A happy end to the struggles of searching for a job in Finland

I don’t know about you, but ever since I finished high school, I worked alongside university. Time management has never been a problem for me, or I was just really lucky to always have very tolerant and understanding employers 🙂

Anyway, when I arrived to Finland and started studying at Hanken, that was the first time of me being a university student and not having a job, something which I did not particularly enjoy and wanted to change. And so, the months of unsuccessful and stressful job search started. When I first moved here, I was definitely not expecting that it would take me about 8 long months to find a job – but why am I saying this? Not to discourage you, but to give you an insight into what is the reality really like and that there’s hope for us all in the end!

Don’t get me wrong – Finland is a welcoming country for foreigners, it really is, and I love it with every piece of my heart, yet, the stressful time of job searching definitely made me curse Finland in its entirety many times. There are jobs available, everywhere – and yet, sometimes it seemed that I was lucky enough when I at least received an automated rejection email (trust me, this is hard to admit!). Amount of work experience wasn’t a problem – I’ve had plenty – the issue was in something else that most foreigners end up facing when looking for a job in Finland – the language.

I’ve been studying Finnish since I’ve arrived in Finland, which has now been over a year – and I’m at a solid B1 level, I’d say. So yeah, solid for ordering food at a restaurant and exchanging a couple of words with my neighbor, but hardly fluent enough to meet requirements of companies, who sometimes phrase their language requirements in a way that it’s clear that the only person they will consider is a native Finn. Sure there are jobs with no Finnish language requirement, but I can’t count the times when I applied for a job, went through an interview process, only to be emailed in the last round of applications a version of “sorry, but eventually we have chosen to select a candidate who speaks Finnish, as that just makes everything easier for us”. Easier. What a nice thing to say and to make me feel totally useless!

Anyway – Finnish companies have their right to require a knowledge of Finnish, it’s obviously necessary in certain industries. Yet, it just seems that some companies are simply lazy. Why would you say that your company language is English only to refuse an applicant without a fluent level of Finnish? That’s something I still don’t get. Thankfully, the culture is changing – but it still needs a little help and a little time. And what it needs the most is the voice of those who care about this issue – be it international job searchers or Finnish employers with a conscience. They’re out there and I was lucky enough to find them.

After months of search and frustration, I got lucky. Lucky enough to find an internship in an area that I am very passionate about. I wish I could give you a recipe that’s proven to work. However, in this case, it was really just my LinkedIn search and connecting with people, trying to build a network, finally paid off – and it’s definitely a channel I’d recommend for your job search in Finland. I was at the right place at the right time and got accepted into a growth hacking internship on the day I applied. The person who hired me is the first person in Finland who actually gave me a chance – and I know they know how much I appreciate that. Long story short, after a couple of months of this internship, I got offered a full-time position at a befriended company, which I’m now working at and I’m happier than ever.

So, a couple of tips from me:

  • Don’t let a job ad written in English fool you. Check carefully, there’s probably a little blurb about speaking Finnish written at the bottom.
  • It’s usually either really big companies or really small companies and start-ups that are operating in English and they welcome foreign talent.
  • Just because a company claims it is international, doesn’t mean it is and they’re willing to accept foreign job seekers. Do your research!
  • Reach out to companies you’re interested in! Most jobs are never advertised, so why not ask for one yourself?
  • Accept that there’s some roles that are simply impossible to tackle without the local language – face-to-face customer service in certain areas is unfortunately out of the question.
  • Challenge people. If you’re really interested in a job and the language requirement seems excessive, ask! Some people learn and realize that it’s unnecessary.
  • Don’t give up. You’re going to find a job. Or a job is going to find you!

I hope this was more of an encouraging rather than discouraging read! If you have any questions about job searching in Finland, I can try giving you advise based on my own experience, so don’t hesitate to reach out to me at barbora.stuchla@student.hanken.fi. And remember – be persistent and patient. It’s going to pay off.