"Every step I have taken on my journey has led to something in the end - I am convinced of that. You often have to look at the big picture and not hold on to individual moments. It's not easy, but for many it was a challenging time. I am convinced that with an open and flexible attitude towards change, new cultures and people, you will get further."
My journey to Sweden actually starts in Denmark. I first came to Malmö in the summer of 2014, when I did my Erasmus semester at CBS in Copenhagen.
At that time I didn't really find the city on the other side of the bridge that impressive, somehow without charm. And even a weekend in Stockholm could not really convince me of Sweden. But that was about to change.
I kept coming back and fell in love with Scandinavia, the values of openness, trust, equality and the innovative concepts fascinated me. This is where I really wanted to live and I came back for a full-time master's in Copenhagen.
During this time I met my partner, who was equally fascinated by Scandinavia, but by Sweden. Originally from the US he got a great job offer in Sweden and decided to stay. Initially we had a long distance relationship, but I wanted to be with him and decided to move. Unfortunately at a very inconvenient time, because when I came to Malmö in May last year the world was in Covid chaos. Malmö seemed comparatively peaceful to me. Everything was open, no one was wearing masks.
I was motivated to find a job, but quickly realized that summer in Scandinavia is not the best time to look for jobs. Many were on vacation. I was quite frustrated. Every application was followed by a rejection at that time. All my friends were so close but yet far away. I had no network. I had to start all over again.
Luckily, my partner bought me the summer ticket of Skåne. I made many trips and got to know the beautiful landscapes, beaches and small towns of southern Sweden. The many flowers on the colorful houses, the forests, the water, the fika culture - I felt more and more comfortable and enjoyed the Swedish charm. Often it felt like a vacation. But I also felt alone and longed for contacts.
One day in summer, a friend from university who lives in Lund gave me the tip to apply for the Kick Start Program, because she knew many expats at her work who were enthusiastic about it and found a job with its help. I had high hopes that the program could help me find a job and I applied.
When I got the acceptance email, I was super happy and excited, because now I had something to do for a few weeks - when you have always worked and suddenly have no structure, such a program means a lot. I met new contacts during the virtual sessions, expats who were in the same situation and yet we all had different challenges.
It's not easy to start in a new country - especially during a pandemic. But I was always positive. I found a volunteer job, took care of our neighbors' cat and opened an online Etsy shop where we sell Scandinavian vintage porcelain. Even though I was initially critical of the different way the Swedes took during the pandemic, I felt that the supposed normality helped my mental health a lot. Looking for a job without a network, without knowing the language of the country and in a field that doesn't have that many jobs can build up quite a bit of pressure.
During fall, everything got much better. I had made friends in the Kick-Start Program, I had met more neighbors in our building and had virtual coffee dates with recruiters. My applications were getting better and better thanks to tips from the Kick-Start speaker, and I was being invited to interviews. I was finally able to apply everything I had learned during the last weeks. It is now normal to work from home and remotely, even virtual interviews are the new standard. I only met once with a recruiter and hiring manager, other than that I never really met people in person during my application process. I even did two video interviews- recording myself at home. Who would have thought this some years ago?I was excited to see progress but still I couldn’t land a job. I often received feedback that it is a bad time, I am overqualified, I have not enough experience, I have no knowledge of the Swedish labor law and many companies receive over 400 applications for one job at that time.
The pandemic has shown me how many great digital solutions there are now and that you can adapt to a new situation in the best possible way. It is important to realize that change is not always negative, that new situations bring new challenges, but also many more new opportunities. Every step I have taken on my journey has led to something in the end - I am convinced of that. You often have to look at the big picture and not hold on to individual moments. It's not easy, but for many it was a challenging time. I am convinced that with an open and flexible attitude towards change, new cultures and people, you will get further.
In February I finally got a job offer. I have accepted a temporary position as a Project Manager Diversity in a large e-commerce company in Hamburg. In March I will start working again. I wanted to work in my field so much and thanks to remote work, flexible working time models we will also master this new situation and make the best of it.
This mean it's long distance again for me and my partner, but Hamburg and Malmö are not far by train. Hopefully it will soon be possible to travel normally again, because Malmö has become my new home. Even if the Danish capital is bigger, has more restaurants, culture and work opportunities to offer - Malmö has its own charm that I appreciate very much. 2020 was a very special year that I will not forget. Its not a goodbye it’s a see you later. I am sure about that.
/ Anna-Ulrike Soldat