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Here’s the secret to landing your first Swedish job

If you moved to Sweden without a job, the hunt for work can be exhausting. Annapoorna Kailasam, from India, became “emotionally drained” – no surprise given that she made 500 unsuccessful applications.

Here's the secret to landing your first Swedish job
Photo: Ahmad Saadeha

For Ahmad Saadeha, a Syrian-born Palestinian, the process left him feeling “a little bit desperate”. But today both have full-time work and are happily planning their future careers in Sweden.

They tell The Local how signing up to Sweden’s nationwide internship programme, Jobbsprånget, can totally transform your career prospects. Internships with Jobbsprånget, a government-backed programme, last four months – and 60 percent of people who complete one find employment (the figure was 70 percent before the pandemic).

Find your dream Swedish job: applications to join Jobbsprånget are open from July 16th to August 16th

500 job applications but no offers

Annapoorna moved to Sweden five years ago with her husband after he was offered a job in Helsingborg. She had worked in communications for a decade in India and had studied and worked in English all her life.

While her first priority was settling into Sweden with her young daughter, she had no idea what she’d face when she did begin hunting for jobs after six months.

I was under the assumption that it would work as it does in India, where things can happen pretty fast,” she says. But soon automated rejection messages were filling her inbox. She was also told that her basic Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) certification might not be sufficient for finding work.

As she dedicated her time to applications, networking and learning Swedish, the challenges began to take a toll. “I started questioning myself on the confidence level,” she says. “Emotionally, I was getting a bit drained. It’s not easy to become fluent in Swedish when you’ve been so comfortable speaking English. Even now I can manage very well but fluency will come over the years.” 

Across several years of job hunting, Annapoorna made 500 applications, from which she gained 20 interviews but no offers.

Wanted: English-speaking university graduates 

Fortunately, you don’t need to speak Swedish to apply to Jobbsprånget as the programme is run in English. You do, however, need to be registered at Arbetsförmedlingen, Sweden’s Public Employment Service.

You must also have a degree in engineering, architecture, science or business/finance. English-speaking graduates who were born outside Europe and are looking for work in Sweden are a priority group

After learning about and registering with Arbetsförmedlingen, Annapoorna was told by a job coach that Jobbsprånget was “the best option for people with a strong background in English”.

Didn’t know about Jobbsprånget? Find out more about how to apply before the next deadline on August 16th 

This proved wise advice. In October 2020, she began an internship in a communications role at Heimstaden, a property management company. She admits she had some initial inhibitions about Swedish work culture, but says they soon melted away. She has since secured a full-time role at Heimstaden as a Talent Development Officer. 

It was a very open and friendly work culture,” she says. “From the beginning, I was given lots of responsibilities and lots of support, even when I was working from home.”

Annapoorna advises job hunters to remember 3Ps: patience, perseverance and participation in networking. Perhaps, even more important is one J: “Everybody should definitely apply for Jobbsprånget.”

Photo: Annapoorna Kailasam

From desperation to a dream job

Ahmad lives in Gothenburg and has now been working in the city for four years as an IT business analyst at Volvo Group. Such a life seemed a distant prospect when he arrived in Sweden in 2016, knowing nothing about the job market.

“I was looking at international companies that didn’t require Swedish skills and I was a little bit desperate due to not getting any responses,” he recalls.

His life changed in 2017 when he was surprised to be contacted by a Jobbsprånget employee who had seen his LinkedIn profile and felt he had the skills to make a good candidate.

He began applying for English-speaking internships through the programme and was soon offered an interview and then an internship at Volvo.

There was just one significant problem: he was living in a village almost 200km from Gothenburg. “I had to ask myself ‘Are you willing to travel almost five hours per day to take this chance?’” The answer was yes. From February to June 2017, he left home in the early morning on his bike, arriving at Volvo’s offices two-and-a-half hours later after two bus rides and a train journey. “It was really difficult for me but it was a big opportunity,” says Ahmad. “Looking back, I didn’t imagine I would be so well-established in this period of time. I’ve now got everything I dreamed about from my employer.”

Ahmad, who has previously lived in Damascus, Bangkok, Dubai and Doha, has no intention of leaving the job or Gothenburg and says he has even turned down offers from abroad. 

Applications are now open

Now that they know Swedish working culture from the inside, both Annapoorna and Ahmad find much to admire about it. “There’s a lot of emphasis on trust and how a person fits into an organisation,” says Annapoorna. “I feel very confident about continuing my career path in Sweden.”

Ahmad says he has been given opportunities to stretch himself since talking openly with managers about his role. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! And as these two international workers can testify, where better to start than by asking to join Jobbsprånget?

Jobbsprånget has just two application periods per year: apply by August 16th to make sure you don’t miss out on this round

Member comments

  1. Unfortunately, this very promoted program Jobbsprånget is only made available for people who have degrees in the science and business.

    1. The anti-virus running on my notebook does not like the links to clickmetertracking dot com this article uses throughout. Why not simply link directly to jobbspranget dot se ?

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

How good is Sweden for digital nomads?

High taxes, a high cost of living and a tricky accounting system make Sweden less ideal for 'digital nomads' than a tropical getaway like Bali, but there are some definite perks to making Sweden your next digital home. Here’s our list of the pros and cons.

How good is Sweden for digital nomads?

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, working remotely has become the new normal, but the concept of flexible, remote working is really nothing new. Long before the pandemic, legions of freelancers and remote workers had cottoned on to the fact that all they really needed to carry out their jobs was an internet connection and a laptop – and that travelling the world wasn’t something that needed to be reserved for holidays.

More and more countries in Europe are now trying to woo these ‘digital nomads’. Estonia and Spain both have special ‘nomad visas’, and Italy voted one into law last March (although it has yet to be implemented, and may end up being shelved). 

So how does Sweden stack up? 

PROS

The new ‘talent visa’

As of last June, Sweden has made it easier for non-EU citizens with an advanced level degree to move to the country for up to nine months while they look for work or start their own business. It’s not exactly a ‘nomad visa’, but it does make make getting a visa relatively painless if you are sufficiently highly educated, especially if you work as a freelancer and can set up your own company in Sweden. 

To qualify for the “resi­dence permit for highly quali­fied persons to look for work or start a busi­ness”, you need to have an advanced degree, and prove that you have enough funds or income to support yourself during the period for which you are applying for a permit and have money to cover the cost of your journey home. You also need comprehensive health insurance valid for healthcare in Sweden. 

READ ALSO: How do you apply for Sweden’s new talent visa? 

Obviously, if you’re lucky enough to have citizenship in another EU country, you’ll automatically have the right to live and work in Sweden without applying for any sort of residence permit first. 

Many other nations like Australia, Canada, Japan – and now the UK after Brexit – have agreements with the EU that allow their citizens to spend up to 90 days in the Schengen Area without needing a visa. However, this visa waiver programme does not apply to those planning on undertaking paid work in the Schengen Area, so you will still need a work permit to work in Sweden, even if you’re not planning on staying longer than 90 days.

You will also have to register with the Swedish Tax Agency if you’re an EU citizen planning to stay for longer than three months.

Fast internet

Sweden has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world (although if you’re looking to move to a Scandinavian country, Norway and Denmark rank higher) and internet is relatively cheap, costing an average of less than €30 a month. Around 90 percent of the population enjoy a stable internet connection and you can find 4G in most of the country. A shack in the Swedish woods is often more likely to have a blazing fast fibre optic internet connection than a toilet with running water.

Everyone speaks English

When you’re setting up an internet service provider, chances are you’ll be able to talk to them in English. Sweden ranks second on the list of countries with the most non-native English speakers in the world. The working language is English for many locals, and Swedish children start learning English at a young age. You won’t have trouble ordering an oat milk latte with extra foam or finding your way around.

Lots of co-working spaces

There are 175 co-working spaces across the country, with many companies opting to rent office space collectively since the pandemic. In Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö it is easy to find shared office space, either through freelance collectives, or through more corporate providers.

Here’s The Local’s list of ten co-working spaces in Stockholm.

Thriving tech scene 

Stockholm is second only to Silicon Valley in terms of the number of so-called unicorns (startup companies valued at more than $1bn) per capita, while Stockholm and Malmö are also among the leading cities it the world for game development. 

The KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm draws in young tech talent from all over the world and has a well-established incubator programme to encourage students and alumni to start spin-off tech companies. 

Malmö, Stockholm, and Gothenburg also have a well-established informal tech scene, where web developers, programmers, and other tech professionals can share new ideas. You can find a lot of them on the Meetup app. 

CONS

It’s quite expensive

With one of the highest rates of income tax and a high tax rate on goods and services, stuff in Sweden just costs more. This is balanced by a relatively high average income, but if you’re getting paid a salary by a non-Swedish company, it might not stretch as far in kronor.

As a freelancer, once you’re making good profit, you could be paying nearly 50 percent in total taxes to operate a business. You also don’t get all the same benefits as employed people in Sweden do, such as 25 days holiday, sick leave, and the right to get paid leave to look after a sick child, and you may also be paying for private health insurance on top of that. In this respect, you’re paying for a system which you can’t use.

Having said this, with the krona now historically weak against the euro, dollar and pound, Sweden is cheaper than it has been for decades, so if you’re a true nomad and have been planning on checking out Sweden for a while, this is not a bad time to do it.

READ ALSO: 

A complex accounting system

Invoicing in Sweden can be tricky, even though the information provided by the Tax Agency is available in English as well as Swedish. 

If you’re employed full-time by a company abroad, you will have to show the Swedish Tax Agency a copy of your contract upon arrival, including some mention of the fact that you’ll be working in Sweden.

If this doesn’t apply to you, you’ll need to either register to pay F-skatt as a self-employed person (which usually means you need at least two ‘clients’, so you can’t just register as self-employed and continue working for the same company you did before,) or set up your own company (read our guide here).

Swedish freelancers tend to keep meticulous records of each tiny item they purchase and have a detailed knowledge of every possible tax rebate they can claim, all in the hope of bringing their effective tax rate closer to that of someone employed on a salary. 

It might make sense to use an umbrella company like Cool Company or Frilans Finans which puts you in the position of an employee in return for a fee, so that you don’t have to deal with the tax system yourself.

You won’t meet anyone

While working from anywhere is relatively easy in Sweden, it does significantly reduce your chances of meeting people and forging relationships. Swedes are a reserved bunch and they tend not to speak to people outside their friendship group (unless quite drunk). Finding a full-time job in the digital sector might be your best bet for settling in and finding community.

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