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Expats relocating to Oslo to take up a job can count themselves fortunate, as the city boasts some of the highest earners in the whole of Norway. Employers also tend to provide good incentives to retain staff, and most people working in Oslo feel satisfied and secure in their job. The city's strong economy has helped create an environment of confidence and trust in companies.
However, new arrivals planning on working in Oslo should take steps to learn about the Norwegian work culture and what will be expected of them if they want to make the most of the job opportunity.
Job market in Oslo
The key industries in Oslo include shipping, oil and gas, energy and environmental affairs, information and communication technology (ICT), and life sciences.
Shipping is a prominent feature of Oslo's history, and there is a large pool of expertise in the area. Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding ASA, IMS and Fred. Olsen & Co. are among the largest shipping companies in Oslo.
In the area of energy, there is a large focus on hydropower and renewable energies, along with the oil and gas industry and offshore petroleum development. The largest companies in this area include Norsk Hydro, REC, Statkraft and Aker Solutions – all Norwegian companies.
Oslo is at the forefront of biomedical research and discoveries. GE Healthcare and Applied Biosystems are two of the big players in this field. Growth in this industry is encouraged, and the diagnostics and imaging industry is highly developed.
In ICT, Oslo has a technologically advanced mobile market and internet infrastructure. Telenor, Telia Company, Opera Software, Microsoft and Accenture are among the most important players in this sector.
Oslo generally places a strong focus on research and development, regardless of industry. The city has a small but highly educated workforce. Research positions are always available and are often filled by foreigners pursuing advanced degrees.
Finding a job in Oslo
When looking for a job in Oslo, a candidate’s experience and education are highly regarded, as are personal connections. Online job portals, such as FINN.no and Manpower Norge, are a good start when looking for a job from abroad, but face-to-face interviews and meetings are valued.
Oslo is a small place, and networking is important in terms of finding a job or doing business. Those who move in the same circles are likely to hire each other. This could be in part because Norwegians can be suspicious of outsiders. So, having experience in Norwegian business or having Norwegian contacts helps in finding a job.
A major element of culture shock for expats is the language barrier, and many foreign employees may need to take courses in Norwegian. While expats will find it easier to get a job if they have a basic knowledge of Norwegian, some companies use English as their primary language of business. In these cases, proficiency in English is sufficient.
For expats new to Oslo or those who have lost a job, it is important to register at NAV (Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration), the national employment agency. NAV can help find jobs or recommend courses to help with the search process, which will improve a jobseeker's chances of securing employment.
Expats are likely to find a job with a company located in one of the key business areas in and around Oslo. The main commercial and business centres are located downtown, as well as in Skøyen, Lysaker and Fornebu, a business park with newer, larger buildings for big multinational companies. Skøyen and Lysaker are within city limits in the west. While Fornebu is a bit further out, it can also be reached by bus or train, and there are even direct buses to Oslo specifically for business commuters.
Work culture in Oslo
Workplaces in Oslo are relatively informal spaces where business dress need not be overly smart and hierarchies are flat. Expats in Oslo often praise the city's generally healthy work-life balance and the workplace's communication and management style. For others, some aspects of business may take a while to get used to. For example, the decision-making process can be drawn out if all employees involved share their input. Also, micromanagement is not so common, and staff have the freedom to decide on how to do their job – as long as it gets done. For some, this freedom is rewarding, while others may prefer a more structured approach.
►Culture Shock in Norway provides insight into Norwegian cultural norms and adapting to life in the country
"Norway in general, and Oslo in particular, has a very dynamic and healthy economic climate. I never “felt” the crisis here. I recently decided to change jobs and it took me a couple of months before I got a new one. Unemployment in Norway is very low, between 3 and 4 percent as of mid-2011."
Our interview with Central American expat Gisèle provides more information on working in Oslo.
Are you an expat living in Oslo?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Oslo. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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