4 Years...The Long road to my dream job in Stockholm

I was sitting in London working as a Coordinator for an NGO when I decided to move to Stockholm,
Being pragmatic , I sent my CV to a couple of NGOs and schools as I’ve always had this dual love for Education and Development.
Much to my surprise I got called for an interview in Stockholm within 2 weeks and was offered a job , working a nursery/primary school
just like that moving to stockholm became more concrete.

At that time, I had a BA from UCL, a Masters from IOE and over 5yrs work experience doing project management for NGOs ,including working for the UN.
I spoke English, French, Wolof fluently and had passable Spanish so I figured, id move and within a year I would be sure to find a job in my field again..
we moved
we settled
we learnt Swedish
we started a family..

everything was going smoothly , except on the professional front.

Being the pedantic person that I am, I made an excel sheet of all NGOs I could find in Stockholm and made sure to get on mailing lists and newsletter lists etc
I knew I had to stay 'connected'
I applied for a job almost weekly
I called the ones I wasn’t successful with to get feedback on how to improve my application..
I networked
I attended conferences, all alone to meet people in the field
I created my own group on FB to link professionals (like me) in Sweden within in the Development field
I contacted strangers on linkedin to volunteer and asked for advice for getting access to the Industry from a Swedish Perspective
and still nothing.

I listened to advice from Swedish friends about wording and formatting of my applications
I considered picture on cv , or picture off
I considered changing my last name 'Joof' ( staunchly West African) to my husbands 'Campbell' ( wonderfully international)
but in the end I kept my Joof,
I didnt add a picture either..
I stuck to my formality

During all this time I was still teaching,
I contacted the employment agency, arbetsförmedligen to see if they could help me find the way back to roles that I am passionate and qualified for,
They informed that they could not help as I was not unemployed (this is true) and encouraged me to quit my job and then contact them!

By early this year my energy was running dry.
I still hadn’t managed a single interview in 4 years
All the HR people I spoke to, told me my application was flawless and just to keep trying
By this time I spoke almost fluent Swedish and so submitted my CV in the language that was required.
And yet, still nothing,
In the end, it was through a friend that I had met through teaching in schools, that I found a voluntary role,
I was incredibly grateful and I took the role on , in addition to my full time job.
It drove me insane, working long hours in the school,
running home to be a mum for the few hours that I could and then going out for the volunteering job again
However, the voluntary role paid off and almost led to a paid position.
It wasn’t exactly my field but it was something I was good at, with an NGO that I genuinely cared for.

Right when i was about to sign for that role I got called for an interview.
my first official interview in Sweden
My energy was literally at its lowest,
But I went anyway,
I gave it my all thinking to myself at least it will be real-life practice for the future

It had taken 210 applications,
literally ,
I kept count
I went to the interview feeling like my chances were zero but it was the Dream Job,so I did my best
Right after the interview, They offered me the job

To be honest , I had worked so hard that I couldnt feel that immediate satisfaction or happiness right away
something in my head wanted me to be cautious as it felt too good to be true

I did finally explode with joy on that first day of work 2 months later, standing in front of the mirror in the bathrooms! :)

I still reflect on my journey though
It is still inexplicable how i managed just one interview in 4years of active searching
I had applied for management roles,
lower management roles
admin roles
secretarial roles
and somehow my profile wasn’t suited for any of these..
Sadly, i know too many people who are going through the same situation right now in Sweden,

I've often thought about why I never made it to interview
my background
my ethnicity
my non swedishness
My name
the sheer number of applicants
I guess i will never know,
but after all that , I was certain there was something about me , my profile, that they didn’t want, I know this for sure because during these years I have been invited 3 times for interviews with Large NGOs outside Sweden
How can my profile be desirable for International jobs and yet I cant get an interview as a receptionist in Sweden
If everyone else i knew was happily employed i would take it personally, but the opposite is infact true
I know too many proffesional international persons in Sweden who are experiencing the same
in a society strongly percived as embracing and open to diversity and other cultures the reality on the ground is rather surprising

During my search, I noticed the lack of Diversity over and over again..
at talks, conferences, or even just looking on office websites..
Stockholm society IS multicultural then why are we struggling to see diversity represented in the workplace
Im just going to leave that question there..

For those who are still job hunting;
volunteer, get a paid internship at Arbetsförmedligen, talk to people and dont give up and network, network, network.


  1. I love the fact that, you never gave up. Well done

  2. I'm so sorry to read this and even more sorry that this is the reality for so many people living here in Sweden. It's madness. Be proud of yourself for not giving up. You're an inspiration. Katarina

    1. Thank you,I am so blessed to have met you guys when I did,I almost gave up!:)

  3. WOW this is horrible..
    Congrats to you who didn't give in! Sweden is freakin cruel sometimes :(
    But not all of us want to keep it that way! :)

  4. incredible... I am experiencing similar for almost 3 years now. I should not complain because I am not in Stockholm, I live in a small city in the south where no chances of getting anywhere but I am still trying. thanks for sharing your story and giving the spirit of not giving up. best :)

    1. Don't give up,look into working from home or starting your own perhaps

  5. Hi Dear,

    Thanks for sharing this and kudos on not giving up. I'm Swedish by birth and passport, Polish by culture and upbringing. I've grown and studied in Sweden. Nothing about my name or appearance suggests that I'm "not Swedish". I have several years of international experience with the UN, speak five languages and have a Master's degree from Sweden. I have lived and worked abroad in seven different countries since 2008 and keep getting exciting job offers in different parts of the world - and yet I can't seem to get even an interview when I apply for jobs in Sweden. I'm ready to move back, but Sweden just doesn't seem to want me and my experience back. (A sidenote that might not be relevant, but still an interesting example - the last job I applied for with UNICEF Sweden was very relevant for my profile - the person who got it was an intern who had just graduated uni and never worked anywhere else. I'm sure the person is great and will do a good job, but there is no doubt that I have more relevant experience for that particular position, so it makes you wonder how those processes work. :) )

    1. Gosh, thats a little insane really. with regards to UNICEF Sweden..you should call and talk to them and ask why you were not selected. thier critisim will make your perspective and next application stronger!

  6. One of the more frustrating things in with swedish culture, is that you never know why you don't get the job (or interview for that matter). It's considered rude to tell people what was wrong with their application or what they're lacking for the job, so most of the time an applicant is left clueless as to what to work on. When I started searching for jobs myself as a newly graduated student, I applied for hundreds of jobs myself without ever getting an interview. The only feedback I ever got was "thank you for your application, but we've decided to move on with other applicants". When I look at my CV today I understand a bit more why I wasn't attractive to employers - lacking correct experience, focusing on the wrong things in my CV and more. If only someone had told me what I was doing wrong, I could've found a job a lot quicker.

    Now that I've been working for quite a while, I've had the good fortune on sitting at the employer side of the table. Going through applications and inviting people to interviews. In our case, speaking fluent swedish was an absolute must for applicants. It was expected from our customers, so there was no room for poor swedish. A lot of people who applied didn't have the swedish skills required, so they were dropped for that reason.

    I encourage anyone reading, with problems getting interviews - ask your swedish contacts working with employment what you can do. If you don't know anyone, ask an employer you applied to without getting the job. Ask them to be brutally honest (about the things you can do something about, like your CV or your swedish skills). Don't expect Arbetsförmedlingen to give you what you need to get your dream job, getting that is all up to you. And if you work in a field where you're in contact with swedish customers or clients, work on your swedish skills if you're not fluent. Although most swedes understand and speak english, most people prefer swedish in my experience.

    How big the problem with prejudice is, I honestly don't know. But I do know there's a lot of talented people out there frustrated by not getting the chance to prove themselves, and not ever getting to know why.

  7. Great read!

    I was in a similar boat moving from the UK after nearly 10 glorious years there back to Stockholm. With a bachelors degree and years of experience. I guess the main difference was that I only wanted to work for two international companies and after nearly six months of monthly emails and phone calls i finally got the job. I never paid any mind to arbetsförmedlingen...why they even exist with the minimal job they do i will never know.


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