Yohannes Asresu, from Ethiopia, had even more reason to despair – he made an incredible 237 job applications with no success. Today, both have full-time jobs and speak enthusiastically about Sweden’s work culture. How did they do it?
The answer is they signed up to Jobbsprånget, a nationwide government-backed programme that offers internships to university-educated new arrivals in Sweden. The internships last four months and 70 percent of those who complete one find employment.
Opening the door
Sweden has been rated as one of the toughest jobs markets for newcomers to crack. It’s not unusual for expats to remain without work for years.
“There can be a lack of trust in your capabilities or ability to get inducted into the Swedish way of working if you didn’t go to school here,” says Faryal, who now works as a junior brand manager at Unilever.
Yohannes, now a data intelligence analyst at Snow Software in Stockholm, agrees. “Employers want somebody that can talk about your experience in the Swedish market,” he says. “You need someone to help open the door for you.”
Jobbsprånget offers the chance of a fast-track route to opening career doors that had seemed firmly shut. The programme is in English, so you don’t have to worry if you haven’t mastered Swedish.
But you must have a degree in engineering, architecture, science or business and be registered at Sweden’s Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen). Non-European English-speaking graduates looking for work in Sweden are a priority group – find out more about the requirements via this link.
Showcasing your skills
Faryal secured an internship at Unilever, during which she applied for and was awarded a different role at the multinational after seeing it advertised on LinkedIn.
“With a Jobbsprånget internship, you're not treated as an intern just out of college,” she says. “You get to showcase that you’ve got the skills to be employable. I did my internship with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and I now work in Unilever’s foods category.”
Photo: Faryal Sajjad
In Yohannes’s case, Jobbsprånget helped him get an internship at Nordea Bank working on IT procurement.
“Every day was an opportunity for me to learn about the Swedish working environment,” he says. “Nordea made it clear it wouldn’t lead to a job there but I didn’t take that as a negative.”
His manager helped him review his CV, update his portfolio and constantly encouraged him to apply for permanent jobs. Before finishing his internship in August last year, Yohannes had secured his current position.
“Jobbsprånget was my reference to get an internship at Nordea, and Nordea was my reference to get my job,” he says.
Yohannes was the editor-in-chief of a weekly news magazine in his home country before he fled to Sweden in 2014 in fear for his life after the government accused his publication of threatening national security. After doing a two-year Masters in Information Systems at Uppsala University, he began job hunting.
But after more than 200 applications, his fortunes only began to change when he saw an advert for Jobbsprånget on Instagram.
Working full-time again gives him “a sense of fulfilment as a person”, says Yohannes, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Uppsala. “It also has a good benefit financially so that I can provide for my family.”
Faryal says she was “at a pretty low point” and losing confidence when she first saw a Jobbsprånget advert on Facebook. Despite attending networking events and doing job applications, she usually received nothing more than an automated email.
“You question whether you’re right for the market,” she says. “But my husband gave me a big push – he knew someone who had gone through Jobbsprånget and was working full-time.”
Photos: Yohannes Asresu/Faryal Sajjad
Both Faryal and Yohannes are now full of positives about working in Sweden – and want to encourage job-seekers to persevere.
Faryal appreciates the culture of sharing a Swedish fika – a traditional coffee break with a sweet snack – with colleagues. “It’s an opportunity to learn about Swedish society and culture,” she says.
She advises people still waiting for their breakthrough to go to networking events and sign up to Jobbsprånget. “Realise that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she says.
Yohannes says he never felt like an outsider at his new employer: “The working environment is relaxed and you’re invited to come up with ideas.”
The man who refused to give up is clear about what job-seekers should prioritise. “Most people subscribe with Arbetsförmedlingen and go through the daily job emails,” he says. “But it’s not enough. Participate in Jobbsprånget and take it seriously – it’s a big opportunity if you show the commitment to learn and grow.”
The next application process for Jobbsprånget opens on July 16th and runs until August 16th. Click here to apply now.