand by every refugee that needed my help was actually the best medicine against emotional deterioration.

A message to Swedes and other Europeans

I’m always ready to go anywhere; wherever there are people on the run in need of help. I think it’s a shame most European countries have shut their borders in the faces of refugees.

Just ask yourselves how you would react if you were in these refugees’ situation! How would you like to be treated? Would you favour being shunned and rejected by other capable societies? I don’t think so.

European states are using resources to deploy soldiers, tighten borders, install walls and fences, and use tear gas, rather than using those resources to help vulnerable fellow humans.   

A message to refugees of the Syrian war

You need to know that despite all the misery in your lives, there are lots of great people out there doing their best to help.

We hear you and feel your pain. I know it feels like the whole world has failed to end your suffering, but I hope that you hear me and know that I’m standing by you, and that you are not alone.