Maisa Dabus

How I Made it in Sweden May 25

This month it's been 1 year since I have moved to Sweden. That I have, officially, decided to take a chance to start a whole new chapter of my life, from scratch, in a Country I never expected to be in before. Hang in there, it's getting professional now! People ask me a lot how I managed to get a job, without knowing Swedish, in my field, one month right after I have moved, in the middle of a Recession. So here is how:

  • When I first considered coming to Sweden I was still living in the USA. It was beginning of 2008. I got invited by one of my best friends to spend Summer in Sweden. Although I had a ticket back home booked, I took a chance and got a ticket to Stockholm, where I spent 3 months. And here's the secret: I was motivated by LOVE. On that note, I knew that, what I really needed, was to see if Sweden could be a place I'd feel comfortable living in and if I'd have a real opportunity to start the life I wanted here. So I started: without a Visa or knowing the language, I started looking for Start-ups in Sweden, online, and would see which ones I could directly reach the CEO. Then I'd honestly write them briefly about my intention and goal and in detail, would write about my education and background - the catch here is that I do have a good level of Education in my field as well as reasonable experience. I'd do that everyday and overall I sent over 200 CV's. Got 199 "No". But guess what? I just cared about the 1 "Yes" I got. The CEO of a Start-up in Link√∂ping thought I was very bold and that was actually what caught his attention in my email. He sent one of his Managers to meet me in person for a quick interview. It went great. Then, I got invited to their Office in Link√∂ping to have another interview, this time with the CEO and CTO. I left the office with the Manager telling me to put a proposal together cause they'd like to hire me for 6 months and would take care of getting me a Visa and get me back to Sweden. So to wrap up my Summer: I left after 3 months with a contract signed and a real chance to move to Sweden.

  • This is the not-so-sweet part, but it was equally important, of course. Once I got back to Brasil, the Recession was kicking in. The Start-up no longer knew a date when I could start with the whole Visa process and I was "stuck" in their contract. My goal was still to get back to Sweden (Love, remember?) so as the months passed by without any news, I started worrying if it would happen at all. I had a 5 hours time zone difference Brasil - Sweden, so I started waking up on Swedish time and my days would consist in getting in touch with as many Swedes as possible (Twitter and Linkedin did the trick very well) for possible Network and work opportunities. Meanwhile I put a lot of pressure on the Start-up for some decision regarding my situation and we found a temporary solution: I started working online for them, 4 hrs a day. It was a good way to show them who I was professionally and have a clue how to work for/with Swedes. It opened a lot of doors. It put me in the map here in Sweden and that made a lof of difference.

  • Eventually they've realized that the Recession had been too harsh on them and they wouldn't be able to hire me in the upcoming 6 or 8 months ahead. I couldn't wait that long (Love...) so that was the end of it. I applied for a Visa without having a job, in the middle of the Recession, but with a good reference from this Start-up. I was back to my approaching all CEO's in Sweden from companies I found I could collaborate with. Twitter and Linkedin, 5 hours time zone difference and almost 6 months since I left Sweden.

About 2 months before I had a date to move to Sweden, I got invited to 4 interviews. So, the deal was: as soon as I got my feet in Sweden, I should let them know so we could meet in person.

The rest has been the usual interview face-to-face thing. I was 100% interested and I absolutely needed (another key word) to get a job before my savings were over (I had enough to go through 2 months... that's right!). And I am sure that all the people I have talked to could feel how much I wanted a job. How interested I was. How my energy was high and my mind full of ideas. And believe me: being motivated does a lot for you to get picked.

I was lucky enough to meet a CEO who works in a very similar pace as I do (which is really fast) and who was so open minded. I'm not sure if he would hire me again, but he did then and I've been working at my current company for almost 1 year now. He believed in me and gave me an opportunity. But the main thing is that I didn't really wait for one, I created it!

So here is what worked for me in Sweden:

  • Motivation: Love
  • Need: not enough money
  • Persistence: getting 199 "No" means nothing. All that matter is the one "Yes" you will get.
  • Determination: know what you want. don't let any limitation or circumstances get in your way - waking up everyday in Swedish time while in Brasil.
  • Network: Twitter/Linkedin did the trick for me. I was around and about, really interacting and taking time with people: being real.

It's been quite a novel, but I thought if I'm going take the time to write about this, I want to do it right. Maybe, there is someone who will read this and decide to stick with a plan instead of giving up. And that makes it all worth it!

See you around?