Working in Norway: that's how it works
Many international students find that having a job can help you understand Norway better, and give you the resources to make the most of your stay. But how can foreign students find a job? Trine Juhl Sørensen from HiOA shares some essential tips and Sara from Austria tells her personal story of success.
“We want students to feel more ready for real life”, says Trine Juhl Sørensen who offers career counselling for HiOA students. Together with her colleagues, Trine runs courses on career-related matters, is in contact with companies and organises careers days. HiOA arranges events where students can be tested by an employer in order to prepare them for job interviews.
“The headline of my work is basically to link students with business life. I think that's magic”, explains Trine who got her job at HiOA via LinkedIn. Originally from Denmark, she was supposed to run a chocolate business by the time she moved to Norway but realized that she didn't like retail sales. “It was the good old story: love got me here. But it was very important for me to have a job before I moved”, says Trine who is also known as “Danish Trine” by her colleagues.
The counsellor’s advice is not to be too picky in the first choice to “get a foot in the door”. Trine knows from her own experience how important it is to show some initiative. “It's important to send the message 'Until I know the language, I'm willing to do the dishes'”, Trine says who worked at London Heathrow Hilton as a maid. “It was terrible”, Trine admits but after a while she got to know some people who found her a job in a restaurant, which was “a bit cooler”. Danish Trine adds: “But be picky in your next choice because you're not supposed to have higher education and work in a restaurant.”
Building a network
Rule number one, according to the companies with which Trine is in contact, is getting some work experience. The best way to reach that goal is building a network. Therefore international students who plan to find a job in Norway and want to stay longer in the country should learn the language. “My second piece of advice is to get some Norwegian friends to improve your Norwegian. You will have to if you want to be part of the work environment”, Trine explains.
Exchange students who want to network can start with joining a student organization. Trine suggests: “There are a lot of opportunities here at HiOA. The difficult part is to figure everything out if you are only here for one semester”. Nevertheless, it is possible for internationals, who only stay here for one semester, to get a job in Oslo. Sara's story proves it:
“Yes, I'm an exchange student who doesn't speak Norwegian and I got a job in Oslo related to my studies.”
By the time my exchange semester in Oslo was coming to an end, the wish in the back of my head to stay longer got stronger. As a student of journalism I appreciated the free media here, the honest conversations with my Norwegian friends, I couldn't get enough of brown cheese and outdoor activities in every kind of weather and fell in love (no, not only with Norway's nature ;-)). Since there was a gap in between the end of Norway's autumn semester and the beginning of spring semester in Austria, it seemed that there was no need to head back home. The only thing which stopped me from extending my stay? Money. Even here, it still doesn't grow on trees and cutting down my micro-brewery visits wasn't enough to get by in Oslo, one of the most expensive cities in the world. I had to square the circle, trying to find a job in a country whose language I didn't speak at a time when my Norwegian friends were complaining about the current situation in the job market.
Okay, I made my decision now but what next? I had no clue but thought Google probably does. The first step to get a job is checking the search engine for available positions in Oslo or Norway if you are willing to move. But what is even more important: use social media! Post in every forum, group and page on Facebook what you are looking for and ask whether anybody knows somebody who knows anything about something... And maybe the most important part: don't be frustrated if you don't get any answers! Talk to your friends.
Even if your Norwegian friends are in the same situation, don't hesitate to ask them for advice. They may have experience when it comes to applying for jobs in Norway. After a certain time they might roll their eyes but don't care too much about this reaction and keep reminding them. You met a nice waiter in a coffee bar the other day? Go and ask him if he knows somebody who has work for you! Do you chat with your shop assistant? She might have heard about a vacant job somewhere. Talk to your professors, fellow students and flatmates. Sometimes you have to bother people in order to get what you want.
#It's the bureaucracy, stupid!
Some people might tell you that it's not easy to get work as a foreigner here. That might be true but it's not impossible. So don't despair and try to get an overview of which documents you need. If you are an EU-/ or EEA-citizen you have to be registered at the police for example. If not, you might have received your student residence permit approved which allows you to have a part-time job alongside your studies. To receive a salary, you have to apply for a tax card and a D-number at the tax office and open a Norwegian bank account. In order to get this paperwork, it's favourable to already have a work contract.
#Contacts before contracts
Can you remember? You spammed some social media pages, wrote dozens of e-mails and bothered a bunch of people. Try not to lose track and check if you got any answers. If not, post it a second time. Concerning my networking skills I felt like spider(wo)man in the end and still, nothing seemed to work. I had many moments where I was frustrated and close to giving up. But I set myself the goal to beat my smart phone in terms of making contacts and one day I got a comment on one of my Facebook posts:
That was how I, a journalism student from Graz (Austria), ended up publishing articles on the life of students on HiOA's homepage. I was super happy and - as I got the message around Christmas time which I spent with my family in Austria - immediately booked my flight back to Oslo. When I told my Norwegian friends, they were just shaking their heads with astonishment.
#It doesn't grow on trees: paperwork
I arrived in Oslo, highly motivated to begin my job which is not only related to my studies but also paid a Norwegian salary. I was terribly nervous before the first meeting but it went very well. Nick, a friendly Brit from the International Office told me he would talk to his boss to set up a working contract. As soon as the formalities were clarified, they would contact me. One week passed and nothing happened. Because I was in Norway I went on a cabin trip where I did some cross country skiing (what else?) and kiting to take my mind off the fact that I have to be back in Graz in three weeks to continue my studies. By the time I was back in town, covered in bruises but relaxed, I could finally start to work! It was a huge challenge to contact so many people for interviews in a short time but I simply enjoyed starting working and those three weeks passed by quickly. Back home I continued to write up the material. At the moment, I'm back in the tiger city Oslo, writing my last articles for HiOA”.