Working in Sweden | From Aprons to Blazers

To land a job of my field was the most challenging in Sweden, to land at any job was next.

The first few months living in the country was fine, I started studying the language through SFI and it went fine. I would spend hours reading and watching Swedish shows to learn it as fast as I could. To me this was my ticket to having a job, at least that’s what a lot of companies I applied for made me feel. I have read a lot about immigrants not being able to get a job even when they are qualified for it because companies prefer Swedes and that connections are an important part of being employed. I did not want to believe it until I had my own dose, countless rejections from big companies . No interviews, just regret emails. The phone calls I normally received are from recruitment agencies doing preliminary phone interviews and then I did not hear from them again. I made several follow ups and had received several reasons why they can’t hire me like:  your visa is not eligible for a permanent position, our client wants to hire Europeans only. The first is not true, the second is racism.

Few months after, I got my first job as a buffet attendant/kitchen help through a chef friend who works in a school kitchen. I was good match for the job not because I have the experience but because the company gets support from the unemployment office (instegsjobb) and that meant savings for them. I was happy that I was hired, that I can finally get into the Swedish labor market and hopefully get something better in a year. After a few months of working, I started to realize how bad my situation was. I got below minimum salary despite the fact they receive government support and since they are not part of the union, there was not much that can be done about it. The entire time, I felt I was taken advantage of. While it was a good way to kill time and earn a little, it was also eating up my self confidence day by day. I would go to the school cleaning the canteen or what Gothenburg calls ‘Bamba’ and then setting up everything needed for lunch and then cleaning up once it is over. It sounds so easy but it requires a lot of work of which nobody appreciates. Yes, breaks are hard to get. People around me made me feel I did not matter, they act superior, that they are better than me and sadly, i felt inferior.  The confidence I have built up for years was slowly slipping out of my hand, it was a struggle to hold it.

I never stopped looking for a better job while I was working in what felt like slavery in modern times. I joined facebook groups for professional women, met new people in my attempt to grow my network but it was not successful. I met helpful people who directed me to companies and referred me to but still nothing. I was starting to question my skills and experience that maybe I am not good enough. It was a good indication that my self confidence is on the verge of death. One day, I saw a post in LinkedIn for a Business Analyst position and it did not mention about being fluent in Swedish so I took another chance. The worst they can say is No and I am used to it after being rejected numerous times. A week after, I got a voicemail from a recruiter asking me to callback. When I did, she scheduled me for an interview and that moment was my happiest. Just landing on a personal interview felt like a big achievement. The interview went well and they liked me, there was just one problem; I did not have an experience with vehicle systems and they were uncertain if they can get me a client at all since a huge percentage of the market in Gothenburg has something to do with vehicles. I was a bit sad but then at least they liked me. 

Weeks passed and I went on a holiday to the Philippines and while I was in the middle of the waters in Coron I saw a missed call from the recruiter. I called back as soon as I arrived in the inn we were staying and she said they might have a client for me. As soon as I arrived in Sweden I informed her that I was back but by then she was on a holiday so I never heard anything for about a month. I have been thinking of quitting the kitchen job even before I visited the Philippines because of my employers and the low pay but has been pushing it back since there is not much of a choice anyway. I thought I can keep going until I was told that I was not working hard enough because it was not my line of work. My chef thinks otherwise, my colleagues think otherwise and they just crossed the line. I quit and my mornings have been happier since then. 

A few days after I quit, I received an email from the consulting company asking me to come over for a preparation for a client interview. He asked about my experience, talked about the client a bit and was convinced that I have the right experience to what the client was looking for. We went to the client and the interview started. It was not the formal type. It started with an introduction and they talked a little about the project and asked about my role. I had more questions for them than they had for me and the interview was done. The senior manager said they can provide the feedback in 2 weeks time since there are also other people on the list.

Four days later, the client called and I was hired. My mornings just got even better…

Writing this story makes me smile because this is a great reminder that:
I am a strong woman.
I don’t settle for anything I don’t deserve.
I am better than what I think.
I have a strong support system. A husband who loves me unconditionally. A family who listens.

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