"It sounds unbelievable: only a year before I was in their same situation, sitting on those chairs, looking for a job, struggling with the language and trying to find my own way. In one year I had been able to jump to the other side of the audience and talk about my experience, showing my videos and trying to inspire others with my story. I still sometimes remind myself of what I told them when closing my speech: 'Your success is in your pocket, you just have to reach in and grab it. New opportunities are often around the corner. Be ready for them.' ”
“May I help you fill the bags?” I heard this gentle voice behind me. I was at the supermarket, checkout line. My three kids had suddenly turned into a hurricane, right there at the cashier. The little one was freaking out in the stroller, crying desperately for the loss of her dearest dummy. To make matters worse, her brother and sister were fighting like cat and dog over an unidentified something. People around were staring at the scene, with a compassionate smile printed on their faces.
“Yes, please!”, I answered instinctively, with a sort of begging tone. My only wish was to get out of the supermarket in the fastest way possible.
We shared a glance, and the nice lady, agile and quick, started helping me by filling our grocery bags. In a jiffy, we get to the store exit. Still gasping and trying to rush home, I said: “Thank you so much, you are so kind”. Wanting to sound even more grateful, I jumped into my broken Swedish. “Tack så mycket, vad snäll du är!”. With a glowing, smiling face, she winked at me. “We can talk Italian”.
This is how I met Annette, three years ago. There, in those messy circumstances, we only had the time to exchange phone numbers. We met again a couple of weeks later, for a cup of coffee and a long talk about our brand-new Swedish life.
We had such an enjoyable time. We were sitting under the sun, an Italian and a German lady, a reporter and a sommelier, talking about our families’ adventures, challenges and projects.
Both of us had moved to Malmö from Italy a couple of years back, with our husbands and three kids, and both had fallen in love with Sweden at first sight. Its openness, its culture and its countless opportunities had ravished our hearts from the very beginning.
However, despite our positive feelings something was missing to paint the perfect picture of our Swedish lives. Three years had passed and we were still looking for a job that could fit our competencies and a place eager to welcome our sparkling energies.
Searching for a job was itself a full-time job, but without any appreciable results and without any money. Naturally, this downside was threatening our enthusiasm, that little by little was fading.
Who could even imagine that just a year later Annette and I would have held a speech at International Citizen Hub Lund, standing in front of an international audience of incredibly talented people to tell them about our success stories?
Here is the good old story... “From zero to hero”.
My family and I moved to Sweden from Italy in 2014. Basically we were tired and frustrated about living in a magnificent country that, in all its beauty, couldn’t guarantee our children the bright future we were imagining for them.
During our last two years in Italy we had been thinking a lot about moving somewhere else. My husband had lived in Malmö with his family during his teenage years and he always used positive words to describe Sweden, its society and the education that it offers. He was talking about a country projected towards the future.
He was right. When we arrived in Sweden we found a country that far exceeded our expectations. The kids started the international school without knowing a single word of English, or Swedish. Three months later they were speaking both languages and playing happily with friends from all around the world.
My husband had left his job in Italy as a video editor and he wanted to change field, career, in a few words stay away from the evanescent tv environment. He wanted to work to create something that could live more than the duration of a tv episode. Following an old dream, he took a course in carpentry applied to design. He now works as a carpenter, making beautiful and important pieces of furniture out of wood, a material he has always loved.
Starting new studies around the age of 40 in order to change career is not that uncommon in Sweden.
Everybody can find their path easily. As long as you have a good education, a cracking CV and you speak a bit of Swedish, you have a job in the pocket. It’s just a matter of time.
“Apparently this theory is not applicable to me”, I told Annette while sipping my coffee. “It’s two years since we moved here, and I still can’t find a job where I can put my competencies to good use. I have worked as a tv reporter and documentary director for more than 20 years in Italy. I can’t do the same job here, I’m not able to write in Swedish without mistakes, I still write and speak as a child and I’ll never reach the level of Swedish I need to write an article”.
Since we had moved here I attended the SFI and then the Swedish “Grundnivå”. I learned a lot, improving the fluency more and more by the day. But still, I felt it wasn’t good enough.
The language, that has always been my strength, now was my weakness. This made me terribly frustrated. That’s why, at a certain point, I put an end to all my ambitions of continuing my previous career here. I had to find a field where I could be useful, but I didn’t know anything about the Swedish job market, no ideas which way to go, to whom to present myself and how.
A week after our first meeting, Annette called me: “Linda! I found something extremely interesting! International Citizen Hub Lund is organizing a Kick-Start Program for international people who moved to South Sweden and need information, tools and support to find a job. We absolutely have to go and attend their course.” The proposal sounded extremely exciting and we applied to join the course. A month later we were sitting among other 20 talented people from all around the world.
I have never met so many highly skilled and over-educated people in the same room! Sharing time with them, listening to their life stories and experiences was simply enriching. In six months the International Citizen Hub Lund gave us all the tools we needed to be ready to enter the Swedish job market successfully.
I was so full of energy and enthusiasm that through International Citizen Hub Lund I started a mentorship program with Mine, a Malmö based company that also supports international trainees to establish in the Swedish labour market.
At that time, a dear friend of mine wrote a successful book titled: “What you like to do is what you do best”, a collection of inspirational stories about life choices, about people who left their unfulfilling job to follow what they were cut out for.
This title was replaying in my head. Moreover, I started to see sights here and there, all of them shouting or whispering the same suggestion: I shouldn’t have abandoned the idea of pursuing the job I loved. I was quite good at it, too. Why throw away years and years of experience as a reporter and video maker? My mentor at Mine program was also pushing me to continue to keep my job alive. “But, come on Catarina! Are you hearing my Swedish? How could I work as a reporter with this hesitant Swedish?”
She looked at me straight in the eyes: “You can’t give up just because your Swedish is not as perfect as you would like it to be. You don’t need academic Swedish. What you really need is just a good network”.
Apparently, here in Sweden, this thing about building a network is something that you can’t go without. Everything works better if you have the right connections. It’s true.
During a mingle arranged by Mine, I met a representative of Malmö Stad (Malmö Municipality), who was working in the communication department. We talked a lot about the power of video to promote institutional activities. At that time her team was working on a big project and they were in the need of someone who could help in making videos. Perfect timing: I was there, available, full of ideas and enthusiasm.
A week later I had a desk and a video editing workstation at Malmö Stad. I was filming, interviewing people and editing videos published on its official web site and channels. My first video got 15.000 views in a week, which was quite startling and completely unexpected.
I was there for six months, working on many interesting projects, in a perfect mix of learning and teaching. It was an internship, so I still wasn’t making money, but I was finally doing my job in a Swedish environment.
To my great surprise I found that my broken Swedish didn’t represent a barrier in any way. Not even during the interviews, which I was so concerned about. Of course, where my Swedish wasn’t up to the challenge, the English always provided me with a helping hand.
That experience opened the door to many others and today I work as a freelance video-maker for private companies and public institutions. Most of my work is based on the network I built in this past two years.
Summing up… Attending both the Kick-Start Program at International Citizen Hub Lund and the mentorship program at Mine has been a successful experience. I’m so grateful to them for the knowledge I acquired about this country, but most of all for the connections I made.
I love to tell my story to the people who moved here from another country and feel confused about their future. We all know the importance of being reassured and encouraged when we feel a bit lost.
Lisa, Cynthia and Martina share the same view. That’s why they invited me to hold a speech at the International Citizen Hub Lund in front of 30 high-qualified people from all over the world to tell the same story you have just read here.
It sounds unbelievable: only a year before I was in their same situation, sitting on those chairs, looking for a job, struggling with the language and trying to find my own way.
In one year I had been able to jump to the other side of the audience and talk about my experience, showing my videos and trying to inspire others with my story.
I still sometimes remind myself of what I told them when closing my speech: “Your success is in your pocket, you just have to reach in and grab it. New opportunities are often around the corner. Be ready for them.”
/ Ermelinda Ranalli