A voice for newcomers in Sweden

'You have to understand the Swedish concept of lagom if you want to find work'

Laras Pinji with her mentor at Mitt Liv.

Published: 07.Nov.2016 14:27 hrs

When Laras Pinji started looking for jobs in Sweden she kept running into brick walls, but once she had grasped the meaning of ‘lagom’ she soon found her way into the world of work.

More than four years have passed since Pinji moved from Dubai to Sweden with her husband and two children after her spouse got a job here.

Brimming with enthusiasm and equipped with journalism skills from her homeland Indonesia, she hoped to soon find work. 

“It was spring when we left Dubai and landed at Stockholm’s snowy white airport. We were staggered, but excited. Starting a new life in this lovely country was a challenge to the whole family.”     

While her husband started work, Pinji set about studying Swedish. After a few months she got accepted onto a master’s programme in international and comparative studies at Stockholm University. 

“Since my husband works and pays taxes we, his family, are entitled by Swedish law to free education. 

“For me this was a chance to evolve academically and improve my competence.” 

Hundreds of job applications - no responses

In 2015 she was keen to start working and decided to take a break from her studies. But the labour market proved tough to crack. 

“I sent countless job applications and hundreds of emails. At first, I was digging in my own field, journalism, but then swiftly reckoned that to get a job in this highly competitive realm, I needed a high level of Swedish that I didn’t yet possess. I changed my strategy and started searching more broadly, but got the same result: no replies at all.” 

She realised she must be doing something wrong, and endeavoured to figure it out. But she had few Swedish contacts and didn’t know where to turn for advice. 

But a tip from a friend nudged her in the direction of a free mentorship programme called Mitt livs chans (the chance of my life). 

“My friend told me that to join this programme and have a Swedish mentor’s help, I needed no more than being a newcomer with higher education, who understands Swedish and wants to get help.”

“I joined Mitt liv in September 2015, and after that many things became clearer to me. I learned that Swedes prefer shorter, detailed and more concise CVs, and that the applicant needs to exemplify their experience, and talk about their previous skills.”

For instance, when she told her mentor about a previous job as a communications coordinator for social media, he advised her to include more specifics on her CV, such as how often she posted and how many people her posts reached. 

Put your interests in your CV

“There’s also the ‘humane part’ of the CV that’s often not taken seriously by job seekers.

“I learned that the job seeker needs to give the employer a glimpse of their personal interests, of their extra activities out of the office. Who are you as a human being, and what do you do in your spare time? The employer might have similar interests to you, and this familiarity might make it easier for them to decide to employ you.” 

The course gave her more confidence and, what’s more, it produced results. With her finely tuned CV she got called to more than ten interviews. But, in a serendipitous twist, she ended up working as a communications coordinator for Mitt liv, the very organization that had given her  the guidance she needed. 

“I love my work. It allows me to meet people in the same situation I was in when I first moved here. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to inspire them. Because I know very well how depressing it feels when you have the skills, but can’t find your place. It really harms your self-confidence.” 

It took Pinji four years to get her first job contract in Sweden. 

“I think this was a bit too long. The process could have been way quicker if I’d known from the beginning the meaning of lagom: that is, adequate and sufficient; not too little, and never too much. 

“Being concise, accurate and articulate is the way to ‘lagomness’, and it’s the way to get a job.”

 

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