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Q&A with alumnus on changing career paths

Meet Göran Niléhn, a Lund University alumnus who started as a teacher and ended up completely changing his career path. In 1993, when Göran began to study at Lund, he had already decided to become a teacher of social sciences. The plan was to take free-standing courses and then finish the degree at Lärarhögskolan (Teacher Training college) in Malmö. Before finishing in the year 2000, he had participated in the Lundakarneval twice and got a degree in political science in addition to the one in teaching.

What have you been up to since you graduated?

I graduated as a teacher from Malmö University in 2000 and then I started working at a school in Hässleholm. I taught social science and after about a year I also taught home economics. It was unexpected, but very fun. It was fun to meet the students in a more practical subject.

A few years later I got the opportunity to take a preparing class in school management, simultaneously while working as a teacher.

Some time after, a position as assistant principal in the municipality opened up and I was recommended to apply. It turned out that I enjoyed working as an assistant principal. I missed teaching, but other factors weighed heavier.

After a few years, my principal retired. I applied for the position and I got it. Now I was a principal of a school district that included multiple preschools and schools. It was so much fun! But now my work tasks where even further from teaching and more focused on organization, structure, staff and budgets. They are quite far from my original subject that I taught, like geography and history, but very close to my degree in political science. It’s important to have some knowledge in this field if you are to work as an official in a politically controlled organisation.

You completely changed career path at one point, can you tell us a bit about that?

One day in early January of 2011 I was sitting in my office. It was still school break. It’s always pretty quiet, calm, abandoned and boring at a school without students and teachers. So I was thinking about my future. Maybe it was time to try a new employer, or a new municipality. To completely change industry was not even on my mind. Just then, my phone rang. It was the recruitment agency Manpower and they wanted me to apply for a job they where hired to recruit for. They couldn’t tell me who the employer was. Curious and flattered, I applied and then the recruiting process started. It turned out to be HKScan, the manufacturer of meat foods and products, looking for a new purchasing manager. Manpower knew from before that I grew up on a farm with pigs and the company wanted some new competence, someone who wasn’t schooled within the sector and that could contribute with new leadership qualities. 

I decided pretty quickly that I would take the job if I was offered it. I thought that Manpower probably wouldn’t call me again with an offer like that. And to get the opportunity to change industry was immensely exciting! I also never felt like it was a big risk. If I did not like my new position I knew that my old industry would still be there and that I would be welcome back to my employer. The ones who took a risk was HKScan because they were willing to try a wild card. And I am forever grateful to them for that.

In may 2012 I got my first business card: Business area Pig! I did miss the school world but never regretted my decision. The years at HKScan were fun and I learned a lot. Some work tasks I had as a principal were the same, but with new titles. The new part was all negotiation, writing contracts and making sure the right amount came in to the slaughter.

What do you do today?

February this year I took the next step. Now I work for Skånemejerier, overseeing the department that purchases milk to the dairy. I’m in the management team, which is the biggest difference from my job at HKScan. Skånemejerier is also a part of Lactalis group, so a big part of the day-to-day life is with colleagues from all over the world. It’s very exciting and challenging.

What is your best advice for alumni who might be thinking of changing their career path?

If you get the chance, take it! But make sure to finish with the old employer in a good way, so that you are welcome back. That will give you a comfort knowing there is always a way back, even if you might never need it.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Lund University?

There are many; for example, a “brännboll*-party” at the housing unit Parentesen, joining Lundakarnevalen twice and the feeling when I had earned my first credits.

*Brännboll is a game that resembles softball and baseball, but it has never been a competitive sport in that sense.

January 15, 2021

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Q&A with alumni

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