Editions:  Austria · Denmark · France · Germany · Italy · Norway · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland

Networking in Sweden: The steps to making valuable professional connections

Share this article

Networking in Sweden: The steps to making valuable professional connections
Networking in Sweden is tough for the uninitiated, but there are plenty of events and meetups to help you make connections. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se
06:59 CET+01:00
Sweden is undoubtedly a great place to work, with its famed work-life balance often allowing for flexible working, company-subsidized sports, and benefits for parents in particular. But actually breaking into the job market can be tough for new arrivals to the country, and networking is an essential skill whether you're starting out or already established.

This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more Membership Exclusives here.

Personal contacts are the key to seven out of ten jobs in Sweden, and 60 percent of companies use informal networks and contacts to recruit, a survey by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise shows. Many jobs end up never being advertised at all, and even for those which are, having personal connections in the company or the industry can help you get the inside track and boost your chances.

This leaves international workers at a disadvantage; the less time you've been in the country, the fewer people you are likely to know. It's even harder for those who are job-hunting before committing to the move, or who need a company to hire them before moving due to visa rules. In late 2017, a quarter of Sweden's foreign residents were not part of the labour market.


New arrivals face the added hurdle of a set of new cultural norms to contend with. Swedes have a reputation for introversion and privacy is fiercely protected at all costs, with newcomers often citing making friends as one of the main obstacles to settling in.

The 'Jantelagen' or 'Law of Jante' is a set of rules for a fictional Danish town that is often used to explain the Nordic mindset. These 'laws' favour groups over individuality and include the maxims 'you are not to think anyone cares about you' and 'you are not to think you are good at anything'. Meanwhile, the Swedish obsession for all things 'lagom' – moderate and understated – can deter newcomers from attempts to stand out. 

A view over Malmö in southern Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

"Although a lot of people speak English, there are cultural barriers," says Kenneth Odwar, the founder of accounting and business development company Quartal.

"There can be a lot of misunderstandings: Swedes can be less extroverted than neighbouring countries like Brits, for example, and also sensitive when it comes to potential cultural clashes."

Coworking and collaboration

The Swedish way of doing things can actually be an advantage in networking. Though the laws of Jante don't seem conducive to networking at first glance, the idea that no person is better than anyone else, and the Swedish ideal of openness, means hierarchies are flatter in most industries than in many other countries. This means CEOs tend to be more accessible to company employees, and to potential new hires or contacts.

"In Sweden, there's a strong idea of solidarity and team work spirit. I sit at Impact Hub Stockholm which is a perfect space for social entrepreneurs who want to feel like a part of something big," says Odwar.

He recommends tapping into this community spirit, by attending every event you can find that's relevant to you, and thinking about what you can offer others as well as vice versa, and showcasing what makes you different: "When I meet new people, I talk about my offer but most importantly, I keep it personal and individual so people get a sense of who I am as a person." 

A job fair in Stockholm. Photo: Niklas Larsson/SCANPIX/TT

Newcomers shouldn't be completely deterred from doing things the way they're used to in order to conform completely to Swedish norms.

For several years, The Local has run regular interviews with foreigners in a wide range of jobs for our My Swedish Career series, and our interviewees often stress the advantage of having something different to bring to the table – it's a question of balance. 

One of them is Sonia Kaurah, an Australian who found her job at startup hub SUP46 after just ten days in Sweden. She says the main difference between networking in the two countries is that Australian events are more relaxed, while in Sweden the scene is more formal.

"There's possibly more in Stockholm for startup or tech events when compared to Melbourne, and networking in the startup scene is quite different to the corporate scene. Startups want to give back and help each other out. But networking events are usually followed by a workshop or pitching session, rather than being purely social."

Sonia Kaurah. Photo: Private

"I wasn't afraid to just walk into co-working or startup spaces and introduce myself and hand over a CV. That hardly ever happens here in Stockholm and hence it makes you stand out – though warm introductions here are very valuable, and most proper connections you make will be through introductions," says Kaurah.

She advises others to try to be confident in approaching others, and to sustain the connection: "Don't be afraid to just introduce yourself to someone new. Swedes are very polite and will never turn you away. Connect on LinkedIn or the like afterwards and then actually follow up with a message or a fika to discuss how else you can support each other."

'The main obstacles are our own assumptions'

In many ways, Sweden is actually a great place for building a professional network, and opportunities for collaboration are plentiful.

"When I arrived in Gothenburg in 2009, there were really not many networking opportunities at all, and I found it hard to meet people," says Lucia, an Internations member who joined the network in 2011. "When I went to the first event, there were only 20 people in the group here, but today it's much bigger and there are many more networks, including on Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Collaboration is key to Swedish working culture. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Lucia, who works for a government agency in Sweden and asks us not to publish her surname, is still in touch with some of the people she met early on at the networking meetups, and points out that one of the bonuses of an expat-focused networking group is that even when people move abroad again, you have an international contact. "Then you have a connection with people from all over the world, in all sorts of jobs, and can help each other." 

Nor do newcomers need to restrict their professional circles to other internationals.

"The main obstacles [to building a professional network in Sweden] are usually the assumptions and judgments we make ourselves when looking at Sweden through the lenses of our own culture and experience," says Alena Ipanova, CEO of communication consultancy agency Synergizer.

Ipanova coaches businesses and individuals in communication and intercultural competency, as well as hosting networking workshops in Gothenburg, and says the most common question attendees have is how to take the all-important first step. Her top tip: relax!

"I would say there are no mistakes when it comes to networking – it's all about gaining experience and stretching your comfort zone," says Ipanova.

Alena Ipanova hosts networking workshops in Gothenburg. Photo: Anton Shumeika

Another common misconception is that you need to have a 'reason' to get in touch with a stranger, such as a mutual connection or attendance at an event.

"Sweden is very multicultural, which generally makes people more open, and the cultural diversity means people are generally tolerant and understanding of different methods of communication. So, connecting with a stranger in LinkedIn and inviting to meet up for lunch won't be that weird at all – especially if it's supported by your interest in learning more about the company they work at or their specific role," she explains.

"What I experienced from running a mentorship programme in the IT Faculty of Gothenburg University was that it was quite easy to approach small companies by just dropping by their office without prior notice and talking about mentorship with staff – even the CEO."

Networking groups in Sweden

So, how to get involved? The first step is to look into networking groups in your field and geographical area.

Two of the biggest sites to turn to are Internations, which has over 33,000 members across Sweden, and Meetup. You'll find broad networking groups as well as ones aimed at specific industries, from medicine to engineering, or demographics, for example female and LGBT networking groups or those aimed at people of a certain nationality. If your niche isn't catered for yet, you can always set up your own group.

If you use these sites, don't forget to browse through the social groups as well. In Sweden many people are part of some sort of club outside the office, and this is a good way to meet potential career connections as well as make friends, learn a new skill or practise an old one.

Another networking group aimed at foreigners is Sveriges Internationella Talanger (Sweden's International Talents), which has a LinkedIn and Facebook group and helps foreign graduates meet and find work in Sweden. And two groups aimed at women, SheSays and the Professional Women's Network, can be found in both Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Look into networking groups in your area. File photo: Tirachard Kuntanom/Pexels

Keep an eye out for recruitment fairs (jobbmässor), which regularly take place in Sweden's larger cities and allow you to meet staff from companies that are recruiting face to face.

For those in the startup or tech industries, there's a lively scene in Sweden with regular events allowing you to mingle with others in your field. There are networks across the country, from Malmö Startups to Startup Luleå and the national Young Entrepreneurs of Sweden, offering events, job and investment opportunities.

Find a breakdown of what's going on in Stockholm here and an equivalent list for the Skåne region here. You'll find everything from workshops, mingles, and seminars to Silicon Vikings, a network connecting Nordic startups with Silicon Valley.


You can also take advantage of the co-working scene which has boomed in Sweden. The country is well supplied with spots where freelancers, entrepreneurs, and creatives can work in a social setting, and many locations offer facilities such as audio studios, lockers so you can keep the essentials with you, and private meeting rooms. There are often scheduled lunches, talks, or other events such as yoga sessions for members, allowing you to swap ideas and business cards. And for the really brave, some locations, such as TechFarm, go a step further by acting as co-living spaces as well as co-working.

Hus24, a co-living/co-working space in Stockholm. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

Don't forget The Local's own monthly Out of Office events, a co-working space in Stockholm where you can meet other members of The Local community as well as our staff, in a different inspiring location each month. And The Local Club is our exclusive Members-only networking event.

If turning up to a networking event seems too nerve-wracking a first step, it's worth checking out the many apps available in Sweden, created specifically to facilitate networking. Lunchback allows you to meet up with people in your industry for, well, lunch, while Sevn helps you maximize networking events by connecting with other attendees.

The Women in Tech conference in Stockholm, one of many tech-related events held in the Swedish capital. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Seek out support

There are other groups out there set up specifically to help those who are new to Sweden and looking to make professional connections. The initiative ÖppnaDörren (literally 'open door') run by the non-profit Axfoundation, helps newcomers connect with Swedes, and its Yrkesdörren programme targets people who are looking for professional links.

The Stockholm Dual Career Network (SDCN) offers networking and careers events for partners of people who have relocated to the Swedish capital for work at any of the cities' universities or tech firms Truecaller, Klarna, and Sqore. And some of Sweden's other large companies, such as Spotify and Google, host events to which employees' partners are invited – don't be afraid of tagging along, as these could be a good opportunity to make your next connection.

For foreign students in Sweden, the Korta vägen programme offers Swedish language and professional training as well as skills assessments, with the aim of helping participants get an internship or job. If you're not a student, the 400contacts programme takes you through the steps of effective job-hunting, from writing the right sort of emails to preparing for interviews. It promises to help you find a job within a month, and all the people you end up contacting could become valuable connections for the future.

And finally, if you're looking for general tips before taking the first step, Alena Ipanova shared some advice with The Local:

- Participate in networking events and meet-ups – or start your own

- Initiate the first contact

- Find a mentor, either via a mentorship programme or by "hunting" for people in professional networks (eg. LinkedIn)

- Think about creative ways to present yourself or to be remembered (it can be reflected in your business card/CV, or your "communication twist", for example if after having a conversation with someone you take a selfie together)

- Become a connector for others. Don't miss a chance to connect people from your network with each other if you feel that they can benefit from that

- Challenge yourself on a regular basis (eg. once a month meet for a manager from a different company for lunch)

- Practise asking questions

- Follow up and ask for feedback

- Don't let "no" answers stop you

Europe's Leading Job Site for
International Talent - The Local Jobs
Get notified about breaking news on The Local

Share this article

Popular articles