An American in Trondheim shares his difficulties finding a job in Norway, along with some advice for those of you job-hunting now.
Since finding a job here a little over a year ago, I’ve done my best to share the transition process with other expats who are hoping to move to Norway (Trondheim, specifically, since that is where I have settled).
I’ve been lucky enough to trade emails and meet with many people searching for work in this city. Most come here chasing love, hoping to find a job so that they can stay with their significant other.
Some have questions about coming here for school or because it’s a beautiful place.
How to find a job in Trondheim
While Trondheim is indeed a wonderful place to live, it’s also very difficult to find work here.
Read the Book: How to Find a Job in Norway
NOTE: Before you continue to read this article, there is something you should know: Life in Trondheim is absolutely amazing and it is, in my opinion, the nicest city in the world.
The nature is incredible, the atmosphere is friendly, there is a booming tech sector, education is incredible, healthcare is great, crime is extremely low, and it is a wonderful place to raise a family.
Now, with that said, if anyone who wanted to move to Trondheim could easily make it happen, Trondheim would cease to be the small city that we know and love. So, there is a beautiful silver lining to the otherwise hard truths of finding work in Trondheim.
Now, I’m not going to sugar-coat this: finding a job in Trondheim is not easy. In fact, may be the most difficult place to find work that I have ever lived in. Here are a few things you should know.
Highly educated population
Trondheim is home to NTNU, Norway’s technical university and therefore is teeming with highly educated job seekers. According to OECD, 82% of the adult population has at least an upper secondary education and 38% a tertiary degree. Generally speaking, upper secondary is a bachelors and tertiary is a masters.
In addition, most of these degrees are in sciences, technologies, and business. As you can imagine, when I arrived with a degree in political science, the deck was stacked against me.
Norwegians will pretend that they are not nationalistic, but in my opinion, this is untrue. Norwegians prefer to hire other Norwegians for a myriad of reasons. One of them being language proficiency, but there are others. People hire people that they can relate to and get along with.
Commonly, Norwegians stick together. As a society, they take care of one another. There is nothing wrong with this and in my opinion, it is a good thing… but it does make the job search hard on expats.
In fact, I would say that Trønders are even so nationalistic as to prefer hiring a fellow Trønder over someone from Oslo, Bergen, etc and likewise for those cities.
Here in Trondheim, it seems like everyone knows each other. With a population of 180,000, Trondheim is still a small city.
People grew up together, went to school together, their families know each other, reputations are built and it’s relatively easy to fill an open job slot with such a tight connection. As a foreigner, this is another obstacle that you will need to overcome.
I very highly suggest volunteering as much as possible, meeting people at every opportunity and networking until you are ready to collapse.
The reputation that you build for yourself starts from the day you arrive here… and for many of you, the clock is ticking. Dress sharp, be active, and show how much you want to live here.
Norwegians hire for life
This one is sort of unspoken but generally true. In Norway, it is almost impossible to fire someone. Therefore, when companies hire, they are looking for a perfect match. They want to believe that you don’t just see them as a stepping stone to a visa or work permit.
You have to be the perfect candidate. So, you had better do your research and be on your A-game. Prove to them that you will stick around so that they feel less scared about hiring you.
Limited jobs in Trondheim
Even for Trønders looking to find or switch jobs, the options are limited. This results from a couple of the things already mentioned, such as this being a small city and that hiring for life results in lower turnover rates.
In addition, there are only a few of each type of company here and jumping from competitor to competitor would probably be frowned upon.
One of the biggest factors, however is economy. With the current oil crisis and many skilled workers being laid-off, Norway is seeing the highest jobless rate in a decade. This, of course, means that those skilled workers are now competing for available jobs as well. Again, competition goes up.
As skilled workers, you must meet strict immigration requirements. If you are not from an EU member country, you will only have 6 months to find employment (3 month tourist visa plus 3 month extension for job seekers).
Be sure you apply for this job seeker extension as soon as possible and note that you will need to meet living and income requirements. Even after you have received a job offer, you must meet specific salary requirements.
The companies must pay a minimum salary of NOK 412,600 if you have a Masters and NOK 382,900 if you have a Bachelors degree. This is to ensure that all immigrants receive equal pay for equal work on the same level as all Norwegians.
However, this can be a huge obstacle since many people may only receive their first job offers from smaller companies or startups.
Those salaries are pretty competitive and an employer would need a darn good reason to hire you at that wage over a Norwegian. For more info, check the UDI page.
The bottom line is that finding a job in Norway is very competitive and if you are not Norwegian, the deck is stacked against you. However, there are some things that may help.
Volunteer & network. You need to get to know people people here. Volunteer, network, attend groups from meetup.com, join whatever events you can find your way into and make the most of the opportunity.
Learn norsk. There’s not a chance you’re going to learn fluent norsk in a few short months but being able to hold just enough of a conversation to prove you’re learning can take you a long way.
Know your sector. Sometimes oil is hot, sometimes it’s not. If you’re a geo engineer of some sort, this is a hard time for you to find work. If you’re in tech/startups, it might be a good time. Do your research and see how your industry sector is doing here before you make the leap.
Skilled/unskilled. For skilled workers (college degree/equivalent or higher), the competition is high and the openings are pretty limited. Even for non-skilled workers, it’s not like you can just walk into McDonalds and people will say “thanks for showing up, you’re hired”.
Save up. Norway is expensive. You’ll need about $2,000 for each month that you intend to be here. You can get by on slightly less if you want to eat rice and beans. It’s about the same as moving to NYC except that you can’t just find a job to keep you afloat until something better pans out.
Don’t give up! You don’t have a single day to waste, especially if you are from outside the EU and only have 6 months. You need to be visiting offices, shaking hands, and meeting people. It would be a bad feeling to head home knowing that you didn’t give this your best shot.
Ask for help. Find any mentors you can and ask them to help you. If you can find my email address (it’s not hard), hit me up and we’ll grab a coffee and talk strategy.
Learn more. Read about how I found a job in Trondheim. It goes into a bit more detail on the job seeking advice. You can also read about the Working Culture in Norway to learn more about the ups/downs.
It is generally very difficult for expats to find work in Trondheim, especially when the economy is down as a result of oil.
Read the Book: How to Find a Job in Norway
To add to that, a combination of factors including language, population size, education levels, nationalism, immigration rules, and others will make it hard to find work here, but not impossible.
Even the non-skilled jobs, such as working at a restaurant or sports store seem to be pretty competitive and besides, if you don’t speak norsk, it’s hard to work with the customers.
However, don’t let that get you down. If you’ve read this whole thing and still wish to move to Trondheim to be with your loved one, climb mountains, attend school or whatever else, then GO FOR IT!!! You only live once and you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Moving to Norway is the best decision I have ever made and no matter how much I travel, Trondheim still feels like home.
So, when you get here, send me a message and we’ll meet up to see if there’s any way I can be of help.