torsdag 28. mars 2013

Being an Invandere: Managing Expectations

Yes, a follow up to my tool kit in the last blogg:

What should you expect of Norway and what do Norwegians, especially employers expect of you?

I'd say 1) Lower your expectations and take it a little easy on these 2) Put in a heck of a lot more effort than you may think you need to, seeing this is only superficially similar as a western country with high education level!

Norwegians are skeptical to immigration on average and see "Invaders /wanderers in" as a migratory workforce by in large which is expendable: the breathing part of the economy which should be sent home if there is  a down turn.

Employers looking for skilled people are more positive, but mainly because they don't want to pay engineers all a million kroner a year starting pay, which they would have to in order to get enough noggies to graduate with those skills and even stay in engineering functions rather than drifting into administration!

Being married to a Noggie is not much help. On Askøy and Sotra in westland, it is often said " huh, English? He wont last. Not enough pubs here"

Firstly like France and Germany, Norwegians don't really tolerate mediocre use of their language. Some don't even tolerate people with different regional dialects! In either situation, some will drift of and become irritated rather than listening to you. Speak english and be very succinct and modest.

Languages school at night classes will be tough along side a job. If you get supported to do day school then put your back into it like it was a full time job! TOugh but worth it and if you are going to get up near average pay in non engineering jobs, then you must be fluent........

......if you are not coming to work on a tour from a central office in another country of course. Then they have to put up with you!

The next tough thing may be the social highway code being very reserved and certainly not Celtic of Mediterranean. If you build up expectations of friendship and even a little, then you will be shunned. It is the way here on average at least. Perhaps in North Norway people take you in more I dont know.

The best social way in is with a key person who speaks english and you have some commonality with, not least a sense of humour! Probably someone who studied abroad. DOnt expect your Norsk spouse to be any real help further than their family and a couple of pals. For example asking people around for dinner may hardly ever be reciprocated. People will communicate they would like to but have been busy, or ask you for a coffee instead thus cutting the visit commitment to just an hour.

Also remember that a lot of noggies are pretty darn DULL! and not worth the effort of coming in on! many lives go in a round of the public holidays as an annual perpetual clock like ground hog day carbon copies year in year out:  trips to cabin only with near family, visits to grand parents, endless training on skis and bikes without much socialibility, and only having a very small group of long established friends. it is closed, it is boring and only superficially interesting to a foreigner.

You can arrange your own cabin trips, ski lessons, travel to your own cultural or religious happenings abroad,  join a sports club which has a group which is at your level and so on, without laying any expectation on people you meet at work or through other people.

It may take years literally to be accepted as a "friend" but then you may well find you have made a very, very good friend who will open their door for you and include you in cabin tours, dinners etc.

Work is going to be tough too: the market is different , much more oriented aroudn th north sea of course and large petrochemical production. Houses are wood here so joiners are favoured over brickies.

It is worht as I have done, taking a new career direction whcih takes you up to average apay for the private sector after a couple of years ( around 380-000 to 450 000 NOK for the private sector and more in offshore positions of course. 185 kr per hour to 250 kr per hour app.)

New career direction means starting at the bottom in terms of maybe even like me, doing an internship. Thus you learn the day to day language and operations and the workplace culture while probably going on "day money" ie dole or some grant or other. This is low risk ,win win and if you don't like it you can have a look at other types of jobs.

Noggie employers are a bit simple when it comes to rectruiting experienced folk: you should be doing or have done the job you are applying ! It is good then to take a temp position just to get the right job title even if it is sonething you can master. English speaking companies are only so much of a help, the spoken word will be norsk.

So moving here is not like moving to many other countries but much the same in some ways!

Manage down your expectations of career and social life and put in a lot of effort on the work side and of course at language school, and then the social side will pick up.

Cultural Do's and Don'ts for New Jobs in Norway

For immigrants, those who "wander in" or are "invaders" as the word "innvandere" suggests, getting permanent contracts can be tough. 

Immigrants are generally seen as a commodity or at best if you are highly skilled, an excellent stop-gap measure for a position, such as covering maternity leave. So you are whatever your background, expendable.  That is a very, very common attitude amongst employers.

To move out of this general stream of being considered "temp", takes time in terms of language skills and cultural adjustment but more importantly a lot of effort. Effort is up to yourself but the cultural fine tuning is actually a very critical part of unlocking access to better jobs and permanent contracts: Here are my tips

1) If you are in a temp positions, use as much effort as you can to get another job offer elsewhere. Otherwise you are a temp-head-count and companies want to keep you as such! This applies equally to Norwgians in fact, but they often find it easier to get other work which is permanent. A "maybe-maybe, see what happens" is usually just as I write, you are a head count which the companies wants to keep expendable and if you put up with it, you will continue as a temp.

Consider negotiating an 80% position if it is a temp one, such that you can use the other day to find a permanent job. In the long run it will be worth going down 20% in pay.

Temping is really only any good for you in the long term if you gain new skills, or work for a medium to large company with good, recognised quality systems or a leading brand name in the sector. See more on this type of issue below

2) don't be a trouble maker. With respect of the above, it is very hard to try and negotiate or use tactical means you may be use to in other countries like the UK or USA, you cannot threaten to leave at a critical point in a project delivery for example. The real option is to have another job offer, even if you dont intend to go really. Then they know that you are not happy and have taken a practical way to solving the issue.

When you are in the trial period for a permanent, most often 6 months, then also you must avoid making trouble. Trial periods are used by some companies to "suck it and see" if they actually need the position in the first place. This is a little biased against immigrants but applies it must be said to naive norgies også.

3) Always talk directly with your prospective manager or director in the application phase. This moves you WAY up the queue because most noggies cant be bothered whereas a lot of employers place a lot of value on contact. It is very easier to gauge also the managers interest: if the position is really filled already or if they are a little racist, or in fact if they expect a far better qualified candidate with a recognised norsk education (NTNU, BI, NHH etc)

4) never talk badly about where you are at the moment or where you have just come from either at interview or in the first six months. Talk positively.

Norgie' bosses and people around you expect a certain boring stability and contentedness with life and view past experiences quite judgementally of YOUR ability to fit into a job socially and in terms of performance rather than accepting that you had a genuinely bad experience.

This is what psychologists call the "fundamental attribution error" :simply , you see your environment as a source for reasons why things go good or bad, whereas other people see first YOU as the source of positive and particlarily negative experiences.

In Norway they had town night watchmen from the late middle ages. Usually a sturdy man, who stood at the gates to a town or rustled about in the streets of a village like a town crier with a long imposing stave with a spiked maice head on it.( today it is a ceremonial and tourist guide position ) When someone new wandered to the gates or streets, they were challenged as to "and where have you just come from"?  followed by " and how was it there ?" . If they replied " oh it was terrible there, people were cruel and there was little work and I struggled to feed myself" Then the watchman would answer " Well I am sorry you will find only more of the same in this small town, I suggest you pass along to the next town where you may find better conditions"

Norgie' bosses expect that people have it pretty good here and nothing much to complain about! The culture for moaning you find in some offices is little evident, and if you find yourself in such an office then they are either a bunch of cynics or you actually have landed in a crappy employer!

When you are chagning jobs and looking for promotion, talking up the positive aspects of your current work place, and the positive social aspects is really good and makes the new employer think about making a really tantalising offer to secure you! This has just happened with me, much higher pay in the new job I have taken! Hurray!

5) "Prøveperioden" : The six months on trial.

i) fit in, keep your head down : A trial it can be. Here you are in the spotlight often. Can you do the job? Well that is often the least of the focus. HOW you do the job, how willing you are to tackle things is very important. Also how you fit in socially with your critical employees around you.

Just a few small black marks can be enough for you to be put under a big question mark for permanency.

They say you have to "swallow a few camels" and have "ice in your stomach" here which is very true in the trial period. Keeping a low profile while maintaining enough engagement in your work is good. Be keen, but be precise and not over keen. Go over and over critical tasks and follow up on what is happening with those you have placed in others hands for actions: do this without being pushy, just methodical.

ii) don't show any miscontent in the first six months. Unless there is some form for very poor and unfair dealing and you are entering into tasks which were not explained to you. This can be why it is good to work a couple of months thorugh a temp bureaux in a new type of job so that you learn the trip-wires and monkeys-thrown-off-others-backs to avoid in the trial period for a permanent position. Be a nice litte boy or girl. Dress like others at work, avoid taking too much sick leave, accept tasks with positivyt and be assertive in what the task and objectives are without seeming to be sceptical.

Later on you can cast monkeys off your own back. Also you are of course somewhat free to do the next

iv) If the job is not very demanding, worm your way in very slowly to new tasks and project responsibility or rather engagement. Be careful. Softly softly catch a monkey! take it slowly and do v:

v) Dont take too much initiative or come to bosses with fait-accomplis. Norwegians use a lot of "Kanskje" and open questioning to establish situations, opportunities and problems (challenges) : they are a bit snake like in asking because they know that bosses can be teflon in answering if they feel pressed into a corner.

vi) Initiative should be however be orientated around finding solutions to problems or new, small solutions and  opportunities and taking them to the boss to air them: explain them, and let the boss come back with comments: use of a pause instead of a leading question so the boss has time to digest it and sees that there is no pressure here: it is a conversation and a suggestion, not a fait-accomplis!

Also in terms of initiative, judge your position and its sphere of operation and influence: if the company or department is very established you probably want to back down your eagerness and ambition for responsibility in the 6 months and actually the first year.

If however there is a lot of work, a lot of challenges and you know 100% you can contribute and you can tackle the norsk language vocabulary for the area,  or better still English is the lead language then you can indeed strethc your neck out.

Initiative in asking for more work volume is good BUT ONLY after you do as I say above: be double sure you have quality control on your own work and admin, have traceability and can answer things on the spot or refer to a way you will. Then you can ask for more work, but it can be better to go through things more and do the next thing :

vi) Make social contact via work tasks, avoid e-mail to people you havent met first or at least spoken to in the firm and externally. This is very important: it is norwegian sensible culture: if something is important then it needs to be discussed face to face. E-mails go unread without this, and I think that is healthy. Also it breaks down the "immigrant barrier" which is important. Face to face, press the flesh.

Remember softly softly! If you are dealing with a key person in another department, ask how they are to deal with from your co-workers. The same with suppliers and customers. Come with a subtle approach and be modest.

vii) remember Jantes law: be modest, be small a litte false modesty and soft language goes a long way. Dont blow your trumpet , use reverse psychology. You often should avoid stating what you have responsibility for in general or your level in the chain, but rahter talk in the third person and about the company in getting something done.

I find this a bit irritating, but this one point alone in terms of culture and langauge is a huge key in the lock of Norway and in fact it has helped me with my own self esteem and awareness: I think I was a bit of a pushy type who demanded things and grabbed responsibility withouth maybe being granted the  authority to do so!

Last year I found myself a little out on a wing, my boss left and the new boss was very much of the strategy type - ie a bit distant: He played very softly softly in his first two months. I carried on with my projects without involving him much, or when I did it was a it faite-accomplis, or I need a decision now! This lead to a great deal of uncertainty of the level of  responsibility my first boss had given me and because I flew alone I lost a great deal of my responsibilty when the department employed new staff, who were very much more experienced than me. However I took it on the chin and sorted out very much what I had in front of me and some contract manufacturers wanted me BACK in the driving seat because I took responsibility, came to practical solutions and made things happen. The Divisional director heard good things about me from two key contractors.

I should have built up more of a profile with my new boss, and involved him more in my decision making. I ended up being a bit stunted for promotion because of that, and had taken less money that i really need to live off, so just put this all down to learnign and moved companies  with my new learning of both applications and the culture of modesty but confidence here!

vii) I'd say a s a follow up to the last job: involve your boss and your coworkers / key facilitators around you in a social dialogue which shows your competence without you needing to say it, shows your engagement and involves them in your work so you can judge how much initiative to take, or be given more freedom to act.

I think also involving your departmental director on occaision is good, but be very careful here. Happy camper, sorted out a problem with help of key facilitators and involcement of your boss is the safe approach! Took grand initiative, trod on toes, got it fixed in brilliant fashion is a really no-no.

Charming bosses above your own line manager is often a way women get on and being in the sports team with them is often used by men to get on!

iiX) Social expectations: if you go into a work place or any social group in norway, then dont come with expectations on being pals with everyone and somehow being really matey with someone you have a lot in common with. Norwegians are very stand off with that personal barrier to being IN with them a s a pal or being in their social circle. The best approach is to join in sports activities where you are on a level playing field ( ie probably NOT cross country skiing) and make sure you go on company nights out if they suit you and you feel like being sociable, but relaxed. Finding one pal who is a bit more extrovert and has good social circles is a good start but it can be that others in the circle dont like it! Shit I know, but making new friends is hard in Norway: not so hard if you are Norsk, but still relatively tough for them if they move to either a large city or the converse,  a small inbred community like the one I have to put up with right now!

onsdag 27. mars 2013

XC Waxing tips Part II

I happened to be in Kristiansand area and was recommended this tour area in Søgne parish, at Årstøl. Quite fantastic because it is up at a suprising altitude given it is probably less than ten klicks from the sea: 200m up!

It is a real pearl and probably a bit of a closely gaurded "open" secret for the ski club in Søgne, who could put up a sign with a bank account for contributions and corporates sponsorship.

Last week it was 15 km , 3 times round the longest loop there in new snow and wind, with most of the ski tracks filled in with new snow making it heavy going and pretty impossible for waxing. It was taken as stamina training, being more akin to 25km in effort. Waxless skis beckoned on the last round as the skis both cladded up then lost grip in the harder spores.

However last night the effects of spring and a strong sun meant for hard and often icey spor.

How to wax? Well my principle for late season is to avoid the mess of clister and opt for combination of layers and areas of different waxed in the kick zone.

First, I swear by green spray on base. Two layers, spread while fluidm, cooled below zero,  and corked and cooled again between applications. Entire kick zone.

Then I did something a little different. i took about 10cm in and applied there and backwards a layer of purple V45 swix. This I pyramided on thursdays new snow, with very thin layers cooled after corking before the next layer. 4 layers, 2 about 50cm as said with green "tips" and then 2 in the mid sole. Worked good, some still on later.

next time the same v45 with a special v50 round zero in the "pocket" ie under the sole, in two layers the last one only 12cm long.

This survived the punishment of 11km on hard and icey stuff, but to get a little more kick on the short hills which are 50:50 to fishbone or jog over, and this wored a treat with a new application, just in the pocket of the stickier V45 special lillac.

One other tip I got then from a fellow skier last night was to also NOT wax to the heal. Instead take almost 6cm in with glider instead! Well wax manufactureres wouldnt like us all using 10% less of the three waxes because glider for most is one type and once a year!

 So that tip doesnt appear on their web sites. You get better glide and less cladding at very little cost to someone with good kick, especially if you use the "pocket" technique where the thickest and maybe the softer of the days layer is just in the "pocket" where cladding is not a big issue down hill.

On the heel or infront of the toes ,cladding is bad news for that horrible face over as you duck into crouch for a down hill and realise you have tennis balls of snow on your skis still. In the pocket the contact is made at maximum pressure on the snow when the compression of the crystals needs to be matched by a softer wax for the temporary adhesion and adsorption we seek.

That is my tip!

MORE OVER: I wonder if the future of skis includes a partial patterned waxless , with the fish scale ONLY under the soul, and then a nanotech base layer either side of this in the kick zone replacing green base waxes and working in itself in the coldest conditions. You then apply a days wax in two lays either side of the "pocket" waxfree for milder days ( -7c and up over) and you then have a reserve of waxless for getting you home if your other wax wanes or is wrong for the conditions.

mandag 18. mars 2013

View From A Not So Far .....

I wonder how things in the UK are for ordinary people since the greatest economic recession since the 1930s began?

A lot of people are sitting on negative equity or potential for that if the economy really did start to unravel itself when public spending starts to take its toll on the lack of growth.

Perhaps the UK is getting used to "de-growth" now: there is uncannily low unemployment according to the government, but of course the true figure is always higher with black spots having very high levels of young unemployed folk and older be-lingering benefit cheat pro's.

 The UK economy is truly quite transformed by the size of the service economy, which was at some point a few years ago straining with lack of staff. Perhaps all the keynsian money sloshing around and the trickle down from the traders is floating it all, but for the traditional conservative economists, recession into "de growth" is a panic because growth of the general economy is a very central mantra for them.

In Norway we were pretty drastically affected by the recession: basically all jobs outside oil or those linked into oil dried up over night. Companies froze up and many could not survive without credit injections. We had moved just at the wrong time in many ways, out to the sticks with little oil related industries. But when new rig and field development picked up, I was able to get into the game and have never looked back, especially because in fact you meet the nicest, funniest, most charming people in oil companies.....driving Leaf El'bils while planning the pumping of masses of crude by most effective means!