Lisette de Jonge is a member of the Career Club DK Advisory Board and Global Health and Wellbeing Leader. We have had a chat with her on a career journey, personal experience of building a life in Denmark, and what Career Club DK means to her.
Where do you come from, and what motivated you to come to Denmark?
I’m from the Netherlands, where I grew up in the very north but spent the last 10 Dutch years in downtown Amsterdam, which was great! When the opportunity came to have a new job in Sweden, I didn’t doubt for a second and decided to go for it. As I moved, I thought it would maybe be more fun from a social perspective to live in Copenhagen that has a very international community, and cross the bridge on a daily basis towards Malmö.
It was not the biggest culture shock for me to move from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, except for the bike rules! In Amsterdam, no one is following any rules while cycling but in Copenhagen everyone does. Many Danes yelled at me during my first months biking through the city!
What inspired you to become a Global Health and Wellbeing Leader?
The work environment, the nature of work itself, and employees have always been areas that have interested me while I was studying Organizational Psychology. As the work environment and the nature of work itself are important factors that influence how employees feel, I was interested in understanding how we could influence those factors to boost the performance of employees. Health and well-being became key areas to influence performance.
I started to work with absent co-workers within the work environment in previous roles, which was a very gratifying period. After working for a while in this field of expertise, I realized the group of sick people is small compared to the healthy co-workers and that it would give me much more energy to focus on the positive and bigger population to create more impact. At that time, health and wellbeing was an undeveloped area in many organizations.
Something else that inspires me is that it’s very positive and impactful for both the organization and the community. It is a dream role, and there will always be opportunities to improve employees Health and Wellbeing.
Tell us about your experience in building a career in Denmark?
I experienced some challenges when I first arrived. Coming alone to Denmark in November, in hindsight, is NOT the best idea. It is dark; everyone is gathering inside, surrounded by family and friends, with candles. And whilst that in itself is very charming, I was alone. Everyone was telling me how “hygge” Denmark was. Still, I assure you, sitting in an empty room somewhere in Copenhagen, eating microwave pasta and risalamande right out of the package was not really hygge for me. All my colleagues left the office to go home to their families and friends, which was the biggest challenge.
I realized I did not know where to go and how to make friends. The last time I made new friends was probably at the university, which was a while ago. So, I tried all social apps to meet up with like-minded people. I was lucky I didn’t need to search for a job as that was the main reason to move, but everything else was more challenging than I expected.
Besides finding an apartment in Copenhagen where dogs are allowed (impossible without any guidance), it required some work to get to know the process of getting CPR and the right bank account. But! I must say, after a few months, it all became better. When the sun appeared, I got some friends, had all the administrative challenges solved, and lived in a dog-friendly apartment with my dog. I realized there are so many nice people around me who want to support, guide, and laugh with me. It’s still different from living in my home country, you need to put in some more effort, but it’s so worth it!
How do you find the working culture in Denmark compares to your own?
I work in Southern Sweden, but I assume this is not so different compared to working in Denmark (besides Friday drinking). I would say that work-life balance and equality between men and women is a difference I notice when comparing Scandinavia to the Netherlands. I really love how Danes and Swedes care about spending quality time with friends and family. Starting early at work and leaving early was a relief compared to my Dutch schedules. I could easily get lost in time and end up working until 8 pm in the office. Now I think more about having a good work-life balance.
Also, seeing so many mothers working full time and dads walking around with their children during the day in Denmark is a contrast to the Netherlands. Men continue to work full-time, and many women change to work part-time to take care of their children in a very traditional way.
What is your advice to all women building a career in Denmark?
I would say, man or woman, it’s important to be proactive to create a big network! It is fun; many people really wish you the best and only want to help you. It is easier to get into an organization if you have a connection with someone who is already working there. It’s easy to ask some more informal questions to your connection about, for example, dress code, salary range, culture, and values. Don’t be shy and connect!
What does Career Club DK mean to you, and how can it help other aspiring women?
It is really great to be part of Career Club DK! There are so many inspiring and smart women connected to it, and it is a pleasure to meet, network, and work with them. It inspires me to see how everyone is motivated to boost their own career and contribute to a better world in their own way. Being connected with such diverse, unique, ambitious, and at the same time, like-minded women makes me really proud to be part of it. There is no shame to ask questions, bring up topics, and have a discussion about any subject which feels really great.
From a personal perspective, I learned a lot about the needs of “foreign women in Denmark.” We need to help and support each other where we can, and I have seen it works. Let’s connect and boost each other’s careers!
Is there anything else you are passionate about at the moment?
Besides networking from a career perspective, I also think it’s really important to make sure you enjoy your personal and work life abroad. I became really passionate about trying different sports. Back in the Netherlands, I was a ballerina, but once in Copenhagen and noticing the never-ending wind, I decided to learn to kitesurf! I also bought a race bike, and I’m exploring the city by running with my dog. It clears my mind, makes me happy, and it also helps me connect with positive and sporty people. Especially in these covid times where many of us are bound to home, it’s so important to do something that makes you happy that doesn’t require a phone or a screen. Don’t hesitate to reach out and connect if you would like to have a chat about work or would like to go for a kitesurf, bike, or run-session one day!