I Wish I Had Just Taken a Job at the Supermarket

“I wish that had just taken a supermarket job a year ago as my friend did”
Across the table from sat a man in his 40’s, with a shirt and a suit jacket. He had arrived in Sweden some years ago, having worked as a CFO for 15 years in a company in his country of birth.
He continued: “because my friend is now fluent in Swedish, just from working at that supermarket, but me I’m not”.
So, why don’t people choose to work in a supermarket or some other job that doesn’t require long experience and education?
I think there are a couple of reasons, feel free to add to this list.
You feel certain jobs are beneath you
This is definitely something that I have felt previously myself in my career. When I graduated with a bachelor’s in business and economics, I took a gap year. After that gap year, I had a real challenge in finding jobs with my experience.
I ended up in a bartending job. Ironically, that was the exact same job that I had before I started university, bartending. My thought back then: “I haven’t moved an inch careerwise in half a decade”.
But, when I started to work as a bartender, I realized that my education wasn’t wasted at all. I could give my employer advice on how to increase both revenue and employee satisfaction with a small change. I don’t think I would have thought about that before studying. Knowledge is never wasted.
Also, your knowledge can end up being applicable in the weirdest places. I know of a heart surgeon that took his knowledge about the human heart to create a machine that cleans the water from oil.
Also for those of you that want to learn Swedish, literally every single job offers the opportunity to practice Swedish. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much contact with other people, just listen to Swedish podcasts/music/courses. If you are in a job that does require you to speak Swedish, figure out new ways to talk to people about the same thing. Greet people one day with “hej!”, another day with “hejsan”, a third with “tjena”. Try to start conversations and listen. Everyone loves it when you try to speak Swedish, whether your current vocabulary is 1 or 1 000 words.
You are overqualified for a supermarket
There is a very strong idea in the minds of employers that a person can be “overqualified”. That someone that has a lot of experience will get bored in a less demanding workplace than the one that they have been in previously. There are two ways to attack this problem productively.
You can simply take away some of your experience in the CV. This is okay, but it is not the most preferred option. I prefer it if you are just honest with the employer. Tell the employer that you are looking for a place where you can provide value while at the same time practice on your Swedish. Explain to the employer that it will be a fun challenge for you to actually try engaging with people in Swedish.
You see the end goal as the first goal
Many people come to the job market with a goal in mind. My goal was: “I want to run my own company”. I started the first one when I was 16. I had 7000 in revenue but ended up not doing anything more. Instead, I worked in 5-10 other jobs. After that, when I was 21, I tried my luck again, but still no result. I worked for another couple of years. Then I was 27, I started the company that pays my bills and I’m doing something I love.
I worked in more than 20 jobs in between those three trials of starting a company. Maybe you also have to break down your goal into smaller goals?
Maybe instead of going directly for that professional job you have to do a couple of things along the way? Treat your life more like a puzzle to be solved, rather than a motorway to ride full throttle on.
How would you know what pieces of the puzzle you need?
Talk to people that have those jobs and see what they have done, what they know, what they knew when they go their job. This is like a detective job that will be a lot of fun. These days, you can even see everyone’s CV on LinkedIn. So you know what the typical road looks like for someone that has the position you are aiming for.
Swedish employers are scared
Oftentimes, Swedish employers are scared of hiring. Not just hiring you, hiring anyone. The regulations surrounding hiring the wrong person is a big source of anxiety among CEOs out there.
One way that employers cope is to give employees a small opportunity first. It can be a short-term position, part-time position, hourly position. But, when they see that a person performs well in that position, they give that person more experience.
I have experienced this first hand. I have seen job ads that are requiring a lot of skills and experience for what seems like super basic tasks that anyone could do. But often the employers just want someone that can grow in the company. So, when you do get a basic job, prove yourself. I have also worked in jobs where I first got basic tasks but got more responsibility as I proved myself.
Hope this helped you. Feel free to comment if you have some thoughts or questions.
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