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The power of networking for internationals in Denmark



Building bridges: The multifaceted advantages of networking in Denmark.


Photograph: Pexels

Text: Rikke Harboe


For internationals in Denmark, networking is the key to advancing your career if you are already working, but it is essential if you are looking for a job. Networking in Denmark is essential to finding a job. According to an analysis by Konsulenthuset Ballisager, 6 out of 10 positions in the private sector are never posted and are instead being filled through networking and unsolicited applications.


In my work at International House North Denmark, where we both help international jobseekers navigate the difficult Danish job market also help companies with their international employees, networking is one of the first pieces of advice we give, along with starting to lean Danish (which is also one of the keys to succeeding with finding a job in Denmark and certainly also here in Aalborg and Northern Denmark where we are located despite many Danish people being good at English – but that is a topic for another day).


Networking can happen in many ways, for example doing a volunteer job or joining a sports or culture association. Three out of four Danish children participate in sports on a regular basis, and about half the adults in Denmark are members of a sports club. So, if you are looking to meet Danes, you will probably find us there.


Many municipalities are also offering networking opportunities for accompanying spouses and partners and other internationals through buddy programmes or job searching programmes which is an excellent way of finding other people in the same situation as you are. In International House North Denmark, we have run a successful programme called Spouse Space for many years, which focuses on job searching but also on networking. We do it because we recognise the value in being able to connect with people who have the same challenges as yourself when you are new in Denmark, but also because it is about connecting with the network available to you and as a newcomer - more often than not your network will be non-existent. Often, going out and networking can also give you the feeling of 'doing something' and thereby giving you a feeling of success, which, let's be honest – 99% of job searching will leave you feeling less than.


Other than the physical side of attending networking events, volunteering and doing sports in associations, it has become more and more common in Denmark to use LinkedIn as a way of establishing a network. Being active on the platform, posting about the job search journey or event just liking and commenting on posts from people and companies within your industry can be considered networking. But of course, some industries are commonly turning to LinkedIn, so it depends on your career path and what makes the most sense for you.


" I know you've heard this story before, but even though you probably could get "lucky" and get by in Denmark for years without learning Danish, you still miss out on so many valuable insights into the Danish culture by not learning the language. You will never understand your colleagues' dry dad jokes, sarcasm, and self-irony at the coffee machine, or you won't understand how your favourite coworker Anders is arguing with his wife on the phone on whether to have "stegt flæsk med persillesovs" or "koldskål" for dinner."

If you are not currently looking for a job, do not underestimate the power of networking. Even if you are happy in your current job, networking can be beneficial to your future career. By building relationships with other professionals, you also gain valuable insights, advice, and opportunities that can help you reach your professional goals.


So, we covered LinkedIn, municipal programmes and volunteering at either cultural or sports associations, but there are many more opportunities for networking. Perhaps you network at your local Netto while standing in line for the cashier, or maybe you have children that go to school or børnehave? Just last week, I talked to a mom in my daughter's børnehave who was looking for a job after having just moved to Aalborg, and I recommended she apply for a job that had just been posted in the municipality where I work. I even offered to set her up with a coffee date with one of the people who was responsible for the position. Most people would love to help you if they can, so don't be afraid to reach out. The Danes are a hard bunch to snuggle up to, I will admit as much. We can seem guarded and even unfriendly with our excessive demands of personal space, like on the bus, for example - but really, most of us are softies at heart.


I also cannot resist writing about the other benefits of networking - the opportunity to practice and improve your Danish language skills. I know you've heard this story before, but even though you probably could get "lucky" and get by in Denmark for years without learning Danish, you still miss out on so many valuable insights into the Danish culture by not learning the language. You will never understand your colleagues' dry dad jokes, sarcasm, and self-irony at the coffee machine, or you won't understand how your favourite coworker Anders is arguing with his wife on the phone on whether to have "stegt flæsk med persillesovs" or "koldskål" for dinner. I know many internationals feel like they sound less than perfect and maybe not as professional in Danish, but in many situations, just beginning a conversation in Danish will give you an edge of endearment and respect. You can always switch to English if you feel like your point is not getting across. Okay – perhaps I'm going off track now, but you get the point I'm trying to make.


So, to leave you on a positive note, networking can be daunting to many, and you might feel like you're out of your comfort zone in a professional or personal setting. But, it has the benefits of helping you settle into your new settings in Denmark, can further your career whether you are in a job or looking for one, and it can be done both online, enjoying your favourite sport, picking up your kid from school or even at the grocery store. Now, doesn't that sound easy?

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