I dislike being told no.
The idea that there might be a perception that I'm not good enough grates on me to such point that, invariably, I have to prove that this isn't the case.
On a Sunday night in Helsinki, a day before returning to Berlin - where I resided and worked as an editor-in-chief for over a year - I sat in my hotel room reading a computer screen that was essentially telling me I wasn't good enough for Finland. That as an expat, I wasn't cut out for employment in Helsinki.
Over 4 days in the city, I'd learned that I really liked it here. The cold, the dark, the personal space.
I liked standing in frozen parks for no particular reason. I liked ﬁnding a place in Kallio that had 60-cent coffee. I didn't particularly like the Thai place two blocks away that charged 16€ for an appetizer, but it can't all be ideal. I even kinda liked the part where I fell on my ass, sliding down a frozen Berggatan in front of Hotel Arthur to the delight of a bunch of school kids. As I too appreciate strangers falling down, those kiddos were alright in my book.
Being told I wasn't ﬁt for employment here? That wouldn't do at all.
In a country where education is high quality and free, natives speak multiple languages, and the workforce is highly skilled, I don't look amazing when I describe myself.
I've no degree, I speak English exclusively, and must get my work visa sponsored anywhere I'm employed in the EU. I'm a pain to hire, particularly when a skilled EU resident can be employed right away.
That's why I'm writing this. I was hired, full-time, in the ﬁeld I pursued. You degree-d folks need only persist. You've already got a solid advantage over me. Use it. Force of will, friends. Be endearingly persistent.
I made a list of every business I wanted to work with. I skipped HR rep emails and contacted CEOs and creative directors. I ignore general query ﬁelds on business websites. Go to LinkedIn, ﬁnd out who works there. If the emails you want aren't readily available, they're generally ﬁrst name, last name, @ business name .com/.ﬁ. If it gets bounced, no sweat. Try a few variations. One will work.
I've been a journalist for over 5 years, a social media strategist, publicist, and worked in marketing, amongst other things. This is part of the reason I jump HR and go for the top; it's HR's job to exclude me based on lack of degree. My experience? Creative types and business owners are often more interested in experience than academic pedigree.
What I appreciated about the job hunting experience in Helsinki, is that leadership has responded with overwhelming positivity to my reaching out. I never had a poor interaction. Finns are receptive, pleasant to deal with, and direct. It made connecting with the right folks simple, and that mutual, friendly frankness led to my quick procurement of a foothold in Finland.
It's your job as an expat to insist that you belong here. Be great at what you do. Be conﬁdent. Be persistent. We're expats and we're kind of a big deal.