How I Found A Job in Iceland // Plus Tips For Finding A Job Abroad!

At the beginning of the year I did a reader survey where I opened the floor for you all to send me any questions you wanted to see answered on the blog. Aside from questions about the Viking and I (we all really are suckers for a love story aren’t we:) the most asked question was about my job in Iceland.

More specifically…

How did you find a job in Iceland? And what is your job?

How to find a job in Iceland

Let’s rewind to two years ago when I was a stressed out job searching foreigner in Iceland.

While I was waiting to get my visa approved I started asking around to other foreigners for tips on where to look for work. The amount of negative feedback I got was unreal! I was constantly told that if I am not fluent in Icelandic I won’t find work. I would spend my days getting sucked into the negative threads on the foreigners living in Iceland FB groups that had me convinced I would never find a job in Iceland. It was really discouraging.

When I did get my job H told me I should post my story on one of those FB groups, I mean clearly they could use some positive vibes. I knew if I posted something it would only be met with negative feedback, but whenever I met new people they always seem to have the same discouraged feeling about finding work that I did. So instead I want to share my story here to encourage anyone out there looking for work abroad that it is possible. Warning this is a long one.

Back to my story.

Even though those FB groups were not encouraging at the time they were the main resource I had for stories from other foreigners living in Iceland who were lacking in the language skill department and looking for work. According to those in the “we hate Iceland and everyone else” FB group it sounded like my best chance to get a job was to look at a cafe or cleaning at a hotel. Not exactly my dream jobs, but I would take anything to start working again.

Winter in ReykjavikA lunchtime walk around the park next to my work

After three months of being in Iceland, getting more discouraged by the day from the negative talk around me, my visa was finally approved, and within the first few days of my visa being approved I landed myself a job at a cafe downtown. Let’s just say I worked one four hour shift never to return, it just wasn’t for me.

After this experience and a long conversation with my parents and the Viking I made a plan and decided to give myself three months of looking for job that would fulfill me. I didn’t move to Iceland just for a boy I needed to have my own life as well! And as I was moving to Iceland for the unforeseeable future it was really important to me that I was in a job that would help me grow in my professional career, and while there is nothing wrong with working at a cafe it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. At the end of the three months (the amount of time I would be able to continue living off my savings) if I had not found a job I would take whatever position I could get.

Step one in my plan to find a job: make a list of all the companies in the Reykjavik area that I knew had English speaking staff or an international faculty with English being one of the main languages.

As I was doing my research on this I was happily surprised to find that there are quite a few companies in Reykjavik with English as a main language of the office! From there I began contacting these companies to see if they had any position openings or internship opportunities. I contacted companies that had job positions listed, and others that didn’t have any job openings posted but I still wanted to check. And even if I saw a position listed only in Icelandic I still reached out to the company, fully disclosing my language skills, and half the time my lack of Icelandic was not a problem to be able to do the job.

In addition to reaching out to companies I began contacting anyone I knew in Iceland to send any job opening information my way. Networking really is key anywhere, but especially in a small community like Iceland it is all about who you know.

One of the places on my list happened to be the university, and I happened to know someone who worked at the university. I reached out to my friend and lucky for me she happened to know about a month long project at the university working in social media, a perfect fit for me. I applied and thankfully got the position creating social media accounts and starting up online marketing for a new program at the university.

This position, it was not paid much at all, and there was no guaranteed job at the end. But I knew that I just had to get my foot in the door so I took the chance. I know not everyone is able to take unpaid work so I feel really lucky to have had this opportunity. While it was a risk putting my job search on hold for a month (I was still looking I just didn’t have as much free time) I figured having work experience in an Icelandic company, even if it wasn’t paid, would benefit me in the long run.

And, lucky for me, just as I was in my last week of the project a full time position opened up in another department at the university. The position was only advertised in Icelandic but I went and talked to the supervisor asking if English was a problem, I figured why not? And you know what, the job actually needed a native English speaker if possible as the main language of the department was English. You really never know unless you ask!

After a stressful interview process (that lasted over two weeks with three different interviews!) and both the Viking and I crossing our fingers and toes I heard back from the university.

I had gotten the job!

Iceland, Reykjavik, Sun Voyager, Mt. Esjan Celebrating right after I found out I got the job.

I currently work at the university in Reykjavik handling the graduate programs in Computer Science (sidenote: I know very little about computer science so this is a bit comical) as well as handling marketing for the department and all international relations. This job has been so amazing for me and my co-workers are the best, they have quickly become my Icelandic family and have been there to support me no matter what.

I know my story is one of the lucky ones, not everyone moves abroad and is able to find work. But one thing I do believe is that if you want to find a good job while living abroad it is possible. I dealt with a lot of negative talk from other foreigners saying it isn’t possible to get a job in Iceland, one girl even said to me I only got my job because I look Icelandic. I fully disagree with this and believe we all have something special to add, so if you dream of working abroad I say go for it, keep reaching out and trying for that dream job of yours!

NauthólsvíkThis beach is right behind my work!

If you are living abroad and looking for work, or planing a move abroad and unsure of how to go about the job search here are some tips that worked for me:

Reach out to companies

Don’t let your lack of language skills hold you back. I called several different companies to inquire about their job listings that had only been in Icelandic. When I asked if it was an issue that I was not fluent in Icelandic many of them said no, it was just something they had not about before.

Note: Many positions will require that you speak the native language. I recommend making a list of companies that you know have an international faculty with English being a main language used in the workplace and start with reaching out to them.

If possible do an internship

Still struggling to find work? Try contacting companies that you would be interested in working for and see if they have any internships available. Even if it is just for a short term project getting your foot in the door is what this is all about. Once the faculty has gotten to know you and seen your work skills it will make it much easier to have them look past the fact that you are not fluent in their native language and to see the benefits of hiring international staff.

Volunteer

Again, something that may not be possible if you are not able to work without making money, but getting your name into the community can be a great benefit in your future job search. I did a volunteer/internship for three months when I lived in Iceland a year before I officially moved here, just having that experience on my resume really helped me.

Network

No matter where you are in the world, it really is all about who you know. Look up events in your city that you think people in your field may be interested in (public talks, events at companies etc) and go to them. You never know who you will meet and where these connections can lead to. One time I went to a English pub quiz and got put on a team where I didn’t know anyone. By the end of the evening I had three new contacts who knew of possible job opportunities for English speakers in Iceland. You just never know who you will meet!

Build Your Skills

While you are in that transition phase of looking for work use this time to your advantage. Take that free online photography course you have been eyeing, sign up for a local course in your area, or you know start a blog:) Any extra skills will help you. I had only been blogging a few months when I got job and my skillset from blogging really helped put me above the other candidates for this position.

Icelandic HorsesIcelandic horses working on their networking skills

These tips are from my own personal experience and coming from someone who was already in the country trying to find work. Obtaining a work visa to enter a country is an entire different game, one that I know is possible but can be difficult. But I think if you really want something, it is possible to find a way! Just look at my friend Jeannie, she dreamed of moving to Iceland and she found a way to make it happen by reaching out to companies here!

And there is my long-winded answer to how I found a job in Iceland :)

Question of the Day?
Would you like to work abroad? Any tips you would add?

Previous Post Next Post
  • http://www.rhymeandribbons.com/ Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons

    Really great tips! xx

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you:)

  • Oui In France

    Hey there, I think this is a really helpful post and seeing how you did things will absolutely inspire and encourage others. When I first came to France, so many people were negative about finding a “real” job in France after my teaching contract ended. People would say that it’s so hard for Americans and that you have to prove a French person can’t do the same job, etc., etc., etc. The excuses will always be there but I believe if your goal is to find a job abroad, you’ll do it. For anyone reading this who is discouraged, just keep at it — something will come along if you follow the tips above!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much, and thanks for sharing your story! It can get really discouraging when you are surrounded with a lot of negative feedback but not giving up is so important. Love your message at the end, so true don’t get discouraged!

  • http://beertimewithwagner.com/ Jordan Beck Wagner

    Girlllll, I am trying to find a job in Germany right now and it really is all about networking! Crossing my fingers that something works out because everyone is so negative as well!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Networking really is key! I will keep my fingers crossed for you!!!

  • http://www.imaginibus.com Marina | Imaginibus

    Really good tips, and I’m so glad you love your job! For me, when I was looking for a job in France, I really played to my strengths as an expat, especially my English skills. After a couple internships, I ended up finding a job in my field where my English was a huge asset!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much! That was the same I did, I knew my greatest asset was that I was a native English speaker so I used that to my advantage. Congrats to you for landing your job in France!

  • http://www.thesunnysideofthis.com/ Isabel @ TheSunnySideofThis

    That’s right you show them girl :). I also got a lot of negative feedback about not being able to find a job if I didn’t speak Slovene, and look.. here I am with a job. You are right, it never hurts to ask!!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much girl, and you too! No one (or language!) can keep us down!

  • Rebecca Sharp

    I’ve been secretly wondering this too… That’s awesome you found a way! :)

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you!

  • http://snowintromso.com/ Van @ Snow in Tromso

    Your job sounds pretty cool! I actually had my first job abroad at a university as well as it was one completely in English. Guess universities are a great place to start the search! My current job is mainly in English too but I had to interview in Norwegian and speak Norwegian with my colleagues too so it’s a great way to slowly become more and more fluent while not being under pressure to speak the language perfectly ;)

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      I really enjoy working in the university environment,there is always something new and exciting happening :) It has really helped me being around Icelandic all day, even if I don’t really speak it my understanding of the language has really improved.

  • http://heleneinbetween.com/ Helene

    I LOVE THIS. i’m saving this post, you never know, I could use it one fay :) thanks so much for sharing this with us!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you! Hope one day you can put it to use on your own adventure abroad :)

  • http://www.adventurings.com Cynthia

    Very cool that you shared this story! Before I moved abroad, ALL I heard from friends or acquaintances was: “how are you going to even make it work? how are you going to get a visa? how will you even get a job?” Hearing that kind of rhetoric can really get you down, so I’m so glad I didn’t listen and just went over to see what I could make happen on my own. Turns out: a lot! Always better to give it a good ol’ college try than to give up after hearing or reading negative comments on message boards.

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Right! I got so many negative comments, it definitely made things a bit discouraging. Glad you stuck it out!

  • http://www.fullofbeansandsausages.com/ Holly Hollyson

    Wow, the location of your workplace is amazing! You were one of the lucky ones – I am having a tougher journey here. But we all get there in the end. I wouldn’t have a clue about computer science!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      It really is a great place to work. Hope you are able to find a job you are happy with! And I really don’t have a clue about computer science, but I am definitely learning a lot!

  • http://www.alonewithmytea.com Julie || alonewithmytea.com

    I must admit I was one of the curious ones who always wanted to ask about your job situation but never thought it was appropriate. lol I’m glad you shared, it’s very interesting! I’m not looking for a job abroad or otherwise, but these are all still very good tips. You can’t know until you ask, right!? :)

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      So glad you enjoyed Julie! And so true, you really never know until you ask!

  • http://www.seeyouinaporridge.com/ Kristen @ SYIAP

    this is so awesome. i love that you gave yourself the time to find something that would actually make you feel fulfilled. i worked at a small restaurant when i first moved here, but as soon as i thought i’d be staying, i quit and got a ‘real’ job. it made me feel more like a grown up, or like i belonged. like you said, nothing wrong with working in a cafe / restaurant, it just wasn’t for me long term (i also got a job at a bar and lasted approx 4 hours like you hahahaa. i was a bartender at home but it was just too different and i was too tired / didn’t care).

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      It really does make you feel more like you belong and life in your new home is a bit more permanent. I worked at a coffee shop back home but it was pretty clear that after my one short shift I was just over it and ready for a different kind of job.

  • http://ofgoldenroses.blogspot.com/ Sara Rose

    I worked part time during my studies, and then full time once I graduated. Unfortunately, the job did not pay enough for me to stay in the UK, but I am glad I put myself out there! My coworkers became my family, and it was great to make connections with people who weren’t from my classes!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      It really is great to make those connections, you never know when they will come in handy!

  • katie arnold

    Great story! I experienced something similar (although, not nearly on such a large scale as you) moving from St Louis, Missouri to Miami, FL to be with my boyfriend a year ago. Everyone was negative about me not being fluent in Spanish when over 60% of residents here are foreign born. It really is all about having a positive attitude and not giving up. I was unemployed for two months before finding a great job working for Miami-Dade County!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you Katie! It is so true it really is all about staying positive and not giving up! Good for you for continuing trying and getting a great job!

  • http://www.adventuresofadreamcatcher.com Lisa K

    Loved reading your success story! It sounds like persistence (along with networking and some luck!) is key. While it’s easy for me to find teaching jobs in many countries, where I would really like to teach is in Italy. I’ve also been told that it would be impossible since I’m not a member of the EU. Your story gave me hope to keep trying.

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you Lisa :) I say go for it! I have friends that have taught English all over Europe so you never know!

  • Rachael Brennan

    It sounds like our jobs are quite similar. I’m lucky I found a job in one of the few universities in Japan (or maybe the only) that have English as the main language, therefore my very poor Japanese skills aren’t too much of an issue!
    http://www.seachangeokinawa.blogspot.com

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      I feel so lucky as well to not have to worry about my terrible Icelandic skills in my work. And I love working at a university there is always something fun happening!

  • http://www.adventuresofalondonkiwi.com/ Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi

    This is very much like London surprisingly (despite the large population) it’s very often who you know, and taking a risk to ask a question!
    (Ps. currently crying laughing about the Icelandic horses working on their networking skills photo…)

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      It really is all about networking and the connections you make.

  • http://www.littletranquility.com/ Amanda

    This was such an interesting read! I’m always curious about these things. I’m glad you were able to find work you enjoy. your coworkers sound awesome. I can’t believe someone told you that you only got the job because you look Icelandic! How rude!!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much Amanda! I know, that person was not my favorite I have met: ) Thankfully everyone else is lovely!

  • http://www.therachaelway.com/ Rachael | The Rachael Way

    How inspiring!! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much girl!

  • http://adventitiousviolet.com/ Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

    Wow lovely! I kind of did the same by accident – I found it extremely hard to get a job and I knew someone (my Brit) at the university and I found this job and it’s since evolved. Knowing people is always such a big thing – which is difficult when you’re moving abroad – but it can pay off thankfully!!x

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      It really does help so much making those connections!

  • Voineagu George

    hy

  • Voineagu George

    and I’m looking for a job in Iceland, or to settle down permanently, can someone help me?

  • Tomas Stanek

    What a great article! Thanks! :-)

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Your welcome! :)

  • Julia

    Hey thank you for this post, it was really helpful! Your blog is so beautiful. I am an elementary school teacher and I’m looking to move to Iceland as well. I have taught in several other countries before and I’d love to head to Iceland next, but I’m still feeling my way around how to find a teaching job there. Do you know anyone who works in the schools there? Or have any tips on how to get in touch with schools? Thanks in advance! Maybe we can meet up once I’m there :)

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Hi Julia! Thanks so much for your kind words and for reading my blog! I know that there is one international school in the Reykjavik area that has international teachers. Here is the link to the school website http://www.reykjavikinternationalschool.is/ Good luck hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Dom

    Hey, I have just visited Iceland and I really like it. I would like to move there, although the job dept may be an issue. I work as a science technician at uni in Scotland after serving a modern apprenticeship (MA), but this doesn’t have to be my career if I moved. Would having a modern apprenticeship help me stand out to employers? Takk Fyrir!

    • http://unlockingkiki.com/ Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Hi Dom. Glad to hear you like Iceland :) All extra qualification will help with your job search. Good luck!

  • ivan_the_tyrant

    You mentioned you moved there while waiting for a visa — what kind of visa did you get? I’m also American and looking to relocate to Iceland. Thanks!