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Katarina Korenkova

"I lived in 6 countries. My strategy was always: 1. Join relevant local member organisation to access local network 2. Volunteer - give your time for free and magic will happen. 3. Attend lots of events 4. Get new skill/certification/knowledge and refresh CV 5. Enjoy the new country "honeymoon" period while it lasts. It worked all the time. To avoid info overload I use simple tool as mind mapping and prioritization of my actions."

I lived in six countries before from all sides of the Lewis cultural triangle. I worked in central Europe, west Europe, southern Africa and the Middle East. I am from Slovakia. To Sweden, Malmö I relocated with my husband in autumn 2016 from Palestine. It was an adventure really. We had no jobs secured, no enormous savings, not much information about life in Sweden and I had only one Swedish friend from Malmö. The first three months we just enjoyed the honeymoon period of the new country. We enjoyed it so much that we wondered why people complained about the winter. Well, we understood that the second winter.

Then, the settling period started. I have done this so many times before that I’ve got my strategy clear and the know-how in the pocket. The first thing I did, was to join a member association for my profession. I am a project manager in a development sector. I joined PMI Sweden Chapter (Project Management Institute) and signed up as a volunteer for their largest networking congress Passion for Projects. Then I signed up as a volunteer for IM (Individuell Människohjälp) to assist newly-arrived refugees. I joined International Citizen Hub Lund’s mailing list. Joined MINE mentorship program. Attended Rotary Club’s public speaking lessons. Joined IKF Business Navigation course. Got help from ALMI with business plan and my consultancy registration. Joined MINC. Signed up with InterNations. Registered at Arbetsförmedlingen. I attended almost every possible event for newcomers, job fair, entrepreneurship event, networking mingle and of course, joined my Swedish friend’s parties to make other Swedish friends. I started studying SFI and enrolled for a distance leadership course. I updated my CV and tailored my cover letter for every job application. I did apply also for jobs that required Swedish. You name it, I did it. My MINE mentor called me a bulldozer. I guess for a reason. :)

After two months of job hunting I was invited for the first job interview. I had no network connection to this organisation. No referral. They asked for Swedish in their job application. They were recruiting via external executive recruitment company. But the job matched me perfectly. I tried. Two more months later and after the third interview I was finally accepted. However, I still had to wait until the Swedish summer holiday would end to start the job. Well, bills had to be paid and I had to prove my EU right of residence in Sweden so that also my non-EU husband would have the right to work. I swallowed my professional pride and for the meantime took the first worker’s job I could find on the Arbetsförmedlingen’s Platsbanken.

In the mornings I cleaned homes, in the afternoons I volunteered and networked, at nights I studied and again volunteered. The struggle is real. I prepared myself and my husband for that before we arrived to Sweden. It is no different in any other country. Each has a unique immigrant settling challenges. I strongly believe in the Law of Attraction. I do a lot of mental work to stay focused on my goal and imagine that I have achieved it. I don’t know, but it works, most of the time I get what I want. This doesn’t mean that I don’t fail, get sad, frustrated or stressed at times, I do, it is normal, but I switch fast back to my positive and proactive attitude and aptitude. I also don’t just network, I like to build long-term relationships that I can leverage in the right time and I open myself to be leveraged by other people. I continue volunteering. Volunteering is magic.

So, three years down the road. At the moment, I and my husband have both permanent jobs (as they call them here) within our professional fields, a first-hand apartment, so many lovely Swedish and international friends and this year we have also got a beautiful son who will have a world of opportunities in life when he grows up. Through PMI I have gained an enormous professional network. I know people from almost every big company in Sweden and was assigned volunteer leadership roles that give me opportunities to empower people to make dreams a reality. I love it.

I really recommend to join a union as soon as you get a job and stick with them. Use all their resources and advice about salary negotiations, promotion, etc. The job market is not always fair, not even in Sweden and union is your best friend here.

/ Katarina Korenkova

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