20 May, 2020

Networking when you don’t know anyone

Are you looking for a job in Sweden? Then, it’s worth knowing that most openings are filled through relationships, and not formal applications. Trust and credibility are two essential components in the Swedish recruitment process. Your work experiences are proofs of your competences. Your contacts and references create trust. Having connections in your industry is crucial to facilitate your job search (and your career growth). So how do you build a network when you just arrived and don’t know anyone? Here is my advice.

A two-way relationship

Networking isn’t begging someone to give you a job. It means creating a meaningful relationship with people who have a common professional interest. It is an exchange of information, competencies, opinions or contacts. Be open, honest and curious. You need to be ready to give as much as receive. What do you have to offer? Primarily your competencies (take the opportunity to identify which ones) but also your opinion, your experience and your external viewpoint.


Beyond job search

Your ultimate goal for networking is perhaps to be first in line when a job opening comes. However, there are other benefits to building a network:

  • Improve your understanding of your industry in Sweden. Especially at the beginning, it’s crucial to learn how your industry is organised: Who are the main players? Who is recruiting or not? What are their needs? Which competences are they looking for? What challenges are they facing?
    Having a deeper understanding will enable you to adjust your profile and highlight the right competences. It may seem tedious, but you’ll gain time and credibility in the long run.
  • Get feedback on your CV. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to get information from recruiters on why they didn’t proceed with your application. Meeting other professionals is an opportunity to test your introduction speech, ask for informal feedback and get some answers.
  • Share your knowledge and contacts. You might think that you have little to offer. However, pay attention to the needs or challenges of your contacts. Be generous: your opinion or reflections from your previous experiences might interest them. Swedes are often curious about what’s going on outside their country.

To be efficient, make a plan

How do you get started?

Define your goals. Before making contact, clarify what you are looking for and what you can offer. What are your competences and strengths? What type of roles, industries, organisations interest you? Make sure your CV and LinkedIn profile are updated and in adequation with your goals.

Identify and classify your needs. Are you looking for:

  • Information about a role, a company, an industry
  • Intermediaries to meet recruiters, to share your CV, to connect you with someone in the industry/company you are interested in, to be a reference, to write a recommendation on LinkedIn
  • Support: to get advice, moral support, help with LinkedIn for example

List, by category, all the people you know: family members, friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, neighbours, people you met in your leisure activities, LinkedIn connections, friends of friends, parents of your children’s friends, old clients. Don’t hesitate to search broadly. Then, think about what you could ask each of them. Prioritise and make contact.

Prepare your meetings (virtual or in-person). How will you introduce yourself? What questions will you ask? What do you want to get out of the conversation? How will you capture your contact’s attention? What impressions do you want to leave?


LinkedIn is one of your best allies in Sweden

Swedes are protective of their personal space, even at work. They rarely respond well to spontaneity. Don’t show up at their desk or call them without booking a meeting in advance. You risk getting the opposite reaction you’re aiming for. For a first approach, use written communication.

LinkedIn is a useful and appreciated tool in Sweden. First, identify people you’re interested in meeting. Then, find out if you can be introduced via a common connection. Send a short message to express your needs and interests. From here, your interlocutor can, safely behind his computer, check your profile and get an idea of who you are, and decide to ignore your request or reply. Use LinkedIn to arrange a short call or a fika.


Meet new people

You can start casting your net from the cosiness of your home, but soon you’ll need to go outside and meet Swedes in real life. Swedes aren’t the best at making polite conversation and their natural restraint won’t make it easier for you. You’ll have to take the first step. In order to facilitate it, find a common interest (personal or professional).

Here are some ideas:

In cities, topical conferences and professional groups are flourishing and are often free (and some are in English). Sign up to those that’ll enable you to reach your goals and remember to plan before attending the events.

  • Eventbrite
  • Eventful
  • Meetup groups
  • Commercial chambers
  • Work fairs
  • Yrkesdörren (the organisation that connects foreign job seekers with Swedes, in English or Swedish)


Take classes (language, music, art…)

Take a hobby or join a sports club

Pick what suits you best. And, if you are an introvert, start connecting with one person at a time or a small group instead of attending large conferences. Set yourself small challenges (I talk to 2 people) and prepare in advance to gain confidence.

Building a network takes time. So, be patient and persistent, you never know when your investment will pay off. Good luck!

Find out more about the Swedish Job Market. If you need help, please get in touch!

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Christelle Pottinger on Facebook
Christelle Pottinger
Hi! I am French and I have moved to Sweden in 2012 with my family. I enjoy writing and sharing my experience of living and working in Sweden. I am a career coach, always happy to help French and English-speaking Newbies fulfill their professional dreams.

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