I occasionally have people send me messages asking how they can move to Norway or how to find jobs when moving to Norway. Most of them are optimists and wish to land a job upon, or before moving. I once did this too when I was preparing for the move. I would find blogs about Norway, contact the writer and ask questions. Though maybe I wasn’t as optimistic as some who have contacted me, I did have my concerns about the job market. More specifically, my chances of finding a job being a recently transplanted American having weak Norwegian speaking skills.
The answers I received were worse than I feared. It’s difficult to find a job here, it takes time, learn the language very well. At the time of moving here I was a recent college graduate with every sense of hope that I would find a job hopefully in a related field to what I studied and pay down on my student loans. Fortunately for me my student loans aren’t as much as they could be. I received scholarships and grants mostly due to being a low-income student and a first-generation college student. Luckily, now I’m able to make double the payment of my monthly student loans and after “tax time” or “vacation payout” time I make an extra payment.
The first slap of reality hit me as I was in Norwegian classes, which is required for all immigrants. I get very frustrated with the language and I’m self-conscious of my Norwegian. I can hear the correct pronunciation of the words in my head, but when I speak the words they sometimes come out heavily accented or mispronounced.
At the time I was on my job hunt, I felt desperate. I never wanted my husband to take on the sole economic responsibility. I, at least, like to think I live by feminist principles and I value equality in my marriage. This point in my life was already a difficult one, so my memories of it are influenced by my perception. To me, it probably felt worse than it really was, but I was too foggy and clouded to filter this situation out properly.
I decided at one point the thing that was most important to me was having a job to help support my family. It’s a fair enough reason after all. I’m not at all above chopping wood, cleaning homes, mowing lawns, picking up trash. Someone has to do it. I reasoned with myself if needed I would start there and work my way up.
At one of my lowest points in the job search I had an interview scheduled. I also had my eldest daughter enrolled in pre-school part-time. She just happened to be home the day of my scheduled interview. My husband was away out of town with work, so my brother-in-law offered to watch her. Just moments before my brother-in-law arrived, my daughter began to throw up. I started cleaning, but was running out of time. Then she threw up on me. Luckily, it was only my pants – the ones I was wearing to the interview – and not my shirt. I got her settled on the couch, pushing time for the interview to begin. I grabbed a pack of baby wipes and wished my brother-in-law good luck. Not having time to change as I left, I wiped my vomit stained pants in the car certain I smelled repulsive.
I arrived on time to the interview, but was told to sit and wait. I had a folder with me that I carried with me to interviews with proof that I completed my levels of Norwegian proficiency. After mentally going over Norwegian interview questions I prepared for myself I was finally called in. My interview didn’t go well. One question in particular was, “Why have you waited so long since living in Norway to find a job?” I wasn’t expecting that question. In terms of being an immigrant I don’t think the time period between me arriving in Norway and seeking a job was that long, but it was a fair enough question although I did take offense to it and I did have a 3 year employment gap after all. I had to explain to her I spent 2 years in Norwegian classes and I did have a baby during that time so I was home with her for 2 years. I didn’t get that job, which was probably a blessing. I later found my current employment and I’m very satisfied with it 3 years later.
Not everyone’s story is like this. Some are lucky, some are fantastic at networking, some can master the language which is a huge advantage to job searching. There are those, like myself, who didn’t have luck on their side or strong extroverted abilities. I poured my heart into resumes and cover letters and then finally I found a job, though to me, it doesn’t feel like a ‘job’ probably because I enjoy what I do. The key is not giving up and keep applying until you find something.