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How you can use the summer to break into the Swedish job market

Sweden's quiet summer period can surprisingly be the perfect time to make progress in your job hunt – if you know the right steps to take. The Local spoke to experts to find out the best ways job seekers can make the most of the coming months to find new opportunities.

How you can use the summer to break into the Swedish job market
There's a summer jobs boom in Sweden, so here's what you need to know about the industries and regions with most opportunities, plus some expert tips for job seekers. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

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Whether you're new to Sweden and looking for work, or hoping to take your career in a different direction, foreigners in Sweden face unique challenges on the job market from a potential language barrier to a lack of professional contacts.

But the summer lull – which sees many locals, including hiring managers, take lengthy holidays – can actually be good news for job seekers.

Those long summer holidays (Swedes are entitled to four consecutive weeks' leave each year, and parents of young children are often entitled to even longer) might leave some managers struggling to find cover, so it's a good opportunity to get a foot in the door, especially in competitive fields.

Lovisa Fältskog Johansson, who works with ÖppnaDörren, an initiative which aims to connect newcomers with professional opportunities, shared her advice for finding seasonal work.

“Check out all kinds of staffing agencies and what they are advertising for,” she recommended, as well as advising that newcomers contact local businesses including supermarkets and in areas such as healthcare, delivery and warehouses, and submit a CV.

She also suggested using the summer to get to know established Swedes who could help them in their job hunt: “In Sweden seven out of ten jobs are obtained through personal connections, so it's all about networking!”

READ ALSO: Networking in Sweden: The steps to making valuable professional connections

Ellinor Wassberg, a job-hunting expert at Arbetsförmedlingen, told The Local that temporary or seasonal roles can be particularly useful for foreigners who may need to catch up with locals in terms of Swedish industry knowledge or network-building.

“Even if you're looking for a full-time job, a summer job is a very helpful first step,” Wassberg said. “It's a great way to get experience to add on your CV, get a reference from a Swedish company, get to know people so you can make connections and figure out how things work. All this should help get you another job.”

Swedish offices typically empty out during the summer. Photo: Vidar Ruud/NTB scanpix/TT

She added that it's also a good chance for newcomers to Sweden who are looking for a career change, or who need to try out different positions – for example if it's not possible for them to work in the same field as in their home country – as they can try something new for a fixed period.

Looking at the jobs advertised by Arbetsförmedlingen (or The Local Jobs) is also a useful way of assessing which industries or locations seem to be hiring.

A report released by the agency in July revealed that some of the most sought-after workers included those trained as IT developers, teachers, or medical professionals, but there was also a shortage in industries such as tourism and construction. 

READ ALSO: Worker shortage: These are the most in-demand jobs in Sweden

There is currently a skills shortage in Sweden, so many of the jobs up for grabs might be hard to fill due to requiring specific in-demand skills.

But the high number of jobs on offer is also due to generally high employment levels in Sweden, meaning that fewer people are job-searching or taking temporary roles and more are in permanent staff jobs.

Ellinor Wassberg from Arbetsförmedlingen noted that the positions advertised aren't the only ones out there. 

“You can contact employers you would like to work for directly and send a spontaneous email or call,” Wassberg suggested. “It takes a while to go through the process of putting together an ad, recruiting and going through applications, so for a temporary role some places might not do this, but if you put yourself forward you might be the only candidate.”

What's more, the quieter summer period might leave managers with more time for an introductory phone call or coffee.

Ellinor Wassberg shares her tips for finding work in Sweden. Photo: Jonas Kowalski

“Some Swedish employers put their businesses on pause and shut down their offices over summer, but others can't do this and try to manage with the staff they have. So you can help by offering to fill in, explaining what you can contribute – make it easy for them.”

She added however that this approach is best suited to private companies, as government and municipality jobs in Sweden must be advertised beforehand.

Whether applying spontaneously or responding to an advert, Wassberg emphasized the need to personalize each application to the employer and the position: “Don't send out the same CV and cover letter; say why you want to work for them, it's important to be specific or you won't get many responses.”

Finally, if you're planning to work in Sweden over the summer, make sure that you know your rights regarding salary and time off.

Some information on minimum salary requirements can be found here, and remember never to accept a job offer with no contract or paid in cash, as this likely means you won't be protected by Sweden's generous employment legislation. 

Looking for an English-speaking role in Sweden? Check out The Local Jobs

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For members


EXPLAINED: Can you negotiate a pay rise in Sweden to offset inflation?

With Sweden's central bank expecting inflation of nearly 8% this year, everyone working in the country is in line for a real-terms pay cut. We asked Gunilla Krieg, central ombudsman at the Unionen union, what scope there is to negotiate a salary hike to compensate.

EXPLAINED: Can you negotiate a pay rise in Sweden to offset inflation?

With Sweden’s central bank expecting inflation of nearly 8% this year, everyone working in the country is in line for a real-terms pay cut. We asked Gunilla Krieg, central ombudsman at the Unionen union, what scope there is to negotiate a salary hike to compensate.

How soon can I get a pay rise to compensate for high inflation? 

Probably not for a while. 

About 90 percent of workers in Sweden are covered by the collective bargaining agreements made between employers and the country’s trade unions. The last round of salary deals was negotiated at the union-employer level back in 2020, and most of them will remain valid until March or April next year.

This means that most employees in Sweden will not see their salaries adjusted to take inflation into account for at least nine months. 

“Under this special model that we have, we already have a level for the wage increases for this year, so you can’t get compensation for the inflation right now,” Krieg explained. 

You might be able negotiate a pay rise in addition to what the unions have agreed in your personal salary review, she added. 

“Of course, you have that freedom. Whether you work in a small company, or a big company, a company that has a collective agreement, or one that doesn’t, you always have the freedom to ask for a salary rise,” Krieg said. 

The only issue is that most unionised companies only offer personal salary reviews once a year, and for the majority of employees, the window of opportunity passed in the spring. 

“You have to find out when you have a salary review as part of the collective agreement you have at your own workplace,” Krieg recommended. “For most collective agreements, that is in the spring, although some collective agreements have it in the autumn.” 

What if I’m not part of a union? 

If you are among the 10% of workers not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, you can ask for a pay rise whenever you like, but unlike union members, you have no right to a pay rise. The decision is wholly up to your employer. 

Gunilla Krief is the central ombudsman for the Unionen union. Photo: Patrik Nygren/Unionen

So will the unions eventually negotiate above-inflation pay increases? 

Probably not. 

Unions in Sweden have historically been quite responsible, and understood the risk of creating a wage-price spiral by demanding wage increases that match or exceed inflation.

“Twenty-five years ago, we had a really high wage increases in Sweden, and we had very, very big inflation, so people got more money in their wallets, but they couldn’t buy anything, because inflation went up much higher than wages,” Krieg explained, putting the union perspective.

“We always take responsibility for the entire labour market, and that’s good in the long term,” she added. “There’s been much more money in the wallet for employees in Sweden over the past 25 years. That’s why we think we should we should not panic because of inflation. It may be that for one year it will mean less money in the wallet, but in the long run we benefit.” 

Can I argue for an inflation-busting pay rise in my salary review? 

You can certainly argue for a pay rise of 8 percent, or even more, but you don’t cite inflation as a reason for it. 

“Everything is individual, so you can, of course, negotiate up your salary, and there is no limit to how much you can ask for,” Krieg explained.

“If you have a job or an education for which there’s a shortage on the Swedish market, then you can get a much higher wage increase. Up in the north of Sweden, where we have [the battery manufacturer] Northvolt, and we have mines and the steel industry, they are looking for a lot of competence right now, and there you can have a much higher rise in wages.” 

But, particularly if you’re covered by collective bargaining, you can’t really cite inflation as justification, as that is one of the factors that unions and employers are supposed to factor in during their negotiations. 

What’s the best way of getting a big pay rise? 

The best way to get a pay hike of as much as 5,000 kronor or 10,000 kronor a month, Krieg suggests, is to apply for other jobs, even if you don’t end up taking them. 

“You can get offers from other companies, and then you can tell your employer that ‘I really liked it here, I enjoy this work, and I want to stay here, but now they are offering me 10,000 kronor more at another company, and if you can raise my salary like that,  of course I will stay here’,” she said.

In a normal salary interview, she adds, it’s important to be able to demonstrate your results. Look again at your job description, and what your goals are for the year, and identify concrete achievements that meet or exceed these goals. If you have any additional duties, you can cite them to argue for a higher salary. If you’ve done any courses, or learned any skills, you can cite these. 

At any time in the year, if your superiors praise any work you have done, keep those emails, or write it down, so that in your salary review, you can say, “you said that this report I did was ‘the best you’ve ever seen’,” or such like. 

Finally, you should find out in advance if there are any salary criteria being applied, so that you can argue that you exceed them, and so demand a higher raise than that agreed for the company as a whole with the union.