OPINION: Why would anyone leave the happiest country?

There is a growing trend of young Europeans -- including Danes -- applying for jobs abroad to broaden their horizons, writes The Local guest columnist Fanni Barsi.

OPINION: Why would anyone leave the happiest country?
Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Gaining international experience, learning languages and exploring unknown places: this is a very popular career goal nowadays.

Traditionally, the migration flow within the EU brings people from the East to the West and from the South to the North, as people come looking for better opportunities and higher salaries. However, this trend seems to be changing a little. Citizens from West and Northern European countries are also starting to choose to leave their country for new adventures abroad. Is this true in the case of Denmark?

Danish citizens not only enjoy a high standard of living and good salaries, but their country is often cited as one of the happiest in the world, and has been for years

As stated by the World Happiness report in 2017, Denmark enjoys high rankings in all six of the key variables used to explain happiness: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, the latter measured by the absence of corruption in government and business. 

Migration out of Denmark has been fluctuating over the past 10 years, but overall it has been declining slightly. Nevertheless, there are many Danish citizens who decide to live in a foreign country: in 2016, 21,544 Danish were living abroad. 

Europe Language Jobs, an international job board focusing on international candidates, has found the demand for multilingual talent on the European labour market to be growing year on year. The company counts more than 4,000 Danish jobseekers in its database. Most of them aspire to live in Nordic countries such as Sweden, Norway and Iceland.

They are, though, less likely to move to the South or East Europe, even though the economies of those countries are in need of multilingual workforce to plug the language skill gaps in many industries.

But what can motivate Danes to leave their home country? What are the reasons they are willing to leave 2016’s happiest country?

Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Nowadays it is easier to move to another country than ever. Anybody can reach all the essential information through the internet about their dream destination. People are less likely to be intimidated by the idea of moving to a new place after having seen countless pictures and videos of it prior to their arrival.

Thanks to the appearance of low cost airlines, flying within the EU is incredibly affordable. 

Mobile internet makes booking accommodation, translating words into your native language, and finding the way in an unknown city effortless. Even finding a job in a foreign country can be fairly simple.

Besides searching on the internet for local job boards and recruitment agencies, there are international job boards which directly specialise in multilingual candidates willing to relocate. It looks like technology gave us all the resources we need to start a new life abroad.

READ ALSO: My humbling journey into a surprising Scandinavian life

In addition to technological advancement, strong language skills have also made people more confident about moving abroad. In 2017, Danish citizens were ranked as the second best non-native English-speakers in the world. Fluent English knowledge doesn`t only give them confidence, but gives them a significant advantage while competing for jobs abroad. It shouldn’t surprise anybody to hear that the most demanded language of the European job market is English. It is followed by German, French and the Nordic languages.

Without a doubt one of the reasons why people nowadays tend to live and work abroad more than before, is the simple fact that it is actually feasible. Today we have more opportunities and resources than previous generations ever had.

There is a highly detectable trend that people between ages 20 and 35 — the so-called generation Y — are more likely to work in foreign countries than older generations did. Is there anything special about this generation that makes them different from others? 

Today`s technology-focused environment, twinned with changes in language education has created a profitable environment for millennials to travel abroad. Other generations probably would have done the same if they’d had the same opportunities. But would they have worked and lived in a different country? 

Generation Y has a totally different approach to work than their parents had. They are looking for fulfilment and a rewarding job that makes them happy. They are not content to settle simply for a decent salary. Money has slipped from its position at the top of employees’ priority list. However, gaining international experience, whilst also exploring the world, has earned a very prestigious place on that list. 

Working has become a new way of appeasing the travel bug that so many young people claim to have caught. This desire for exploring the world and getting to know new places can actually convince young Danes to live in a foreign country. But is it worth leaving one of the happiest places on Earth for some fleeting adventures abroad? If you are a millennial, you will probably say yes!

READ ALSO: Why an afternoon at Starbucks shows the best of Danish multiculturalism

Fanni Barsi is responsible for Communication at Europe Language Jobs, a job board that specialises in multilingual candidates across Europe.

For members


Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

Job searching in Denmark can be a daunting and lengthy process with many hurdles to overcome. The Local spoke to Kay Xander Mellish, author of 'How to Work in Denmark', for her tips on submitting a successful CV and application.

Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

CVs in Denmark often have certain aspects of layout, presentation and content in common. By writing a CV that sticks to some of these recognisable customs, you may improve your chances of catching the eye of a potential employer.

1. Length

“Keep it to one excellent page, or two if you’re more senior. I’d say if you’re aged 30 and under, one page will be enough. Only add the jobs that are relevant. Employers don’t want to hear about that restaurant server or babysitting job if it’s not relevant to the role,” Mellish said.

2. Format

At the top of your CV, a paragraph describing your experience, skills, education and character is a common way to lead into a CV. This text can be adapted depending on the job you’re applying for and how you want to present your skills.

“Add three adjectives about yourself that you can support with an example, rather than ten adjectives with no story. For example, say you are innovative for this reason. People don’t like hot air in Denmark,” Mellish said.

Aside from the profile text, chronological lists of qualifications, relevant employment history and other relevant experience should be kept brief enough to fit the one to two pages.

3. Show your personal side and a photo

It is expected that applicants include a section about their hobbies, even family situation on their CV in Denmark, as well as a photo, to give a sense of who they are as a person.

“Danish employers are interested in you as a human, more so than employers in other countries so include information about yourself, including your age and your hobbies.

“Choose a good quality photo that is not too serious but shows you looking friendly and approachable,” Mellish said.

4. Story telling

“Think in terms of story telling”, Mellish advised. “Pure letters and numbers don’t mean a lot to employers in Denmark, they need to know what projects you’ve done, what role you played and what kind of person you are through your CV.

“So rather than writing ‘I have these grades’, it’s better to say ‘I worked on this project, it took this long, I achieved this'”, Mellish said.

5. Hit the ground running

Mellish called this “plug and play”, where you show you will slot right into the company and get going with the role.

“When employers are reading your CV, they want to know what you can do on day one of the job. Sell your ability to solve someone’s problem. You need to give the impression you can add value straight away.

“In Denmark the average length of time in a job is two and a half years, because you can take your pension when you move, so employers don’t want someone they need to spend time training,” Mellish told The Local.

READ ALSO: Five tips for writing an effective Danish CV

6. Teamwork

“Group work is very important in Denmark, more than individual achievements. So talk about your teamwork and how you worked with a group to produce a good business result. It shouldn’t be ‘me, me, me’ – that’s a turn off,” Mellish said.

7. LinkedIn

“People in Denmark love LinkedIn so you need a fabulous LinkedIn profile with a good picture. Before anyone calls you for an interview they’ll have looked at your LinkedIn profile.

“In your profile, include the storytelling, explaining the projects you’ve worked on. If your job involves a uniform, I recommend wearing it in your LinkedIn photo so people get that impression of you right away. Your background photo should also be work-related, not rainbows or puppies. Use it to tell the story of who you are,” Mellish advised.

8. Unsolicited application

This is when you approach a company or department you would like to work for, without a job being advertised. The Danish term for it is uopfordret ansøgning. 

“Many people make contact on LinkedIn and ask to meet for a coffee, where they chat and rather than pitch for a job, they ask if the person knows anyone looking for someone like them. Danish employers welcome this and many people are hired this way,” Mellish said.

Another way to network is to join a union, Mellish advised. They often have career events but can also help read your contract when you get a job offer, or help with any problems in the workplace. 

9. Ring the recruiter

The phone number of the hiring manager will often be in the job advert. Mellish advised finding a quiet place to ring them from and spending ten to fifteen minutes asking some good business questions.

“This also helps you work out if you might want to work for this person,” Mellish said.

“Send your CV within 24 hours of the phone call and mention you spoke to them in your application,” she added.

10. Patience

“On average it can take six months to find a job in Denmark. If it’s under this, you’re lucky. If it takes a year, it’s not you, it just takes a long time because employers are looking for someone to fit into their team.

“I wrote 100 letters, I got ten responses, three interviews and one job which I had for eight years,” Mellish told The Local.

“Danish employers are not always good at getting back to you. If you don’t hear anything, just keep applying for other jobs. If you sent an application on June 1st, you could send a follow-up email on June 15th, then you’ll have to leave it and move on,” she advised. 

Kay Xander Mellish’s book ‘How to Work in Denmark’ offers both job-searching advice and tips on how to succeed in the Danish workplace.