Kolme henkilöä istuu rappusilla läppärin kanssa

A working career outside the university premises

Blog post

This text was first published in Yliote 3/2021, a newsletter for the university sector.

Many of us have an international background. Now settled in Finland, perhaps with studies and research work in our history, a job in Finland is the next step. This happens with increased frequency outside the university and applies to both to those with a master’s and PhD degree. However, this is not always straight forward.

Our experience of work and studies may vary significantly. We are active in different disciplines. All of this affects what kind of jobs and where we can pursue. Colleagues with a background in natural sciences and technology may find it easier to become employed. Also, our geographical location is important. A new job may require relocation to other parts of Finland. At this point some of us ask that if I relocate, should I relocate outside Finland!

Out of habit or comfort, the requirement for Finnish stays. Don’t let that discourage you. Apply for the jobs anyway.

There are a lot of jobs, and the number is increasing day by day. Looking for a job and finding one is still a hard task for anyone, let alone for somebody with a foreign background. There are attitudes and prejudices. We are not always treated as individuals but rather like representatives of countries and cultures. To prove our competence is a challenge. If we cannot overcome this and at least get an invitation to an interview where we can be the individuals that we are. Here I say: Don’t give up! Go for the opportunities that are out there.

I frequently face the question about language skills, especially skills in the Finnish language. Yes, it is an asset to prove at least some knowledge in the Finnish language. In many cases the language skills are not that important for performing the work. But out of habit or comfort, the requirement stays. Don’t let that discourage you. Apply for the jobs anyway. And then ask wouldn’t you qualify as you are. Let your personal presence at the interview make the difference. Finland has its own minority that is in many cases non-Finnish speaking. They speak Swedish and sometimes they face that same situation as far as the Finnish language is required. During the summer I had the privilege of having two young non-Finnish colleagues who made a terrific work (on how international talents in tech can work in Finland) in an organization that until this moment had been solely Finnish speaking. The universities offer training in language skills, in particular Finnish. Join those courses.

The Finnish Väestöliitto is working on recognizing international talent. We need more people in our working life. It’s in the news and that’s what everybody is talking about. But here talk and reality don’t meet, yet.

Although we are not always treated equally because of our international background we must keep trying. Our trade unions offer advice and even career services that have a positive impact on our chances to find a new job and career. We need to create professional networks from the moment we arrive to Finland. The networks must include native Finns to enable understanding the local working culture and society and to root us here.

Activity during our studies and when we are PhD candidates enhance our chances yet a bit more. Meet with fellow students, colleagues, project partners and neighbours. Go for coffee breaks and have lunch together with others, at least occasionally.

Explore all the possibilities to learn Finnish and build your networks. Call us for advice.

Once you get the job outside the university, continue with the advice above. Finnish working life is not harder nor easier than it is in other countries and cultures. But it is different. We greet fellow co-workers on a first name basis, including top management. We are expected to work independently whilst at the same time there is no shame in going to ask for advice and help. We are, on one hand expected to deliver on time and do our part. When we see that isn’t possible, we are on the other hand expected to say it. If coming from a different culture, this may at first seem strange. Still, this is how it is here; Honest and straightforward.

We have, of course our difficulties as well. This is not yet Paradise on Earth. Should things go wrong then we have legislation and processes for that, no matter what our background is. We can also get support and advice from our unions and local union representatives. This is all done on a confidentiality basis.

With a slightly blue tone I have tried to tell you that go for the opportunities here in Finland. We have a country that cares for people and where life is stable. It may be difficult to get started, but after that there are plenty of opportunities. Explore all the possibilities to learn Finnish and build your networks. Call us for advice. And have a good working life in Finland.