How do you find a job in Sweden? Talk to people

Syrian marketing strategy coordinator Roula Bazerbashi talks to The Local about how she landed her dream job in Sweden.

How do you find a job in Sweden? Talk to people
Roula Bazerbashi, from Syria. Photo: Emma Löfgren/The Local

When Roula Bazerbashi finished her Masters in Tourism Management — which brought her from Syria to Europe in 2013 — and moved to join her husband, who was studying in Sweden, she was careful not to get her hopes up about finding work in a job market where more than one in five foreign-born are unemployed.

But thanks to a mix of fearlessness, luck, being in the right place in the right time, a love of talking to new people, hard work and talent, she landed her first job in less than a month.

“My husband was a singer in a choir and I went to their rehearsal. We were sitting at a dinner table and I was talking to a lovely lady, whose name was Ulrika Karlsson,” explains Bazerbashi.

“I told her I had worked as a marketing manager in Syria and was looking for a job.”

Her new acquaintance then turned out to be a human resources manager at Stockholm-based PR company Mynewsdesk and volunteered to try to pull a few strings.

It led to Bazerbashi meet Jonathan Bean, Mynewsdesk Chief Marketing Officer, who believed in her talent and offered her a three-month internship, which was soon extended and is now being turned into a permanent contract.

“When I first came to Mynewsdesk I was so impressed with their red colour because it's my favourite. And I was wearing a red shirt, so I thought 'I love this place',” jokes the 32-year-old.

Roula Bazerbashi in Mynewsdesk's offices in Stockholm. Photo: Emma Löfgren/The Local

Today, she is an executive assistant for the CEO and works on a series of strategic projects for Mynewsdesk. The work itself is in many ways similar to what she did in Syria, but the company culture is completely different, with Sweden's famously non-hierarchical structures playing a big role.

“People in Syria and Sweden are both nice and helpful. What Sweden excels at is that talents are used in a very effective way,” Bazerbashi explains.

“In Syria it's a bit hierarchical. Here it's more of a flat organization. It's easy to sit with the CEO and have lunch and talk about your ideas.”

In the Swedish business and tech industry, English usually gets you a long way even if your Swedish is not fluent. But Bazerbashi is learning the language, and advises fellow internationals to do the same.

“It's important not just for work but for your social life within the company, just talking to your colleagues at lunch. Everyone is nice and switches to English when I'm around, but it's important to feel part of the company.”

But Swedish companies also need to give foreign workers a chance, she says.

“A lot of the foreigners coming here have really good talents and the companies need to be open for meeting people they don't know. For me it was not so difficult, and Swedish people are very nice and when you tell them what you're doing they try to help you.”

In the end, she says, it all comes down to not being afraid to talk to new people, whether you are a manager looking to hire someone, or a job hunter trying to get a foot in the door.

“I was pretty lucky and it was all about networking. Don't just send out CVs – that works too, but it is slower. Talk to people and take the opportunity to tell them what you are doing and that you are looking for a job – you never know who can help you.”

For members


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.”