Yippie Kai-Yay ! Here’s hope for internationals seeking to network
Developing a social network as a young international professional (YIP) in Denmark can be challenging, according to a new survey carried out by International Community, an international organisation that was established by Erhverv Aarhus (Aarhus Business Network) in 2008 to provide a shared platform for businesses, educational institutions and public authorities that deal with international employees in Jutland.
However, there is hope. According to the survey’s conclusions, learning Danish, joining an association, becoming a volunteer and attending international events provide excellent opportunities for socialising with other internationals and Danes.
The primary focus of the YIP Survey by International Community – which was carried out via a focus group, interviews with HR employees and interviews with internationals at several informal events – was how international companies, organisations and public institutions can become better at attracting and retaining YIPs.
“At International Community we felt the need to take a closer look at the wants of this specific group within the expat community in Aarhus, since they clearly value other things than the typical expat family or accompanying spouses,” explained International Community’s project manager, Tiny Maerschalk.
“Both in order for us to target our services to them even better, but also to the benefit of the companies and organisations within our network that seek to attract and retain the most talented employees and need the tools to do so.”
According to the survey, YIPs like the 37-hour working week that leaves them with plenty of time to socialise and other pastime activities. However, according to the International Community’s Molly Durham, who is herself American, establishing a network can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know how to approach Danes and their sometimes closed-off behaviour.
“YIPs are characterised as young international knowledge workers who came here by themselves,” she said. “Not surprisingly, they emphasise networking more than people who bring their family and are very interested in connecting with other internationals as well as Danes, which often demands an effort from you. The survey participants recommend learning Danish, attending social events, joining an association or doing volunteer work as great ways to get a network outside your office and make your stay more enjoyable.”
The survey also highlights how YIPs are focused on getting a headstart when arriving in Denmark. Therefore, they appreciate all the help they can get with their paperwork − for instance, at the International Citizen Service. Moreover, they suggest that a ‘social buddy’ could be helpful upon arrival and that practical online information should be a ‘one point of entry’ instead of being scattered across various websites.
“The idea of a buddy who can assist you with practical stuff and connect you with other internationals and Danes outside the workplace is great,” said Damien Castaignet, a loads engineer at Vestas.
“For example, I wish someone could have talked to my landlord in Danish and supported me with other practical and social matters. I would definitely have settled in quicker if someone had pointed me to relevant events and network opportunities.”
International Community also supports the many international companies that seek to attract YIPs in order to stay competitive. Both large international companies and SMEs are part of International Community’s network. According to DuPont’s HR director, Lene Skyttegaard, international diversification creates better conditions for innovation.
“The needs of the YIP are of course important to us, and since we don’t have the resources to be updated on the latest knowledge all the time, we turn to International Community when needed,” she revealed.
“We consider International Community as an extension to our HR department. For instance, we participate in seminars where we can network with other internationally-minded companies, get access to valuable knowledge and best practice solutions, and be inspired by the latest knowledge in the field.”