Still nauseated by the results of the French elections’ first round, I decided to write about something else and will come to it later back. This time, I’m tackling a very frustrating issue that many of us foreigners face in Norway: finding a job!
Of course, there is barely unemployment here so technically it’s quite easy to find a job. After all, I found one in less than three months after my arrival and have been working non-stop ever since. But let’s say that for foreigners who lack needed qualifications (people who are highly sought after work in IT, engineering, health and the oil and gas sector) or who can’t afford to start their own business, there are only so much they can do: you end up in services, whether in a kindergarten, old people home, cleaning or the food and drinks industry, and also construction.
You can find an incredible amount of foreigners working in restaurants, a sector that is quite left out by Norwegians except for bars, where students and people cumulating several jobs often end up. The reason is: it’s not well paid, and it’s hard. The average salary in Norway is roughly 4,000 euros per months. You can almost divide it by two for waiters. Chefs are better paid of course, because they have a valuable education and experience, but it’s a tough job and I don’t think the salary is super appropriate either.*
When I first arrived, I started tourism guiding courses and found a waitering job quite fast. I started working as a city guide for extra cash as it’s a good pay, but my main activity has been waitering. If you like people, are able to work hard, not complain much and be quick, it’s honestly quite a good option and I’ve met great professionals in this field, but that I though would be temporary as I have other aspirations.
I’m a journalist, so why not shifting to communications, which is also a creative field I enjoy. So I started slowly developing a network and learning Norwegian in order to prove my good intentions and reassure that I could fit in the workplace. Alas, it’s been over three years, I send many CVs and often didn’t get any reply, despite having people ready to vouch for me (you guys are the best to believe in me, thanks) and even being recommended!
I was thinking about this a lot because we just started the chapter on job interviews and education in my Norwegian class, and I realized I know all the steps that were recommended. I followed them, even. It led me to one glorious job interview that was followed by a second one and I ended up not getting the job because they went for someone with many years experience. Not surprising as I’m a junior in the field, but the problem is that they advertised wanting someone « fresh » with new ideas, which is what my job applications scream apparently. Because yes, I’m not Norwegian. I’m not THAT bad with the language and know I can get better over time. I am confident in my capacities and ready to take on challenges.
But all that really don’t matter in the Norwegian job market, as it was confirmed to me by many foreigners I’m friends with. You can do everything right, and it leads nowhere, unless you stay over six years and ends up being seen as « completely indigenous », or that you get extremely lucky with your contacts. And at least I’m French, which is well seen, and I’m white, which doesn’t hurt in any white-dominated country.
It is very frustrating to know you can bring something to the table and that the table’s access is denied to you. I have observed this frustration among many friends for different career paths, and it all seems to point out at the almost complete inability to open to change and diversity. When I see meetings for companies or specific professional sectors, except for the university that gathers people from all over the world, I am amazed at how much people look and react the same.
I feel it’s a shame because Norway is a great country and deserves the very best from the people it hosts. But first, maybe we could be given a chance to prove ourselves, in other sectors that the ones where we have to serve and/or break our backs?