Helen and Susanne

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After 60 applications and no job, Helen from China was starting to feel desperate. The most important advice her Danish mentor could give her was: "Keep being yourself".

When Helen Li joined KVINFO’s Mentor Network her priority was to find a job. The job recruiting centre in Copenhagen had tried without success to help Helen find an internship in marketing, her area of expertise. She remembers applying for at least 60 jobs, but only getting a couple of interviews. This made her frustrated and sad. She could not understand what was happening. She had completed two degree courses, had work experience and she spoke excellent Danish.

Helen was born in China. She has a Bachelor degree in English Linguistics and a Masters from Copenhagen Business School. She was matched with Susanne who was born and raised in Denmark, but who had been studying abroad for a while.

Susanne has worked for many years in the Human Resources department of a large company. As a mentor she offered, among other things, help with a job search, advice and guidance on where and how to look for jobs, interview role-playing and how to design good applications and CVs. These were all areas in which she had plenty of knowledge and experience.

Susanne felt she could also help with translating cultural codes at work and help a mentee to deal with some of the unwritten rules that are always present in a working environment. On the other hand, Helen has helped Susanne translate Chinese cultural codes, since Helen herself runs courses in cultural awareness.

They remember having a very good first meeting at a small café in Lyngby, close to where they both lived. Helen had already sent Susanne her CV. She was eager to find work and brought to the conversation the possibility of changing her career path from marketing into the IT field.

Susanne could see straight away that Helen would have no difficulty in marketing her competences in any job interview. The only advice Helen needed was “keep on being you”. Helen couldn’t help feeling a bit desperate after trying so hard and so many times, but Susanne kept pushing her to be herself, to be more confident. It worked.

Helen has since found a permanent position. When she looks back, she realises the importance of making the best out of her own choices, and having someone to help examine the relevance of those choices in the labour market.

They might not be in touch that often anymore, but Helen and Susanne became good friends during the mentoring process. They trust each other and have always viewed one another as equals. They meet up at birthday parties and on one occasion they celebrated the Chinese New Year together.


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