The Norwegian job market: some pointers

Okay, this article is a bit late in coming since it is my response to an article published 27 March in the local newspaper, Adresseavisen. The said article is about a fellow Filipina, Roselle dela Fuente, who, after 400 job applications since moving here a couple of years ago, still finds herself unemployed despite what is normally perceived as very high qualifications: high educational attainment (law graduate and master’s degree holder) and can speak very good Norwegian. While I can understand her frustrations—I have been in a similar situation before—I also see where the Norwegian employers are coming from. Labor is expensive here. Even the process of finding and hiring a worker is expensive. So when a Norwegian employer decides to employ someone, he has to make sure the person is the absolute right one—that he can do the job that is required of him (on-the-job-training is almost always not an option). Sadly, this means that whenever a Norwegian employer is faced with two candidates for the position he has announced, an immigrant holding various university degrees from his home country vs. a native Norwegian who is fresh out of vocational school, he would choose the latter for the simple reason that he is already familiar with how the latter was trained, and can thus more or less assume that he can do the job. Sounds like discrimination? Not really. Just being practical.

I am not saying, however, that getting a job here is impossible as an immigrant… I am an immigrant, and I do have a permanent job. It’s just that there are some things you have to be prepared to accept. The first of these is that you virtually have to start from scratch. You could have a dozen master’s degree from your home country, or other countries as well, but unless these degrees are from any of the top universities in the world like Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge (just to name a few…), they won’t mean a thing when you get here. The system is just too different. So, in addition to learning the Norwegian language, you either have to go through videregåendeskole (a combination of vocational school and pre-university) then to college/university or technical school, or have your education evaluated by NOKUT. NOKUT, or Nasjonalt organ for kvalitet i utdanningen (roughly translated: National organ for quality in education) will assess how your education corresponds to education here. You can present the result of this assessment as part of your qualifications to prospective employers (it is up to them, however, how much weight they would put on it), or, as is more often the case, use it as a «get-out-of-jail-free» card so you don’t necessarily have to start from square 1. In my case, I used my NOKUT evaluation to skip going through videregåendeskole and go directly into (continuing) my master’s degree, before deciding to undergo further training as legal secretary.

This brings me to the second thing you have to accept: apart from nannying and house-cleaning, almost every job here requires a certificate of training… If you want to work as a secretary or office clerk, you have to have a certificate that says you had training in kontorfag (roughly translated: office subject)… If you want to work as a brick-layer, you need a certificate as a brick-layer… If you want to work in a kindergarten, you have to have a certificate that indicates you were trained to do so… And so on. You get the picture 😉

Last but not the least, you have to have a network of people here who could vouch for you. You have to have at least three people. And NO, YOUR SPOUSE DOESN’T COUNT, for obvious reasons. For most immigrants, the best way to establish a network here is through NAV (Ny Arbeids- og Velferdsforvaltning, roughly translated: New Labor and Welfare Management). Visit the local NAV office (there is at least one in each city/town) and register as a user/client. Here you will find that they have a program for introducing immigrants into the Norwegian job market. The program consists of a 3-month course—where you will learn all about how the employment system works, the local workplace culture, your rights and responsibilities as an worker/employee, as well as how to PROPERLY apply for a job position (writing a CV and application letter, plus which useful documents to attach with your application). At the end of the course you will then be asked to apply what you have learned by looking for a place where you can do an internship. The internship lasts for 6 months during which you would essentially be working for free—your «employer» will not be paying you. Instead, NAV will be giving you an «allowance» every two weeks. This is the most important part of the program, as it is here that you get to show Norwegian employers what you are really capable of, and if they are happy with your performance, you either get a permanent job in that company, or you get recommendations that come in very handy when you start looking for real jobs afterwards. The latter is how I got my first part-time job at the post office later, and still later, another job as interpreter in a private translation firm. Although the company in which I did my internship (as museum assistant) didn’t have the means to offer me a permanent position, it did however kept in touch and continued to hire me whenever they have projects which require my skills—the most recent of which I actually had to turn down because I have already been given a permanent full-time job at the post office.

So, there you go. I hope this post has been useful to new immigrants in Norway out there seeking to find employment but don’t know where or how to start 😉

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