Working in a foreign land is an international exposure that helps us in enhancing our skills but it is often quite challenging. It brings about cultural awareness, grooms our personality, enhances our employability skills and helps us in meeting our living expenses especially while studying in a costly city. But on the other hand, working in a foreign land requires efficient communication skills, ability to adapt oneself to the changing environment, knowledge about the employment rules, regulations and laws of the foreign land, recruitment criteria and work culture prevailing in the foreign country. It is a combination of sweet and sour experiences, a journey with ups-&-downs. It is indeed a roller-coaster ride!
I am an Indian and have worked and studied in India, UK and in Denmark. I hold work experience in the field of finance and accounts in India. In the Indian social system, a child’s education is the responsibility of its family. Student jobs are not common as it is not a requirement in most of the courses in India. But part time jobs and student jobs are very common in the other countries. During my Masters in Leeds, I participated in a number of events organized by the Business School, attended career fairs, gave mock interviews and interacted with a number of high ranking officials from various MNCs. Thereafter, Leeds University Business School appointed me as a Student Ambassador and I went to Denmark to pursue the “Masters Beyond Borders” Programme.
During my studies in the Copenhagen Business School, I also worked as a “Customer Success Assistant” in SOUNDBOKS, a famous Danish Start-up and I enjoyed the exposure I got there. SOUNDBOKS manufactures the loudest battery-powered speakers, is the most successful Danish Kickstarter project till now and has gained repute on the international platform. The company has its headquarters in Denmark and I got an opportunity to work with colleagues of various nationalities.
It was interesting to spot the similarities and the differences in the work culture of India, UK and Denmark. Following are my observations on the basis of the experiences I and my friends had in Denmark and in UK:
- DIFFERENCES IN THE CV & INTERVIEWS:
The Danish way of making a CV is a bit different from the British style of drafting a CV. The difference lies in the disclosure of personal information. In UK, usually the personal details of the candidate are not disclosed in the CV eg. age, sex, nationality and the photo of the candidate. Whereas the Danish style of CV requires the disclosure of these personal details.
The style of taking an interview in the MNCs is almost the same across UK, Denmark and India. But as I have observed, sometimes in Denmark a candidate can also be interviewed in a ‘Bar & Restaurant’ while applying for jobs in Start-ups or small Danish companies which portrays a relaxed and a friendly work environment in such organisations.
- HIERARCHY IN THE ORGANISATIONS:
Denmark is known for its “flat-hierarchy” organizational structure unlike India and UK. The Danish organizations do not have a long complex structure. Employees enjoy decision-making power and are not supervised by the management at every step. The levels of management are less in the organization and the work environment is very friendly and comfortable. Being an Indian, it was an entirely new experience for me as I was used to working under the supervision of the seniors. The exposure one gets by working in a Danish company is unique as the employees enjoy freedom to take decisions. This is an important reason why working in Denmark is considered special as compared to working in the other countries.
- WORK CULTURE:
Denmark is amongst those countries that have the least working hours per week. By working in small Danish companies, one can find time for his/her personal life as well. Work-life balance is very important in a student’s life and relaxed working hours are an advantage for the students if they wish to take up a part-time student job. It becomes easy for the students to find time for studies and to explore the city and enjoy the rich Danish culture.
- CORPORATE ENVIRONMENT:
The work environment in Denmark is very friendly because of the flat-hierarchical system in the organisations. It becomes easy to work in a multi-cultural team when the boss and the employees work together in harmony. The way of addressing superiors in the offices in UK and in Denmark is different from the Indian way of communicating in the organization. In India, there lies a huge gap between the superiors and the subordinates and the subordinates are expected to use words like “Sir” and “Respected” for the superiors whereas in UK and Denmark, the superiors are often addressed by their first name and everyone is treated equally and in a more friendly manner. Working in Denmark was a unique experience for me as I could feel what it is to work in a flat-hierarchy organisation.
I was also selected by ‘Accenture Strategy’ as amongst the top performing students in Denmark to attend the Accenture Strategy Direct Dinner and interact with their corporates. I was anticipating a formal behavior but it was impressive to see that the manager and the other officials of the company gave us a warm welcome and communicated with us in an extremely friendly manner. The content of the conversation was not limited to our professional lives but they also showed interest in knowing who we are as a person. Everyone should take keen interest in participating in such events as they add a lot to one’s personal branding. The students selected by the company get an opportunity to build networks and stay connected with the officials of the company.
At times, finding a part time student job might seem to be a bit difficult as recommendations also play an important role. As experienced by me and my friends, having a Danish reference is advantageous while looking for work as it is an assurance to the employer that the employee is genuine. Copenhagen Business School organizes career fair where a number of MNCs participate. It provides a platform for students to enquire about the internships and graduate programmes by directly communicating with the officials of the companies. But the number of companies that participated in the career fairs in UK were more as compared to what I saw in Denmark.
Unlike Leeds University Business School, many companies in the career fair at CBS only entertain the students who know Scandinavian languages. The same holds true when one intends to look for a student job. The students are usually required to know Danish language if they are looking for a job. So, for those who speak only English or some Asian language, it is difficult for them to find a job of their choice. Also, if one is able to find a job it becomes difficult at times to communicate with the colleagues as they are often found talking in Danish with the other colleagues. If one requires a visa for studying and working in Denmark then one should not exceed the maximum working hours as mentioned in their visa and he/she needs to have complete knowledge about the companies that offer visa sponsorships for graduate programmes.
- EMPLOYMENT LAWS:
One needs to be well aware of the employment laws prevailing in the foreign land before they start working. Also, the students should register themselves with the tax authorities else the income is taxed at 65% which is the highest tax rate. Many internships are unpaid as well so one needs to check the amount of salary offered by the companies before applying for work. The salary slips, tax details and all the important confidential government information is sent to the e-boks online account of each and every person. Therefore, the students are advised to keep a track of the same by frequently logging into their e-boks accounts.
- OVERALL EXPERIENCE:
Studying ‘MSc. in International Business’ from Leeds University Business School enriched me with all the relevant skills and with ample amount of knowledge. And I could effectively utilise those skills and my knowledge of IB by working in Denmark. A number of emerging startups in Denmark hold a lot of opportunities for students who are interested in working part time. After serving in SOUNDBOKS, I had no regrets regarding my decision of doing a student job in Denmark. I utilized my time in the best possible way and got an international exposure by working there. Also, working in a foreign land enhances our knowledge about the corporate governance and trade and commerce of that country. For example, when I applied for jobs in Denmark, I came to know that shipping company like Maersk and dairy company like Arla Foods have their headquarters in Denmark.
- SUGGESTIONS TO THE PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS:
- Online job portals are a perfect platform if one is actively looking for student jobs. In Denmark, most of the websites are in Danish language but there are companies that look for English speaking candidates as well and their job descriptions are in English.
- Modify your CV as per the standard requirements prevailing in the foreign country you are heading to.
- Always keep your LinkedIn account updated. If possible, upload your CV because many employers check the candidate’s LinkedIn profile before calling them for an interview.
- Gather enough knowledge about the employment laws and systems so as to protect yourself from any fraud or exploitation.
- I would strongly recommend everyone to learn Danish language if they intend to work in Denmark. This would make it easy for them to find a job and mix up with the people.
- There is a saying- “If you go to Rome, live like Romans.” Quickly adapting ourselves to the changing environment is the key to success. Mold yourself according to the work-culture of the foreign land.
- Try to make the best possible use of the opportunities you are getting. It is better to regret after trying, rather than doing nothing and regretting later that you lost a golden opportunity.
- Learn to keep a track of your finances. It is very important for students who intend to work and study abroad.
Here’s my message to the prospective students –
“Working in a foreign land teaches you how to survive in this world on your own,
Hardships will knock you down at every step, people might even throw stones.
Keep the fire alive in your heart, never lose hope, let not your enthusiasm wane,
Challenge the challenges and mark your presence like a rainbow that spreads it colours after heavy rains.
It is upto us to constantly make efforts and fly high like a bird,
This life has got a lot to offer, explore the opportunities and rule the world.”
Written by Siddha Maloo – Copenhagen Business School, Denmark