Finding Work in Copenhagen and Denmark

When I moved to Denmark in the nineties, there was greater financial stability in Europe and greater stability in the Danish labour market. However, the challenges of finding work in wonderful Copenhagen as a newcomer who did not speak Danish were different to today. English was not the lingua franca within organizations, hence job opportunities were far more narrow for non-Danish speakers.

Fortunately I had organized work before I arrived and my skills set allowed me to find my next position relatively easily. In addition, the two industries I worked in were and continue to be, I would say, some of the most foreigner friendly industries in the majority of capital cities around the world: hospitality and English language teaching.

  • Most of the popular/trendy cafés and restaurants will employ you in service even if you don’t speak Danish. Places like the Hard Rock Café and perhaps also TGI Fridays and restaurants in Tivoli are good choices as well because of the higher level of tipping from foreign guests.
  • Some language schools that offer private teaching in Copenhagen include Berlitz, Cambridge, International Communications, Virksomhedsskolen. They are listed here along with many other schools in Denmark that offer English language courses. You can also offer evening courses through AOF and FOF

I like languages, and so did not feel cornered into taking up English teaching, but my first piece of advice to newcomers who do not speak Danish is to pursue the career that you want for some time before you settle for whatever you can get. I say this for two reasons: Firstly, English speakers are now very welcome in Denmark and numerous companies have English as their working language. Nonetheless, for social purposes (at work) Danes appreciate and strongly encourage you to learn Danish. You can get lessons free for the first couple of years you are here (see some schools below), so why not!

Secondly, Denmark is a small country with the majority of the institutions that other highly populated countries have. The great advantage of this is that companies, organizations and the people who work in them are quite accessible, more so than in big countries. Use this to your advantage: prepare yourself well, find the people you believe are the right people and simply get in touch. Apparently, it is still very few people who contact employers directly, either before or after sending an application, which means that simply by making that phonecall or arranging an informal chat you make a relatively unique impression.

If you are in the corporate world, having a profile on LinkedIn is a must by the way. Several employers and headhunters only use LinkedIn to find new employees.

If you have a trade don’t be afraid to go out alone and start your own business. Of course you also need to have the talent of being good at networking, or having a wide network, particularly if you do not speak Danish. It is difficult to find a job with a Danish firm as a tradesman without Danish language skills.

  • Start-up Denmark is an initiative started by the Danish government to help entrepreneurs.
  • General information from the Danish Business Authority (Erhvervsstyrelsen) in English
  • Information from New to Denmark (Ny i Danmark) on starting up a business in Denmark upon arrival.
  • A useful explanation on the different company structures that exist in Denmark by Venture Cup.

If you are a student, you do not have to settle for a bar job or some other low paid work that has nothing to do with your studies. Incidentally, there is absolutely no stigma attached to those jobs either. A large proportion of Danish students find part-time jobs in institutions and companies that enhance their CVs because they complement their studies. Employers note and like this. Whatever job you take, whether it is in a bar, restaurant, museum or an office make sure you can present it to a future employer as a position where you learned a particular set of skills that is/will be useful to you and to them.

  • Remember, that in Denmark you are permitted to work a maximum of 15 hours per week if you are in full time studies. There are also rules about how much you are allowed to earn if you are receiving financial support from the state (SU). Here is information on the latter in Danish from the Ministry of Education and Research.
  • Study in Denmark provides a list of job portals that list student jobs, but you should also enquire at the institute and department you are studying at if there are opportunities at the university or any affiliated institutes.
  • There is also a Facebook page Student Jobs in Copenhagen
  • Some tips on getting a student job from the University of Copenhagen newspaper University Post.

Good luck with your job search! Remember networking is the name of the game in Denmark whatever industry you work in. Put yourself out there and make connections wherever and whenever you can. I leave you now with some more tips on job searching and links to different job banks and portals.