Living in an Expat world | Let’s pave the way for international students

As many as four out of five international full-degree students expect to apply for a job in Denmark after graduation. However, getting a job is easier said than done, and many students miss guidance from their educational institution according to a recent study by DAMVAD.

In Aarhus, the university has listened to the students’ needs and is trying to provide better guidance for the more than 3,300 international students who have chosen to study here – and maybe even stay if given the chance in the competitive job market. As a result, Aarhus University held an event called ‘Graduation! What now?’ last week. Here international students could gain valuable and insightful knowledge about the Danish job market by learning to adjust their CV to Danish expectations, and get information about labour unions, salary and much more. This is exactly what we need to help international students get a foothold in the job market.

I remember when I got my first job here in Denmark, which was actually at the university. I was made aware of the job opening through my network. Yes, the good old network method never fails (plus career counselling was not invented at the time). Basically, I landed the job because of my international background, but also my Danish language skills paved the way. Point being that Danish is often very important when applying for a job, even if it is a job where your international background matters. It makes it so much easier to know what is going on in the workplace and to be a part of the office chit-chat. It especially comes in handy when you are in contact with collaborators – often they just assume that you speak Danish.

In fact both employers and international employees themselves see Danish skills as a central element of their workplace and social integration. For many internationals applying for work in Denmark, Danish is seen as being the key to getting hired. I agree that it is important, but also recommend that international students and job-seekers consider their background as an advantage rather than a drawback. Simply make sure you target international companies where your background can add value. For instance, many companies operate or aim to operate in other countries, and your cultural background and local knowledge can make a huge difference in whether it becomes a success or not.

Moreover, since it is proven that Danish skills are considered so important by both employees and employers, I am a bit dissatisfied with the recent unemployment benefit agreement. In short, the reform cuts money from Danish programmes for adult international residents, and it means that they will no longer be offered a Danish-as-a-second-language programme that is as flexible and geared towards passing a national Danish test. Test or no test, what matters is that we have to make sure that the people who wish to stay, and contribute to the companies in Denmark, have the opportunity to do so.

So thumbs up to Aarhus University – and thumbs down to the new unemployment benefit agreement.