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‘Russ’ period can build careers

For ambitious young Norwegians, their time as overall-clad, graduating russ can be much more than just a time to party with abandon. Many who take time to help organize all the merry-making have used it to further their careers.

Russ strolling in front of Oslo's City Hall. PHOTO: Views and News

Norway’s annual “russ” season, when graduating high school students run around in red or blue overalls and celebrate, is winding down with the approach of Constitution Day on the 17th of May. Many Norwegians are heaving a sigh of relief — their neighborhoods will soon no longer be subjected to throbbing stereo systems on the so-called russebuss that the teenagers drive around town. And many of the russ themselves may be tiring of the pressure to party.

Newspaper Aftenposten, however, reports that time spent as a “russ” (russetid) may indeed be time well spent. Those who serve on committees, and who represent the russ in their local communities, have been known to go on to bigger and better things.

Per-Kristian Foss, for example, was russ president in 1969. He was already politically active, went on to lead Norway’s Conservative Party, has served many years in Parliament and is a former Finance Minister.

Thorvald Stoltenberg, father of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, was also a russ president and went on to be a diplomat, Norwegian Foreign Minister and top official of the Labour Party.

Mari Maurstad was on the board of the national russ organization in 1976 and later became a successful actress in Norway. 

‘Prestigious position’
“A spot as a russ leader is a prestigious position,” Allen Sande, a lecturer at the College of Bodø told Aftenposten. “It’s not so unusual that former russ bosses today are top politicians, celebrities or business leaders.”

Sande is the only person in Norway who has written a doctoral dissertation on the russ. He claims the russ period of one’s life is one of the first real power arenas encountered during the transition from teenager to adult. And it can boost career possibilities.

“Those who move to the top of the russ organizations and understand the russ period are those who have power over the definition of the russ and decide how traditions shall be carried out,” he told Aftenposten. “They’ll probably also have power and define trends later in life as well.”

While many still associate russ with drunkenness, noise and irresponsibility, Per-Inge Hjertaker of the business recruitment firm Headvisor says he likes seeing russ administrative posts on the resumés of his job candidates. 

“Through such posts, you can learn leadership, how to take responsibility for others and deliver results,” Hjertaker said.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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