Contrary to some other countries, Finnish youth usually start working part-time or during summers already at the age of 15-18. Regardless of the wealth of their family, most Finnish students work in one way or another alongside their studies, also in positions that are not related to their field of study (cleaners, cashiers, ect.). Finnish employers have even grown accustomed to expecting that graduates already have some relevant work experience.
This may put international students into a difficult position: How to find a job without previous work experience in Finland? Many degree students already have a degree prior to their stay in Finland and years of experience of working in their home country. Yet there may be only entry-level jobs (cleaning, waitering, newspaper delivery) available for them.
If this is the case, remember that in Finland any work experience is good experience! You should be open-minded and lower your expectations a bit. If you need money and/or wish to find a job in Finland once you have graduated, do not hesitate to take an entry-level job first, even if you would not do that in your home country. It will serve as a stepping-stone to more demanding positions.
Once you can show in your CV that you already have Finnish work experience, employers will be more willing to consider recruiting you to more challenging positions. Learning the Finnish language also helps enormously.
In addition, keep in mind that nowadays fixed-term contracts and internships are much more common than before, and more often than not the only option for recent graduates. In the eyes of employers, you are not an expert only because you have earned a degree. You also need to build relevant experience in the field. You should not expect to land a management position right away (even if you did study management) - set your sights on a long-term career goal and work towards it step by step.
In Finnish working life it is common that not all open positions are publicly advertised. Quite often employers just keep their eyes open until they find “the right person” and then recruit them. They also like to recruit new hires through referrals and personal contacts (interns, project partners ect.). It is very important to start building your professional network already when you are a student:
Be active and grab every opportunity!
Often there are some small projects going on in the universities and organizations, or some researcher may need an assistant for a few hours every now and then. Even if these do not pay much (if at all) you should use the opportunity to get to know people. Make sure you will get a certificate of employment once you are done – you can include all these in your CV.
Countries often have their own cultural conventions of using personal connections and references to find a job. In Finland, you should know that:
Based on recent surveys and the experiences of international students, employers and the university staff, knowing Finnish does indeed increase your chances of finding a job in Finland. You do not have to be fluent to start using the language – the best way to learn is to speak some Finnish every single day! Please see the page on Learning Finnish.