tirsdag 20. mai 2014

Just Because I'm paranoid....

"just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean that someone isn't out to get you"

Instinct ? Rather a mind like a chess player or perhaps just a plodding detective ? Do some things become a self fullfilling prophecy if you give voice to them infront of the would be perpretrators?

For me it is the mind not really putting two and two together, still wondering if it addition or subtraction, the gut has come up not with four, but five! Maybe that colours my future deduction ?

The Paranoia. I harbour is like a millstone round my neck with a flickering crystal ball in the centre. When i even let it slide a little, the reality of being an immigrant and a bit of an uptight but seemingly weak character bludgeons in to take over my life. Put simply, my gut feeling is a golden albatross.

In Norway I have repeatedly been discriminated against in favour of the female quota. Three times. I maybe could understand if i had been mediocre in the job or under qualified. And also my own weaknesses of course have been amplified in a couple of other jobs.

The uncanny thing is then that nearly every time there is smoke, i do find there is fire to follow just as i suspected. In norway with jobs you really do have to go with your gut instinct and be prepared to be walked over or do something proactive about it.

This starts before you apply! Is there a lot between the lines? Is the job temp ? Have you translated the content and interpreted it correctly?

The next step is the interview and here is your chance to a) be proactive b) show you know the score about norwegian wages and workers rights, but also where to compromise...whether to say you work longer hours, the whole of july, and so on. Proactive means assertive : answering with short information and following up with a question about the job. And so on, until you have a picture of the job and they have a rather to the point picture of you and how you will do well in the job.

A job offer is lovely, but remember to take a look in the mouth. Is this as expected? Is the money as good? It is likely here that personnel have come up with the salary here, one of their wee. bits of power. If it is very low then you need to go to the prospective line manager and thank you yes, but say you will need a higher offer. If the job description is vague then get more info and get it more concrete.

Then you have the six month permanency law, which is on your side if you have had the shitty end of the stick, now you can negotiate better pay and sometimes if you are discontent then you can get some better tasks and rid some spinal monkeys  yourself

At the whisp of changes or at your annual development review they have here, then be proactive. There is a good rule of thumb to nip potential changes in the bud: lower responsibility , more of those spinal monkeys, relocation, arrested development, unpaid overtime....so on. Nasty shit which usually comes with a repositioning or maybe just a feeling you get : a patronising gaze, being left out of meetings, being sent on strange courses, having your key projects taken away from you....all the smoke which wafts over before the fire reaches.

The fire reaches with the inevitable call to the boss's office out of the blue, or to an intimate meeting which is an intradepartmental ambush on you. Even then the sitting duck you, can turn and rescue a situation by asking to see the boss after and letting it hit the fan.

Before you threaten to go nuclear, speak to a lawyer and take your contract in with you. Companies here have a nominal "styrerett" meaning they can ask you to perform other tasks or even take a different position on the same money. However in exercising it they can come up against one main thing on our ex pat case and that is discrimination. If you are the only one being moved or being messed about to the favour of a native, then you have a good case.

This quite often happens actually to Norwegian women coming off maternity, usually with their second or third bairn. The company does a bit of straight talking and the woman maybe gets a lawyer and either the company capitulates, or more often a compromise is reached. Omg, who is likely to have a new part time female boss or lose their job to aforementioned? You got it, the stupid foriegner.

onsdag 14. mai 2014

The Summer Trap for New Employees and Job Seekers....

Now the summer is fast approaching the prospective new employee who is naive to the way it all works here, can be caught out !

There is a convention that companies pay out your holiday pay in June, or rather manage it for you as it is your own tax percentage from the previous year. Here comes the rub for new graduates and more importantly, immigrant workers who start in the financial calender year here: you may end up with nothing "null comma nicks" in pay in June. There is a correspondingly rather nasty tendency to rush recruitment through in May such that people are in place before summer and the position does not evaporate from head count.

Here is the worst case scenario two of my Swedish colleagues encountered starting two years ago just before 17 may. They missed pay in May, fair enough, but then in june they missed pay due to the convention, but of course had to work the whole of the month, and had just taken out leases on flats and so on. Insult to injury they had their canteen money taken into account, which you had to make a case to opt out of, and they had taxation on their company laptop and their company phone they had just been presented with (which stayed in the office, a thing they later got wise to) So they came out owing the company money from their next pay, and as poor consolation were offered a loan with interest to tide them over to July.

Some employers use the pro-rata system, but most avoid it for the plain reason that the wages clerk, is a well established person in the company and takes at least half of July off and wants to do that month's administration in June as far as possible. It also makes a nice round hole in their costs for quarter two, which helps performance but not Y-on-Y anyway.  You can ask for pro rata if you really want the job but expect to be declined.

Now there is also another downer about joining any department after say mid April: the holiday calendar excel spreadsheet is done and dusted by May 1, and you will find yourself covering the whole department for most if not all of july. You are entitled to three weeks holiday at least in the June- September Period, it is not pro-rata if you start that year,  but this does not apply for a seasonal job and of course a lot of foreigners don't know about this law. On the other hand the company will be keen to make you take it so it doesn't become extra payments for them in Q1 the following year, and you may end up with three weeks here and there and the Christmas holiday.

Believe me the July office time for any normal company not into summer tourist business is a dead boring time, and worse, you can get involved in fire-fighting for which you have no authority to get anything done. Suppliers fail to deliver things, anything from June gets shelved, and worst of all some people blatantly dump admin work on summer temps and the unsuspecting newbie.

Ways round not getting money and not getting holidays in the sunny summer are of course to negotiate and you need to be careful, but take them to the wire a little. If you can start immediately and do not need to move, then try and agree some holiday or say you have a couple of weeks booked in "syden" , make it sound like you will loose out.

The alternative is to push them out on start date, and your only excuse here is to find accommodation if you need to move and are unemployed. However if you are employed in Sweden or anywhere else and you are given an offer in the knowledge that you are employed, then no matter what the job you can use Norwegian conventions against itself and say you have a usual period of notice, and an after summer holiday start is best.

Think about this seriously!! If you start say may 19th this year then in most all companies and public bodies you will get no pay until mid to end July and that is two months! Very few young people can afford to finance two months stay in Norway, and if you are not a prized engineer with experience or middle manager, then you are unlikely to get accommodation paid for more than a couple of weeks if at all.  You may find out that you are minus 3000 Euros if you get a rented flat with a deposit, and then there are your initial flytting and living costs on top.

Tread carefully here in avoiding a start, you are on thin ice if you start talking about all this with an irate FRP type boss or indeed personnel ("personal", a crappy Norweglish malapprop' !) - these type of questions are likely to be met with " do you really want to take this job??" One way round is to find another person in personnel, or network to an employee and get the low down on holiday pay and how newbies are treated over the summer. If your boss seems very nice though, then call them up and say in principle you like the offer and have just a few practical questions about pay and relate to  relocation , while also to summer holidays- propose that you have time with your family if you have kids and expect to take some time in July and see how this all goes down. Don't be surprised for either a very positive or surprisingly quite "barsk" negative answer, because they may be taking you on because you are the most available candidate, not the best qualified.  A boss is a boss and has their own priorities after all, but also their own expectations molded by the usual employee favoured  business culture and law here.

One thing to say at first interview is that you have other opportunities and are looking at seasonal work with the summer coming. Then the company knows that in the time, often long time, they take to make their decisions you may have something which requires period of notice. In fact if you get an offer and you kmow that you are going to miss May pay, June and then miss out on most of your holiday with your kids, then taking a summer job or temp' starting in May locally can be your trump card because it will allow you to earn cash through to July, and then take some holiday with your kids and still have than presumably great job to go to in Norway.

If you have that trump card of being in a job, then firstly delay them on the answer a week to think about it if employment starts after May 1, interview say 10th April, offer 17th April. After this you can then say given my period of notice and requirement to find accommodation in the area that a start around August first is most practical. Your notice in the UK especially is likely to be far less than that, but you want to avoid this huge negative cash flow situation and being landed with the department's woes and left over shit in July when you will twiddle your thumbs mostly or do stuff which is frustrating due to lack of key colleagues, suppliers or customers in the internal market.

Even in Norway, if you have just a month's  notice on a temp job, don't answer the question straight if the dreaded june hole-in-the-bank-account is looming! Say you will need to look the period of notice up, and when you call back ask them straight out if they are looking at a start date with the usual three months notice. This is all a little coy and risky, but an offer when you have a job already usually means they are really keen on you, and are willing to take the usual notice period of three months into account.

If  however you are sitting about unemployed or in an obviously meaningless job,  then really have no choice but to take the job and say you have a month before it should start, then offer instead to start immediately or offer to come and meet the team and then use that trip to network for accommodation and get an idea of holidays you can take. It could be you can take them actually, madly enough, in June such that you cover July down time. Here you can then maybe find a temporary room to stay in, take advantage of any short term relocation in your start package  and thus avoid a hefty deposit and maybe six weeks up front rent on a flat. Or you could use a week in June to live locally and get a best possible deal on a flat, or even do some temp work where you get paid.

In probably two, maybe three of my jobs I have been offered work her in Norway because I was the one guy who could start asap: three months is a business quarter ! So that length of notice is dangerous when a manager is trying to keep head count up if the job is vacated or just created. However, by in large Norwegian positions follow the pattern and there is often overlap of a few weeks with the outgoing employee even with three months notice because they are either asked to stay longer, or fall into a three calender month notice period which can mean of course almost four if they resign at the start of the month! The fast one to pull is just to propose to the boss, not personnel, that you love the offer and presume the start date can be the usual three months from now, Aug 1. In this case you want to avoid personnel and also, worst of worst, the recruitment consultant, who I try and stay clear of and work round anyway.

This all applies to permanent jobs or those which are " with possibility for extension" . With seasonal work you can usually expect to be taken on with the concept of zero holidays, which is not strictly legal, but soon will be anyway if the right wingers get their way.   If you are moving to Norway to work through a temp agency for a time less than it takes to qualify for benefits, that being if you intend to stay and look for future work, then think again about the offer if there is no offer of help with accommodation: it can be a deadly expensive misadventure with private rents being pretty high in cities ( 4000 - 8000 kr pcm for a room in the main ones, plus a deposit of one to even three months on top!! )  which can land you with  debts in NOK when you return home, or you can find yourself in the land of dodgey jobs.

However, the positive sides in a career with a medium large Norwegian company can long outweigh the negatives of an inconvenient start date, but you do have to look that gift horse in the mouth a bit if it is maybe a temporary job, not clearly leading to permanency and if it is maybe not all that well paid ( 360 000 / 180kr / h or less is difficult to live off as a new comer to Oslo or the other three main cities). If the training is not all that well explained and so on, ie you will be an admin or sales slave with two weeks max training, then you do have to consider balancing the books of the financial hit you may take versus the actual benefit to your career.

The plus side is that getting into a high growth or large company here can lead to a whole career in better directions, but that depends in large on your original qualifications or those you are willing to take after, because "fag" ( qualification)  is very important to the big firms in getting promoted or even changing to different, more interesting job.