You moved to Denmark, you started your studies and managed to find accommodation. Now what? Most of us are looking for a part-time job to receive that magic money grant for European students (aka SU) everyone was talking about. But how? Warehouses and restaurants aside, this is a complete guide on how to start your career in Denmark while studying, and get that cool part-time position in a company you dreamed about ever since you set your foot on the Viking land.
How difficult is the job market for international students in Denmark?
The Danish job market is not as simple as it seems – although the whole country speaks fluent English, you might encounter difficulties finding a relevant student position where Danish is not required. The cherry on the top is, basic or intermediate Danish language skills won’t help you much either, as if company X is looking for a native, this is most probably precisely who they are going to hire.
Hence, if you are highly motivated to learn the language and start using it at work, I advise you to aim for fluency and full working proficiency.
Go big or go home, as they say.
You also will, or already have, noticed that for many job ads online require fluency in “English and at least one Scandinavian language” – which narrows the openings from students coming from other parts of the world. But this guide is for everyone – both Danes and internationals studying across entire Denmark.
After almost three years, I have lived in Denmark, I am now convinced that the country’s job market operates just like in most small countries in the world. Long story short, there are two distinct ways to find a job here: by applying, and by recommendation (aka networking). We will now break down all the steps you need to take and the platforms and resources you need to use in both cases.
Let’s start with the most obvious one:
What should you include in an online application for student job / internship?
Sounds easy, right? But it’s not as easy as it seems. I must confess, I have sent over 130 online applications since moving here and hardly heard back from more than 20. After the first 50 applications, I was already a little overwhelmed. Most of the students from my surroundings claim the same: recruiters rarely get back to you, sometimes even contact you after 2-4 months.
Imagine being a recruiter in a small company and posting a job ad for English-speaking students, which does not require experience – how many applications do you think you will get? I bet on a number of at least 150 candidates. It is hard to take the time and go through all their long, copy-pasted essays and Europass CV’s with the same information over and over again.
To make sure you stand out of the crowd, here are 7 tips for finding student jobs in Denmark:
1. No one is interested in that long story of how you decided to study architecture, marketing, or whatever it is. You’re here now – show your future potential.
2. DO NOT make a 2 page CV unless you do have enough relevant experience the company might consider useful.
3. Unless you are applying for a position in a creative department (such as graphic design or video making, for instance), do not make that colorful CV with graphs and visuals on Canva. Keep it simple and professional.
4. Most companies use ATS systems that scan their applicants’ resumes. My best advice is: make it in Word and have a PDF copy. Keep it very simple, and always adjust your resume to the company’s requirements. ATS checks for keywords, such as professional skills or languages – therefore, your CV must be readable, not graphic; and try to make sure it contains a few specific requirements stated in the job ad.
5. Your motivation letter is not about you being smart and cool, it’s about what that quick brain can be used for in the company and why it’s going to be cool to have you as a coworker.
6. Let’s keep it real: no one spends more than 5 seconds (probably even less) on your CV – so make sure the most important and relevant parts of it will catch the reader’s attention first.
7. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. I have seen it so many times in my friends’ applications – most students assume it would not look professional to mention their personal interests and hobbies. Truth is, the company you are applying for most probably has a sports club, a Friday bar, or organizes hackathlons and Fussball competitions. Show them you are open to social activities and can be a great team player in situations outside of work, too.
Now that you became a pro in online applications, it is about time to start searching for your dream job. But where? Don’t worry, we got you covered.
What are the most useful websites in Denmark for part-time student position?
The most popular site in Denmark for job ads, but more useful for Danish students than international applicants, as over 60% of the descriptions are in Danish and require full language proficiency.
Danes LOVE LinkedIn.
It’s like Facebook, but with job ads and posts about climate change instead of videos with cats. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile yet, you are missing a lot. If you do have one, make sure you update the information about you, add some details about your interests and experience in the description section, and mention that you are open to/looking for opportunities. (And please do not pick a selfie as your profile picture) I also highly recommend buying a Premium membership (tried and tested myself).
The most significant benefit is that it will help you get in touch with the recruiters and have direct contact with the potential team or someone from the department you will be working in. We will get into more details about networking on LinkedIn later in this article.
It is an exceptional platform for job searching, with a couple thousands of start-ups. One of the best websites to look for internships, part-time, and freelance jobs in Scandinavia.
I find the hub easier to use and less time-consuming thanks to the filter section (it won’t take ages for you to find relevant job ads) and fast application options (you can create a profile and upload your CV along with all the necessary information and contact details, so there is no need to write it all over again every time you apply for a job). Most companies also require a concise motivation message from you (up to 500 characters), and some do not even require a word at all.
How to network in Denmark?
LinkedIn and going out for a coffee.
I cannot stress this enough. Again, Danes love LinkedIn!
I met so many Danish employers who gave me the same advice that it would be a shame not to give it a try.
Be determined and know what you want and the companies in which you would genuinely want to work. Find their HR, Head of department X, CEO, or really anyone who seems to have a relevant position related to the job you are interested in and is active on LinkedIn and – ask them questions.
Do not be afraid to ask them for a coffee and just ask as many questions as possible. In essence, you may have a shot (even if their company does not have any open positions online, many firms still recruit without posting job ads), or you may create a great connection that will lead you to someone who knows someone who knows someone… You know how it works! I got my first job as a student assistant in marketing precisely this way.
Events and Career Fairs
When I first heard about career fairs, I thought it would be about printing 20 copies of your CV and giving them all away to company representatives. Na-ah! Rumor has it, it is a little annoying for companies having you come by and directly ask for a job. Ok, not only rumor, it’s a fact.
The best advice that I ever got from a fellow student was to approach only the companies that I am genuinely interested in working for (instead of all the 20+ companies present at the career fair), do my research about them beforehand and ask the representatives their honest opinion on their experience working in the company.
In most career fairs, just like with online applications – if you just give your CV to everyone – it gets lost. I applied my friend’s strategy and went straight to Danske Bank only during a Career Fair at CBS and asked about their position and duties within the company. How do they like working there? After around 7 minutes, I mentioned my passion and interest in one specific area (luckily, the representative was a part-time student worker in the department I was very keen about), and I was asked to provide my contact details. That person was so happy to finally discuss the real tasks and challenges they go through every day that they were highly excited about hearing about my own experience and knowledge. Been there, done that! I gave them my e-mail address and guess what – got an e-mail from the Head of HR the next day.
Is it important to do internships and volunteer work in Denmark?
As a good friend of mine once told me, being a student in Denmark and aiming to succeed requires plenty of unpaid work – and there are two main reasons for it. First of all, the country has quite enough young professionals on its own, so you would have to stand out from the crowd with exceptional skills and experience. Second, as an international student, you may need to build a network around you from scratch, and one of the best ways to do that is to interact with professionals not only by talking but doing actual work.
As you may know by now, you will undoubtedly have one semester in your studies that require (or encourage) taking a full-time internship in a company – which is mostly unpaid in Denmark. Even if you do not end up becoming an employee for the same company afterward, you will obtain a great set of skills, knowledge and will increase your chances to be hired by someone else based on your experience.
Another great way to achieve that is by volunteering occasionally. Although Red Cross and local small volunteering programs may sound great (I personally volunteered in many and had much fun) – they will not influence your CV in any way unless there is a specific relevance of your responsibilities in connection to your career goals. My best tip is to try and find opportunities for professional growth instead, such as Hubs, Tech Labs, Business Conferences, etc.
Become a part of a student organization that matches your interests (for me, that was CBS Blockchain Society for instance) or volunteer at events where you may meet professionals from your industry – there are so many! The website mentioned above, thehub.io is also a platform where you will often see freelance or volunteer offers to work part-time in start-ups, which is an excellent way of experiencing the start-up culture and meeting new people.
To wrap up, Danes are highly pragmatic and efficient people. In essence, they are happy to consider your potential when you prove your genuine interest by getting involved in certain activities and making your contribution. There is a difference between person A attending an event out of curiosity and person B working on any aspect of the event, for instance. And that difference is the work. See my point here? Less talk, more action!
Best of luck in the field, you can do this!