As a professional moving to Sweden, finding a job is high up on your list of priorities. You know that first job will lead to other opportunities and will help you build your network and your life here in Sweden. Plus – most importantly – it will help you pay the bills!
Finding a job you want can take some time, especially when you have a few things working against you. You don’t speak Swedish and your work history and education is not from Sweden.
A person living in Sweden that speaks Swedish and has worked for Swedish employers can land a job after only looking for a couple of weeks. It will probably take you a little longer than that.
Still, you should get an offer in your hands after a few months of effort. And, if you’re focused and do the right things, you’re basically guaranteed to have a decent job within a year (if you speak English… I’m assuming you do since you’re reading this article).
Whether it takes you a couple of months or a year depends on how you approach the job hunt and whether you target the right companies.
You’ll quickly find that not speaking Swedish is a big limitation. You need a fairly good grasp of the language to work for most Swedish companies. And there’s little point in applying to a position that has a Swedish language requirement.
Luckily for us, there are plenty of English speaking employers in Sweden, you just need to know where to look. So let’s review which companies will and which won’t hire you as an English-speaking expat here in Sweden.
By targeting the English-friendly companies, you’ll land a job in no time!
Avoid these Companies that Require Swedish Proficiency
Most companies in Sweden have a Swedish requirement. It sucks to get excited reading a job description only to scroll down and see “Swedish required” written at the bottom.
When I first started looking for work here, it seemed like every job I wanted required Swedish. In reality, I was just looking for a job at the wrong employers.
As you go through your job hunt, you’ll learn which companies require Swedish as a rule of thumb. In general, these are companies that operate solely in the domestic market. This is true for both small and large companies. Examples of this are companies like ICA, Riksbyggen, and HSB, although many fit the bill.
There are also some positions that will require Swedish even if the company itself operates primarily in English. These are typically positions that are public facing or where you deal with domestic operations or clients.
A job where you need to coordinate warehouse operations will likely require Swedish. Although your head office may speak English, the people you work with (warehouse operators) may not speak English. Even many management consulting jobs in Sweden require Swedish since you’re dealing with Swedish speaking clients.
Companies need to weigh between the benefits of operating in the local language and the benefits of attracting an international workforce. Depending on the firm, it makes sense to trade one for the other.
Swedish Companies that will Hire you Even If you Don’t Speak Swedish
Luckily for us, there are a lot of companies – both big and small – that don’t require Swedish. You’ll have a lot more luck focusing your job hunt here.
Let’s look at the big companies first. The ones that don’t care if you speak Swedish come in two forms:
2) Global firms that have a local office in Sweden – companies like Phillips, Nike, and Amazon. With these companies, there’s a good chance your boss, or your boss’s boss, works from another country. These tend to be the most international offices and likely have English as their corporate language.
I’ve linked to each company’s website because it’s a good idea to frequently check for jobs vacancies on their sites. You might miss a great opportunity if you rely on job boards alone.
If multinational giants aren’t where you want to work, there are plenty of smaller companies that will hire you.
You’ll want to look for companies that have a global mindset and want to attract an international workforce. A lot of firms in the tech space fit the bill. They have hard to fill roles and they want to operate globally right from the start.
In general, the startup space has less strict requirements. If you can make a connections with a startup and you have the skills they need, they won’t worry too much about the lack of Swedish.
And they don’t call Stockholm the European capital of startups for nothing! Both locals and expats are starting their business here. A company that was started by an expat will likely hire other expats without a Swedish requirement. But a Swedish entrepreneur is worth reaching out to.
Swedish Companies that are Hiring for Another Language
Since we’re talking about languages here, it’s worth thinking about the other languages you speak as well! Being fluent in another language can be the thing that gets you a job.
Think about the large employers in your home country. Do any of them have offices in Sweden? I know that Sony for example, has some roles in Sweden that require Korean. If you speak Korean and English, your competition will be slim here in Sweden.
Alternatively, many companies in Sweden have operations in neighbouring countries. If you speak French, Spanish, German, Russian or any other language for that matter, you may want to consider sales, account managing, or logistics roles. Any role that has you working directly with another country is an option worth exploring.
Professions in Sweden with a Labour Shortage
The market in Sweden, and Stockholm especially, is booming with new jobs. There are a lot of opportunities here for qualified candidates.
There are a few professions in particular that have a major labour shortage. Every year the Swedish Migration Agency releases a list of professions with a labour shortage, and you can find the 2018 one here, although it’s in Swedish.
Getting a position in one of these fields also makes the visa application process easier if that’s something you’re concerned about.
The roles they list range from highly skilled, like dentists, to unskilled, like train drivers.
If you work in a professional field that’s listed here, you can quickly grow your career in Sweden. The healthcare and education fields are particularly desperate for qualified candidates. As long as your credentials are valid in Sweden, you’ll land a job in no time.
The unskilled roles are a great option for someone that needs an immediate income. You’ll be required to learn some Swedish, but you can take a free 3-month Swedish language course that’s catered to the job. These roles can support you while you continue to look for professional opportunities.
Not speaking Swedish will be a limitation in Sweden, but it’s not something that should hold you back from moving here. There are many employers – both big and small – that are willing to hire talented English-speakers. By focusing your efforts on the employers I’ve listed here, you should land a professional job within a year.