A common way into the labor market, especially for foreign-born academics, is internships. At the same time, many foreign-born academics state that internships in workplaces have often not become what they expected. The reason is that the conditions for the practice have been unclear. By being clear about what is expected of the new employee or intern, you can avoid misunderstandings and disappointment. It is also important to have a structured introduction and awareness of what culture and unwritten rules exist internally.
Table of contents:
A) Form of employment
B) Objectives and expectations
C) Introduction to the workplace
I’ve been to a company, and I felt that we were there just because they wanted to show that they work with diversity. But we were treated differently, it was my first internship and my Swedish was not so good then. We got other work assignments, I started putting myself alone and worked with the computer and kept on being alone. I had needed more information to be able to do the work, to have been told more about Swedish culture and that I had to take more initiatives myself.
/ Economist Middle East
There are different ways to get a first job and enter the labor market. Internships and fixed-term employment are among the most common. Offering internships can be a means of increasing inclusion in the labor market, if it is done in a thoughtful and systematic way. But internships and fixed-term employment can also be abused and experienced as employers only want cheap labor. The individual may feel exploited even if it is not the idea of the employer, if the employment is not well thought out.
Also, a probationary position can lower the thresholds for both the jobseeker who is given the opportunity to enter the workplace and for the employer who can take in people and in practice see to their competence.
Whatever form of employment, the role offered should match the individual’s skills, knowledge and experience. This is to provide maximum dividends for both the business and the individual. At an early stage, the content and specifications of the role should be clarified. For a successful employment, a good introduction is required for the individual, relevant tasks according to the individual’s qualifications and a supervisor who guides the new employee in the new workplace.
Nowadays companies want to hire newly arrived people since they have different projects, start-up jobs etc. But these are short jobs. The employers take advantage of us. It’s good to get a foot in, but we get a foot out quickly too.
/ Project Manager Middle East
It can also be valuable to provide the individual with further training within the business already in connection with the introduction, for the areas of knowledge where possible gaps may exist. For example, in Swedish, other language teaching or in different systems and software.
Employment should have clear objectives so that the expectations of the individual and the employer are at the same level. The individual should know what opportunities for further employment and/or development are available and what is needed to achieve it in terms of performance.
I’ve done internships. I was the only foreigner and didn’t feel very safe. The others thought it was a bit strange. They say they have people from all corners of the world, it’s a really good phrase. I felt alone.
/Doctor Middle East
A) Do: Form of employment
• Think about what is the best form of employment for the specific role. Is it internship, fixed-term, temporary, probationary, or other?
• If the internship option is chosen, can organizations or training programs be used to recruit interns in a structured way?
• Carefully consider that the format of the job is not perceived as exploitation, by using any of the more short-term forms of employment or internship.
Why: To ensure that the applicant and employer expectations are clear and on the same level. Most foreign-born academics that Kantar Sifo has been in contact with are generally positive to practical and flexible forms of employment, if handled in a correct and professional manner. Several are calling for more opportunities and collaborations between workplaces, universities and the employment services.
B) Do: Objectives and expectations
• Be clear about what is expected of the new employee or intern and what the job can give the both of you. Clarify goals and expectations for the job, which should be possible to measure and follow up. Link goals and expectations with the needs analysis and requirement profile that was developed in the previous steps for the job. (3)
• Make a clear plan for what the internship or employment should contain in different steps.
• Have a clear job description for the services as well as what development opportunities are available and what is needed for them. Be objective in what requirements are set so that no employees experience discrimination in their development opportunities.
Why: Avoid misunderstandings and disappointment. Clear goals and expectations also create increased productivity. Key persons that Kantar Sifo spoke to testify that it is difficult to retain employees and that clear development plans are a strategy for retaining and engaging employees.
In Kantar Sifo’s focus group study with foreign-born academics, several people find that the workplaces they have been on have had unclear goals, requirements and expectations for them.
C) Do: Introduction to the workplace
• Establish clear structures for how new employees are introduced. See, for example, the Lindelöw model for tips and advice. (3)
• Awareness of which culture prevails internally. What unwritten rules apply here? What do our daily routines look like at social gatherings such as coffee and lunch?
• What are the expectations of how employees should take their own initiatives? What do power relations and hierarchies look like?
• Be clear to all new employees about the values that the company stands for.
Why: To make the person feel welcome, not create misunderstanding and disappointment.
People who have done internships or fixed-term jobs testify to unclear instructions and difficulties in understanding both written and unwritten rules. It is important here not to forget the social aspects such as lunch and snack breaks. Key persons in conversation with Kantar Sifo describe the importance of the company being clear with its values, and that this should be communicated to all new employees already in the recruitment process.
D) Do: Tutoring
• Get the employees already in the organization involved in the inclusion of the new employee or intern. Choose a person or group that is responsible for the new employee being included in work tasks, meetings and more social contexts such as lunch and coffee.
• Have a guide for the tutorial on what is important to consider when including.
• Use examples of workplaces that have established mentoring programs.
Why: To increase inclusion in the workplace and to make everyone feel involved and included. Experience from people working in internships shows that mentoring programs facilitate inclusion in the workplace.