‘Moving to Denmark helped me focus my skills on behaviour change’

In a new instalment of our My Danish Career series, we spoke to change agent Jason Howlett, whose healthcare tech startup was recently nominated for a Danish industry award.

'Moving to Denmark helped me focus my skills on behaviour change'
Jason Howlett with his family. Photo: private

Howlett, a co-founder of Manpremo, a healthcare and productivity consultancy company, says that the lessons he learned through moving and adapting to life in Denmark helped him to hone his skills and find a career niche, having felt the effects of stress earlier in his working life.

After graduating in 2003 and spending some time backpacking abroad, Howlett, who hails from Suffolk in southeast England, began his career in IT.

But he quickly found his curiosity about living abroad had been piqued by his travels.

“Visiting countries like Laos and Cambodia, that were so different to my own, really helped create a paradigm shift in my thinking and awareness,” says Howlett, who met his Danish wife, Mai, in Australia, before continuing the relationship over long distance and eventually moving to Denmark in 2010.

“After 4 years of significant business travel, extremely long work hours and the experience of unhealthy stress, I decided to deeply reflect on my career and consider whether what I was doing was meaningful,” he says.

READ ALSO: My Danish Career: 'We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark's seasons'

Howlett says it was both interesting and challenging to come to Denmark, move in with Mai and start a new career all at the same time.

“For some time, I found it hard to settle in Denmark. The culture has close similarities to the UK, even the humour is sarcastic and ironic. Although it took me a while to connect with others and make friends. The impact of the stress certainly did not help as my self-confidence was at an all-time low,” he said.

“In addition to learning Danish – I still have a long way to go – one piece of advice for anyone that has recently moved to Denmark would be to join one of the ample number of social or sports clubs the country has to offer,” he says.

“Looking back, this would have helped me significantly. In my experience, you don’t tend to connect and befriend a Dane when out and about. Most relationships are formed over time through a shared interest like a club, work or study. On the positive side, when you become friends with a Dane, you really become friends for life and the relationship has real depth,” he adds.

READ ALSO: Five Danish social norms that might be new to newcomers

While maintaining an interest in technology, Howlett realised he wanted to learn about human potential.

“Holistic health soon took my focus. I related to its individual approach to health, how it treated the body as a system of systems and how it aimed to get to the root of a person's problem instead of just the symptoms. I was very inspired and passionate about the combination of physical and mental health. This new focus commenced my research into how to start a career in this area,” he says.

Howlett studied applied positive psychology at the University of East London from 2013-15, and also worked as a personal trainer and coach and at the head office of energy provider Ørsted (then Dong Energy), before eventually co-founding Manpremo with his two Danish partners and colleagues at the beginning of 2017. He became a father in 2014.

“The values in Denmark around parenthood and spending time with your family are in harmony with my own. In my experience, families maintain a very healthy amount of time together. No one ever questions you for leaving at four o’clock or even three o’clock to pick up your child from nursery,” he says.

READ ALSO: My Danish Career: Denmark 'is paradise for families with children, despite the weather'

In late 2016, he began to focus on sustainable behaviour change and learning more about applied brain science and behavioural psychology as he co-founded Manpremo.

Jason Howlett with Manpremo co-founder and CEO Morten Lauridsen. Photo: supplied

“We work with organisations and individuals to develop sustainable behaviour change to improve productivity and well-being.

“We use objective data like biofeedback for the individual and people analytics for organisations, to focus effort on the most impactful behaviour change or changes and we measure the impact of the change,” the business owner explains.

These changes help people to manage their stress to increase well-being and sustain productivity, he said, adding that the model has now been used by both public and private organisations.

The company’s work was recently rewarded, with Manpremo’s application MAHOUT chosen as one of Denmark's most promising health technologies by the judges of the CareWare-Next competition, which aims to develop and highlight Denmark's best new health and welfare technology solutions.

“MAHOUT addresses a societal problem: A large number of people are suffering from stress or sleep problems,” the judges wrote in their assessment of the product.

“Through continuous measurements of heart rate/heart rate variability, periods of significant stress can be identified. Through the recording of events, MAHOUT can help change the behaviour of the user, to minimise stress and improve sleep. If the number of stress cases can be reduced, there is a great social gain to retrieve,” the assessment continued.

Howlett said he hoped his company can make a real difference.

“The World Health Organisation considers stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century,” he says.

“In the modern working environment, we all experience constant change, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This is leaving more and more people in hyperactive states that are deteriorating their mental health.

“The use of objective physiological measurements can make a significant impact in tackling widespread mental health related issues,” he adds.

READ ALSO: Denmark tops EU survey on work-life balance

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.