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Lili Smith

"Ultimately it was my social and professional network that helped me get my foot in the door to where I work today. I feel grateful for those who reached out for me and proud of my perseverance to not give up on the search."

I moved to Sweden 2017 to study for a Masters in Sustainable Urban Design at Lund University. Having only lived in California in the US but always wanting to live in Europe, I knew that the experience would offer a great deal of growth and the chance to experience a culture and society very different from what I was used to. What I didn’t realize was how difficult of an adjustment it was going to be for me after school when entering the work search phase of my time here. The main points that I want to share are about being yourself, staying positive no matter what, stepping outside your comfort zone and remembering that every step you take is working towards your success.

Expectations and first steps

When I chose to move to Sweden for school, I came with no pre-conceptions of how my experience would be during and after school, or even if I would choose to stay. During school I was sheltered in a way, as my focus was only on my studies and my thesis, and I had yet to face the task of finding a job. I had hoped to study Swedish while I was in school, however my workload was too heavy for me to do so. Upon graduating in 2019, my partner joined me from the states, and we decided to give it a try to stay longer term. I then set out to find work, which I never thought would be a problem, Swedish language or not. Coming from the US, I carried the American notion that if you had good education, ability, experience and upper education in Sweden, you would have no problem finding work. I soon learned that this was not necessarily the case in Sweden!

The first step I took was to reach out to International Citizen Hub Lund. Before I moved here ICHL answered many questions, and having attended their events I knew they were an important step in a successful transition into employment in Sweden. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Kick-Start Program in the spring of 2020 as a pilot for graduated individuals who are seeking work. Although Covid hit during the session, ICHL quickly adjusted and we were able to carry out the events on line. I would strongly suggest the Kick-Start Program to everyone! In addition, be sure to attend the drop in CV and cover letter help as soon as possible! This is invaluable help that leads to immediate benefits.


I quickly realized as well that I was missing work opportunities due to my lack of Swedish language knowledge. In my next step I signed up for SFI and began a really hard journey which I am still on to this day. For me Swedish has not been easy, and I am still a beginner. Although I still have a long ways to go, the process of learning the language gave me a challenge to focus on and I felt more integrated in society.

Taking Control

As I was applying for jobs, I needed to take back control of my efforts away from endless applications and I shifted towards something I was also used to, owning my own business. I attended a development course through Coompanion in Malmö. This focused on the steps to entrepreneurship in Sweden. Here I made many lasting connections and friendships and I was able to help my partner pursue his business ideas.

In addition, my partner and I expanded our social network, participating in activities for ex-pats, Swedish class and networking groups. We have met amazing people from all over the world, and the interactions helped my feeling of isolation and failure from not quickly finding work. I learned how hard it had been for everyone to find work and that I was not alone. It was also fun to learn more about Swedish culture through our Swedish friends!

Ultimately it was my social and professional network that helped me get my foot in the door to where I work today. I feel grateful for those who reached out for me and proud of my perseverance to not give up on the search. I am also proud to say that I am now back to Swedish class after over a year study break. This will be my next big challenge and I look forward to it!

/ Lili Smith

To the Linkedin profile of Lili Smith

Lili Smith with a beige polo sweater