“Why leave such a brilliant opportunity?”, was one such understandable question, as it is well known that Microsoft is a prestigious employer. I tried to explain that it was to focus on my personal life, for once in my 13-year long career.
My mentors, close friends, and colleagues understood and congratulated me. Many others thought that it was rash, impulsive, and wasn’t thought through. Some even made me wonder if they were right, at the time.
Leaving everything was not the easiest of decisions. On a personal level though, I had never truly prioritised my personal needs over work deadlines and calendar notifications. It was time for a change.
I took off from the warm airport of Hyderabad, India and landed in Copenhagen, in the midst of snow and biting cold, but my fiancé and his family welcomed me with warmth that made up for the chilly temperature.
The surroundings felt too quiet, with far fewer people in sight than I was accustomed to. Had I grown to enjoy chaos and the maddening crowds of big cities a little too much? I learnt over time to curb my instinct to chat up a perfect stranger at a bus stop or in the supermarket.
As the season transitioned from winter to spring, I enrolled onto language classes and began riding my own bicycle to the school. In place of taking on-demand cabs and auto rickshaws, it was a welcome change.
Danish as a language can be daunting at first, but I embraced it as I worked on the pronunciations and spellings. This gave me confidence to flex my language at the local stores and salons. I even passed the mandatory exams and got a work permit! I was ready to get back to work. News reports of improved employment rate in Denmark were equally heartening.
That’s when I met reality. Cold, stark, unfathomable reality.
I had been told that with my qualifications and career background, I would be able to land a job easily. It was no coincidence that it was one of the main reasons for my decision to relocate to Denmark instead of my husband coming to India. My wait was filled with hope and enthusiastic anticipation.
The reality, however, was quite different. Rejections started coming in thick and fast. The standard email template of polite rejection without any specific reason was the new normal. I tried to be strong against what seemed like an onslaught of ‘no’s.
I then met many people who guided me in a way that I had never expected. ‘You need to work your network to find a job in Denmark’, I was told, much to my dismay. Almost all of the jobs I had held until then were by strength of my CV and interview performance. Going through someone that knew me could have worked against my candidature in some of my previous places of employment. Did that mean that there is no chance of landing a job in Denmark, no matter what my skills and experience are?
This made me rethink my approach. As I would begin my strategy planning for the companies I worked at before, I had to think of myself as the business, product or service ready to be launched in a new market.
I recognised three key questions I had to find answers to:
1. Who are the key stakeholders that I need to network with and how would I do it?
2. What do I do until I find a suitable job, so I don't lose touch with my core competencies but learn more about the tools and techniques of content, marketing, and digital communications?
3. How do I keep myself motivated so I can soldier through the tough times?
Firstly, I recognised that I had to recalibrate my view about networking for job as a good thing. Soon, I began looking up contacts, acquaintances, former colleagues, and alumni from London and India to get the ball rolling. This took time, but it was an experience in personal branding and I believe I am learning new things about myself with every interaction.
In an unexpected way, some opportunities presented themselves. In the process of expanding my pool of acquaintances, I came upon some businesses that needed some of the skills that I was able to offer. That is when I decided to freelance as a digital communicator and strategy consultant. It also helped me use Danish as my primary language in communications with English supplementing it.
Motivation is not easily achievable but is possible. My belief in keeping my mind and body active took me back to training for mixed martial arts and running in the woods, whenever possible. This would have never happened had I still lived in the urban areas that were my previous home. I also began trying to be more intentional in my everyday life, rather than let randomness dictate the course of my day.
So, why write about it at all? Writing has been a release for me. More so now with the frustrations in the pursuit of employment in Denmark. But more important than anything was the fact that I came across many other women who have moved to this country because of their spouses or partners and are now in a similar situation.
They are learning the language because it is required by immigration laws. But their skills as artists, lawyers, engineers, and graphic designers are losing sheen. The apathy towards the job searching process is leading to more and more people finding the option of returning to their home countries the only viable choice.
Economics calls this 'opportunity cost', and Denmark seems to be at risk of losing out on this account. Emigration from Denmark has seen a spike in recent years.
For my part, I plan to write more and incorporate some of the interesting aspects of digital marketing and visual communications that I'm currently working on. I am ever so grateful to learn more whilst residing in a new country and Denmark has been an unbelievable experience thus far.
I have lived and worked in three continents and will adapt and move along. Denmark has also reminded me to continue learning, stay hungry, and stay alive.
Divya Rao is a freelance communications and strategy consultant based in Denmark. She has over 13 years’ experience in the industry and has worked in London and Mumbai as well as at Microsoft’s offices in Hyderabad, India.