OUR GOAL was to gather academics in a central place, provide a platform for them to effectively exchange information, and help them build their base of contacts. And while we were at it- give them a voice and remind them that they are indeed an important member of this society.
WE HAVE PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED the frustrations of repeatedly applying for jobs we would be qualified for back home, only to learn we could not even get an interview. Was the competition so much better than us that we simply did not have a chance? Were there too many people looking for jobs? We were educated; had global experience; and succeeded in demanding roles before coming here. We also knew English, at least another language, and were also studying Swedish. Maybe our qualifications and drive were unclear on our CVs? We decided to tackle this uncertainty head-on in order to harness our frustrations and get some answers.
WE DID OUR RESEARCH and found reports describing Swedish hiring practices and workplace culture, the general unemployment rate compared to that of foreign born immigrants, and statistics on projected and real skilled labor shortages. We downloaded government reports, policy papers, and read article after article. We tried to understand why we continued to be overlooked and what an otherwise highly-qualified person would need to do in order to get an interview here in Sweden.
BUT THE INFORMATION WE FOUND was not encouraging. In fact it was quite depressing*: for the 350,000 of us "academics" here in Sweden, it took an average of 5 to 7 years for us to find a qualified job in our field. Furthermore, compared to a native, a greater percentage of us worked at a level that was below our training and education. It seemed that getting that first Swedish reference, that first Swedish experience, that first Swedish job validated one as "hire-able" here in Sweden. And that is why so many programs focused on something called a praktik, aimed at demonstrating "adaptability" and "hire-ability". We discovered all of this in February, by the way. Cold and dark February...
*The Integration of Immigrants into the Labour Market: the Case of Sweden by Georges Lemaître, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 21-Feb-2007