Anna Monika Reichert
"Job hunting in another country is the storm I am facing. Going through it will make me stronger and the rewarding character of this “Project First Job” will feel so good once achieved. Expats, we have to be like bisons! We have to go through this challenging time right away and let nothing conquer our plans. We just have to do it."
Moving to Sweden or How I signed up for the course ‘Failing for Beginners 101’
I am here to contribute, to learn, to grow, to connect, to life, and to stay. 23 doesn’t rhyme with breaking free for nothing! Stepping out of the comfort zone never felt so good. And here you can read how this is going. Dear reader, please enjoy!
The call from Sweden
Growing up in the border triangle of France, Luxembourg and Germany deeply set the seed of curiosity and passion for people and cultures. As an orchestral musician I saw this need satisfied as my fellow musicians and I toured around for competitions and concerts. Life was a party but "smörgås", "chokladbollar" and "köttbullar" were missing! Studying Business and Law because of my family’s well-intended advice to strive for a career in which I will be financially independent sticks with me until today, but working with laws did not nourish my Annalunda (yes, I like wordplays) way of aiming to shape this world into a more equal place for all to be.
That’s how I spend my internships in Leadership Development, Diversity Management and Recruiting in northern Germany, Berlin, and the Netherlands. The sponge that contrary to the manual is replacing the space in my head where my brain is supposed to be, was filled. One thing was missing and you might already have suspected it: Northern Germany, Berlin, and the Netherlands are not Sweden, correct - 10 points for Gryffindor!
This realization took me two years to internalize, but 2020 - the year of face masks, disinfection liquid and social distance - finally gave me the last push. My work experience gave me the confidence and little financial puffer to move to Malmö by the age of 23. I landed in June with two suitcases and big dreams but quickly came back to the ground of facts: Nobody waited for me, my previous education is nothing special and not being fluent (YET) in the native language of the country I moved to is not helpful either.
And still, ending up in an international environment like Malmö was the next logical step to take although my master’s programme in “Managing People, Knowledge, and Change” is conducted by Lund University. With a cooperation with the IKEA Group on Mindfulness, Employee Wellness and Wellbeing as well as the concept of Self-Leadership, this programme is slowly coming to an end, and with it the reflections on what life has to offer afterwards, and this story - my adult diaries - continues. A story to be continued starts from the beginning and with it, I sign up for the course “Failing for Beginners 101”.
Be like a bison
Watching Jonna Jinton’s - my Swedish icon - latest video reminded me of how to keep going: We have to keep going like Bisons. Bisons don’t seek shelter like other animals when it is stormy, windy, or cold. Bisons go directly through the eye of the storm so that they will be gone through it more quickly and have grown stronger when being on the other side. I love this metaphor in so many ways.
Job hunting in another country is the storm I am facing. Going through it will make me stronger and the rewarding character of this “Project First Job” will feel so good once achieved. Expats, we have to be like bisons! We have to go through this challenging time right away and let nothing conquer our plans. We just have to do it. And since I can literally hear you all saying “But I am already doing it!”, I answer: Yes, and I see the effort it takes you to keep going, so we just have to trust this process and that it is bringing us to the other side of the storm so that we can grow on the road.
Trust the process
As a master’s programme graduate I don’t really have anything to lose trying to land a job in Sweden. As a first-generation student with parents working in different industries, there is no network to rely on in my home country - so why not create one myself? During a global pandemic, there is no career fair to visit, in which my outstanding enthusiasm about all the things development, learning journey and the individual’s spark can be seen, so I need to use my creativity getting to know people.
My recommendation for all jobseekers: Asking people for help is the most powerful and at the same time disarming tool! Be the one asking questions about how to land where you see yourself or about the career paths of those employees in positions, you’d like to hold. This way, you’re the leading part in conversations and gain back the feeling of control and comfort, one can quickly miss after a mountain of rejection letters.
This is also how I got accepted for MINE’s Mentorship Program: With my mentor from Axis Communications I gain an authentic and genuine insight into what Skåne’s companies could need and how this overlaps with what I can offer. The exchange with other mentees from all over the world and educated in various industries makes me feel even more at home in this city, that doesn't seem to have a place for me to grow.
Still, I acknowledge the fact that this doesn’t necessarily speed up the process. To make this process nicer and flourish as a real people-person, I decided to not make this journey about myself solely, but proactively started to connect the people I know with each other. This helps me to stick with my outgoing work ethics and hands-on attitude. With family members being Bahai - the newest recognised world religion - to offer this service is part of my DNA. It makes me feel like home and brings sunshine into my heart, that I can help my friends and network to connect.
Going to the yoga studio and the clay lab equips me to reflect on myself and is a welcome change to sitting in virtual meetings trying to pitch myself all day long. For me, this is a necessity that I only really attributed to myself and allowed myself in Sweden, maybe because of the stronger focus on work-life-sleep balance here.
Always be yourself
Joining the Kick-Start Program from International Citizen Hub Lund made me even more aware of the cultural variations between the German and the Swedish Labour Market. Different approaches on communication, team building, or trust are the reasons I decided to live here. At the same time it can be both an obstacle and enabler to know what deeply anchored behaviours of yourself might result in misinterpretation or miscommunication in relation to your communication partner.
Let me tell you: Adjusting myself felt like losing myself. Friends will laugh when they read this, but I really lost my voice. It took me a while, three job interviews to be exact, to conclude my un-swedishness as the superpower it is! Being myself with all the german structure and detail-orientation will be a nice addition to international and swedish teams. Being myself is not solely connected to my cultural heritage, education or profession - a lesson I reflected on during mentor meetings.
To take off the mask and be my true authentic self at the workplace is the mission I am not intending to throw overboard. I announced the commitment to do so on LinkedIn a few weeks ago and decided to let the related post end this article:
"Who are you - without mentioning your education or profession?
The more I think about this question, the more powerful it is. I did not have a spontaneous answer when my mentor asked me this a few weeks ago. After a little reflection, I figured, most of my difficulties in reacting come from fear of being too goofy or not sovereign enough in my answer. But: Isn’t that exactly the kind of vulnerability we currently need? I advocate for a big YES, and therefore start an honest and open answer to this question here, 100% me:
I am a dog person, a fries-lover, a new plant mum, a bookworm, a nerd and an empathy ambassador. I enjoy learning, yoga, hiking and staring at a blank wall from time to time. Dips in the ocean have been cold showers before I moved to Sweden. I am a believer in education, equity, enthusiasm, good ends of exciting movies and other things that don’t start with the letter ‘E’. I like to do music in an orchestra and visit pottery classes that are not leading to crafts to be used. I am a happy person who laughs a lot.”
/ Anna Monika Reichert