Written by Joanna Hughes

Leaving your home country once as a refugee is hard enough. Now imagine relocating again four years later to be with the person you love. This is exactly what happened to Syrian Lana Haddad, who left Syria for Saudi Arabia in 2012 when fighting broke out, then moved to Sweden in 2016. Each time she moved, she started over -- with mounting challenges. Things finally turned around for Haddad when she enrolled in an accelerated business school program. Here’s a closer look at her story, as recently reported by Financial Times.

Sleepless Nights

Upon receiving her degree in French literature from a university in Damascus, Haddad planned to pursue an international career in diplomacy. She was on track to do so until the war started. After watching many of her colleagues leave for safer destinations, Haddad -- along with her mother -- decided to travel to Saudi Arabia to see her father. “I took a month’s holiday from work because I thought I was coming back. It was my last time in Damascus,” she said.

After experiencing some initial culture shock, Haddad landed a job in Saudi Arabia. But when her partner was offered permanent residency by Sweden, she found herself starting over again. And despite English fluency and years of work experience in different sectors, employers weren’t interested. “I was waking up in the middle of the night searching for jobs,” she said.

A New Path

Then one day an officer at the Swedish Public Employment Services told Haddad about a 10-month, mini-MBA program comprising coursework in Swedish and European law, culture, economics, and politics, paired with a seven-month internship. Despite its competitive admissions process, Haddad earned a spot.

“The program taught me how to have self-awareness at work; how to identify a company’s values and match them with my own,” Haddad says.

In addition to helping Haddad develop key skills, the program was also a networking boon. A classmate introduced Haddad to a recruitment company which specializes in matching immigrants with jobs, and they hired her directly as a headhunter. She said of her work, “It is not like we are just offering them a job. It is life changing.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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