Outside the Oil Industry, being a foreigner in Norway with any ambition of a career is a frustrating and in fact scarey place to be.
Having had more time to organise myself before wife decided Norway was where unexpected bairn #1 would be born, then I would have explored what careers a non engineer can follow in Oil.
Anyway, here is my story, anonymised to protect the guilty, by means of another warning you may recieve: this is echoed by other people I have spoken to, but most are not A) as paranoid as me B) Any good at internet detective work. The main piece of advice is that if you have a spouse/girl/boy who wants you to move here, and you are not an engineer, then make them agree that you should have a good job offer BEFORE you emigrate. Here is why, by proxy, given my experiences as a man with a bit of a career at least:
When I first landed on these shores I had just decided to make a clear break and knowing even a shop job paid 14 quid an hour, I was okay with this. The fact it costs anout £12.50 an hour to eat and breath under a roof here was lost on me.
However, best foot forward, and after the initial stress of the move to a very hot summer with very long days, I found work within the magical five weeks of being in the land as an EU /EØS citizen: unbenkowingly this entitled me to get on the social security ladder which has had to bail us out when jobs evapourate. More on that soon.
In fact I got not one job, but I was industrious enough to land a non skilled labour job through my brother-in-law, and a 50% positioin as an internal business consultant in a university spin out still struggeling with the real world. Coupled to doing evening school in Norsk, I must have been a model "invandere".
Hmm, "invandere", norsk for immigrant : It kind of suggests to the english listener, that you are either an invader, or that you just casual wandered into Norway, a bit aimlessly. This is somewhat ironic, because in my experience and that of others, you are treated either like an "interloper" or a curious oddity, hopefully transient in nature.
Now both these jobs were contract, and that was hunky dory, becuase they paid well and let me window shop. The consultant job went 75%, the other one dried up with the potential work, and BINGO I should have cottoned on to this a lot earlier. As an "Invader" you are often offered wing-and-a-prayer contracts which are not seriously intended to go permanent. This is the same for many sectors, outside oil, but especially building and services.
Is there any truth or correspondence to my experience and this happening here? Well I was driving through Aust Agder, a region / state / district here, and I hear on the Arendal radio station that while unemployment had gone up by around 6 to 9% in the population as a whole, immigrant unemployment had risen by nearer 30%. Relatively speaking here, a lot more immigrants lost their job when the finance crisis hit than locals. This was largely explained as being the Polish/Baltic state construction workers who had been both a source of good margins and a top up labour force in the last little property bubble up to sept 2008.
So I digress to put the personal in conext of the bigger picture here.
Now the thing about these jobs being temporary, and I heard the word "Use" in pretty much the same "used and abused" tone of voice from managers in both firms, was actually not that bad. What was bad was what happened next, which also shafter a Norwegian cow too, but she was such a dry-shite that no one wanted to work with her.
There was a job through the university in helping start ups, I take it no further than that description to protect the guilty, and I and aforementioned PITA woman were invited to apply, coerced in my case. I was apparently in pole position, and now could speak a bit and read a lot of norsk. But a recruitment consultant got involved, I was told it was a formality, but it turned out to be very bad. They chose a girl, a 23 year old, for a job with masses of responsiblility which was looking for 5 years experience and a business masters, yours truly, almost over qualified. They then discuss some BS marketing comms temporary job for me, which evapourates anyway.
I went out with a bit of a shat on feeling from the whole thing: this job turned out to be the GOLD DUST that careers can be made of. The girl that got the job had some family connections to either the manager or the recruitment asshole, who called me an opportunist in an interview once too. What contract or favours were secured is unknown to me, but the PITA woman was buggered because she could not claim sexual discrimmination. She should have walked the job, but no one liked her. She should have complained and got a lawyer.
I then spent 14 fucking months unemployed! Okay I did get myself through a higher level of Norwegian, but I wasted huge amounts of energy hunting for jobs. Eventually I got a hot interview in the "smoke" that is Oslo, and after a bit of an uneasy feeling in the interview, I actually got the job: It fell on the right side of the summer- another topic for a blogg one day.
12 months was hard, but I had the interview in late April and the offer in June. A bit of waiting.
Now unfortunate my bidie-in (wife) decided I wasnt going to be allowed to weekly commute, and that rather she and kid #1 would also move, at once, before my trial period was even started. Also, against all advice from my friends, I accepted a loan instead of full relocation.
The first few weeks were weird: half the office still on holiday, and an manic boss who just talked alot and always said things of any problematic nature for any issue, woud sort itself out. The job turned out to be more admin than expected, and I had a really dumb assistant who thought she was my boss by virtue of long service at her shitty level. I tried very hard and kind of got a long for a while. She unbeknown to me, started on the same day as the MD, oops. A little ear to bend there.
Anyhows things went well, I got into the swing of it, but there was not ever going to be enough work or responsibility to keep me happy, but happy I had to be. The job was a lot smaller than advertised. But it was a permanent position.....after the trial period.
Here came the rub: the section boss seemed to like me, but he then postponed my three month review to four and half. This just seemed beneficial to me then, and I would actually show some fruits of my labour to the US sales specialists. But no, this was a symptom of shoving me out of the door.
Long story short: the review actually happened at 4 and a half months in, and was bad news: improve on your communication, attention to detail and enthusiasm. Now I was getting my head into attention to detail okay, it was slower than I would be as a young buck, but hell!
The follow up to this was just a carbon copy, they had checked with the coworkers and I still couldn't talk right to them, I couldn't get things that were 100% correct right, while other people made some mistakes around my product launches with no comments made.
Now this all seemed very unfair to me, and I blamed myself for it all. I went away with about 7 months wages and my tail between my legs and a lump in my throat. Until that is I decided to investigate a little....
I got in touch with a friend at the company, and got the name of my replacement and discovered she started 3 weeks after my demise. That was a bit hasty after the fact. So two minutes on the internet, I had her blog, and then I had who her father was.....on the board of non executive directors.
Couple this to a freexe on new positioins at the time, and I was WHACKED. Also I had signed a disclaminer on future legal action and anyway, was not angry enough about it until after the usual legal dispute period of currency.
After this I spent about 10 months, half on whcih just in a daze. I got a shitty PM job in a shitty little company, which actually was quite a good opportunity to be entrepreneurial in some new market sectors. And it paid less.
So we trooped on out to the sticks when we could no longer justify our 740 000 NOK pa being enough to survive the Oslo house market, both to buy or let. I let the job go.
Here then eventually I get into a little IT firm about an hour and a half away, and they not only give me a shit position, they dont let me be myself and do project management: this is what I do! Boo hoo, but anyhows, as far as "stacking shelves" went I got the back end of the shitty sticky which was triple dipped in the brown. A crap analytical project with a prick of a couple of bosses, one of whom saw me as a threat and wanted me out anyway. All this funded 50% by NAV, on the back of training, which boiled down to a day, hamburger-university would blush at, and a couple of ad hoc days and some hours here and there. When the wages support dried up, so did the job.
Now I am on the outside, and I need to drop my suspicious mind and just get on with it all: get a new job, and probably a new "career". I can postulate away about all the petty racism and jobs.for.the.boys here, but you know I just have to ignore that now. What I do need to do, is fight for a reasonably paid, permanent posiition: as do you if you have just landed here.