Malene Nordahl is not easily startled. When she was offered the position of manager at Specsavers in Mo i Rana, a town in Nordland County in Northern Norway, she packed her bags with warm clothes and headed north. After six months, she's still thriving, and now she's considering owning her own store.
Before making a final decision, she plans to stay in Mo i Rana a bit longer to see if it's where she can establish herself for the long term. While Mo i Rana isn't technically within the Arctic, it's situated near the Arctic Circle, which serves as the northern boundary. In practice, the distinction is minimal. Moreover, this move represents a significant transition for someone originating from Ørje, a village located even further south than Oslo, nearly on the border with Sweden.
Malene says that moving far from home doesn’t bother her. She left home when she was 17 and is accustomed to taking care of herself. She enjoys returning home to see her mother during holidays and long weekends when they don’t often see each other otherwise.
Malene is a certified goldsmith and spent two years in Finland learning hand engraving. However, job opportunities in this field are scarce, as most jewellery is produced overseas. Malene admits that some may view her education as a waste, but she finds value in certain aspects, such as the skill of polishing. By using this technique, she is able to restore worn and matte frames to their former glory. Additionally, there are many other tools that are shared among the various subjects.
“I applied for all sorts of jobs when I returned from Finland,” Malene says. “However, ended up getting a job at Specsavers in Askim.”
Malene was warmly welcomed at Specsavers in Askim and secured a permanent role as an optician's assistant. Since then, she has undertaken numerous training courses and gained vast knowledge about the industry. Following the Optical Dispenser training programme, she completed the Partner in Development (PID) programme, which took over a year.
Malene shares that it was after completing the PID course that the regional manager asked her if she would like to relocate to Mo i Rana. Although she had to think about it, the potential to own her own store encouraged her to take up the offer and give it a chance.
It has been six months since Malene moved to Mo i Rana, and how is she doing?
Malene expresses her enthusiasm for the locals, stating that they are just as friendly and accepting as she had heard. "The myth is true," she exclaims.
Malene has formed several good friendships with her colleagues since arriving and is enjoying her time here. While she hasn't fully decided on store ownership, she is considering staying. She wants to ensure she makes the right decision before committing fully. “I'm happy so far, but the decision of ownership is important, so I want to be absolutely sure before I go all in. For example, both polar nights and midnight sun are very unfamiliar to me.”
“A fulfilling day involves bringing positive change to people's lives through effective problem-solving. I recall assisting a customer who was struggling with the use of her computer monitors and felt that her current screen glasses were not suitable for her needs. To address this, I accompanied her to her office and worked with her to create customized progressive screen glasses that precisely met her requirements. The end result was a significant improvement in her vision and overall well-being.”
“Another time a trombone player needed glasses to see both the sheet music and the conductor. I used to play in a company myself, so I knew that trombone players usually sit in the back, far away from the conductor. With this knowledge, it was easy for me to find the correct glasses for his needs.”
"I've learned a lot," Malene responds promptly. "I've been pleasantly surprised by how exciting and engaging this industry can be. I've gained more confidence in my role through numerous training courses focusing on professional skills. Knowing where to find answers when I don't know something has given me a sense of security. If I were to offer advice, it would be to take as many training courses as possible because building professional competence strengthens your job satisfaction." Adding that she likes boasting to her friends about the great work environment and the attention she gets from Specsavers centrally.
“My mother inspires me,” Malene answers. “She was a single mother to me and my sister and raised us to be independent individuals. We've learned the importance of not giving up when faced with obstacles. I think it's a good quality to possess life.”
“I can squint with one eye on command,” Malene laughs.