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unipoli tampere: working: working in finland

WORKING IN FINLAND

Entry level jobs vs. expert jobs – the Finnish way of building a career
Build professional networks – start immediately!
Networks and references
Do I really need to learn Finnish? How? Where?

 

Entry level jobs vs. expert jobs – the Finnish way of building a career

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.

Build professional networks – start immediately!

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:

  • Your professors, researchers and other university staff
  • Fellow students – also from other fields of study!
  • Student/professional/scientific organizations and happenings
  • Social media: LinkedIn profiles and groups, Facebook, CV databases, academic mailing lists ect.
  • Working in Finland lectures, workshops, events and Mentoring Programme
  • Local recruitment fairs: Yrityspäivät, Rekrytori, RecruIT etc.
  • Your possible part-time/summer job colleagues and superiors
  • Other Finns and foreigners you know – you never know who knows somebody!
  • Volunteer work, organizations ect. – also valuable experience and contacs!

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.

Networks and references

Countries often have their own cultural conventions of using personal connections and references to find a job. In Finland, you should know that:

  • Laws and regulations: The rules and laws against corruption and bribery are very strict. Even if your contact person might wish to recruit you, he/she may not be able to because of this. Do not insist. Read also the Rights & duties.
  • You need to win the job yourself. Your contact person may be able to recommend you and even organize an interview for you. But you need to convince the employer that you would be the best for the job.
  • Networks: They help you find out about unlisted positions and useful contacts. When looking for a job, tell everyone you know that you are looking for work, explain briefly what you are looking for, and ask them to kindly inform you if they hear about any job opportunities. But do not expect them to find the job for you.
  • Former boss and colleagues: Sometimes your former boss or colleague might be able to help. When leaving one job, always ask whether you could mention the former boss as a reference when applying for the next position. If you have done your job well, he/she should gladly agree to do that. But please note that if you apply for a very different kind of job, he/she may tell you that they do not know your competencies for that particular position well enough to recommend you. They may still be willing to give a character reference.
  • Other possible references: Think about others who could give you a reference: they should not be related to you (unless you have worked in a family company), they should be a in higher/senior position compared to you, and they should know you well enough to be able to assess you professionally. You can ask your professor, a researcher who you have worked with, a lecturer who knows you well, the leader of your student or hobby organization, some other professional in your network, etc. At least ask a respectable friend or neighbour to give a character reference, that is better than no reference at all.

Do I really need to learn Finnish? How? Where?

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.

 

 
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