Not an easy ride but I stayed

The writer is Lukumanu Iddrisu who lives with his wife and daughter in Vaasa. According to him the best thing about Vaasa is that the city is multicultural and multilingual.

For several decades, Finland has become a home to many immigrants to include international students. I am not an exception. In 2014, I secured a study place at the Vaasa University of Applied Sciences (VAMK) to study degree program in International Business after the second attempt. A decision to study in Finland was born out of what I was heard about the Finnish education system.

Originally from Ghana – a country in the West African subregion with a population of approximately 30 million – my quest for survival began immediately when I arrived in Finland. My usual experience of a crowded setting and a tropical climate was a direct reverse to the sparsely populated, socially distant, cold and snowy Finland.

I experienced a cultural shock immediately when I arrived. The way of doing things was very different from what does in Ghana. Also, the autumn and winter seasons were very challenging at the start since it was my first time experiencing them.

Survival in Finland has been a bane in the lives of many immigrants as many international students in Finland struggle with finding internships and summer jobs relating to their field of study. For this reason, many of them leave the country after graduation. Although my stay in Vaasa have not been on an easy ride, I never left.

Whilst pursuing my bachelor’s degree at VAMK, I got rejections many times from the jobs I applied related to my studies. I started working as a leaflet deliverer. Afterwards, I worked several years as a cleaner for a company that cleaned Wärtsilä’s premises. Whilst cleaning, my goal was to get a job in my field at Wärtsilä. Hence, I took the opportunity to network and build relationships with the employees of Wärtsilä.

After graduation in 2017, I enrolled in an intensive Finnish language integration course to get acquainted with the Finnish language and culture, Finnish working environment as well as increase my chances of employability. Through this course, I realised that the major challenge for me and many international students was understanding the Finnish culture and how to approach. I wish I had known this earlier.

In 2019, I left the cleaning job to work at the VAMK as a Marketing Intern. Thereafter, I worked at the Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce. My time there exposed me to meeting and engaging with industry players such as CEOs, HR directors, and other key decision makers. Through these engagements, I learned the complexities of the Finnish labour market and believed I had found the keys to understanding the Finnish labour market and how to appropriately network.

I began master’s studies at the University of Vaasa in September 2020. In December, I saw that Wärtsilä was looking for a project purchasing trainee. By then I had gathered more experience and built my networks. I applied, and this time, was accepted and officially started in February 2021.

It was an exceptional feeling
when I got a call from the hiring manager
that I have been hired for the position.

I started as an on-call trainee and continued as a summer trainee. Aside my routine tasks, I contributed to the organisation’s strategic initiatives. At the same time, I communicated my insights on the concept Thought Leadership to senior management.

This added to their understanding of the concept. Also, my involvement in these activities was an eye-opener. I was able to meet, learn and network with people from different functions.

My hard work, dedication, and contribution to the company as a summer trainee were recognized. I was nominated by the colleagues for the Summer Employee of the Year award at the National Responsible Summer Job Campaign organized by Oikotie.

With other summer trainee nominees from over 100 organisations in Finland, I emerged the 2021 Summer Employee of the Year award, making me the first-ever Wärtsilä employee to win it.

I’m a staunch advocate
of seeking better opportunities
for foreigners in Finland.

Upon receiving the award, I used the occasion to entreat Finnish companies to start utilizing the knowledge and skills of foreigners in Finland.

We internationals have a lot of value to add to the successes of various industries and contribute to the society. Furthermore, as Finland faces major labour challenges, we foreign graduates are the best resource companies can use to bridge the gap. Moreover, hiring us can lead to a successful multicultural company.

When asked how international students can survive in Finland, I have advised that students should plan their career journey immediately when they start schooling by making a list of companies of their interest (especially those who have room for internationals) and start networking with relevant people. Secondly, I highlighte the power of learning and understanding the Finnish culture which can facilitate effective networking and relationship building. Through networking, internationals can demonstrate their attitude and skills better to potential employers.

Finally, I recommend students and jobseekers to think out of the box to get jobs. Look beyond CV and cover letter as the only source of finding a job. If you want to be a salesperson, you can gather feedback from customers of your company of interest about their products and then analyse it to create a solution for the company. This way, you are validating your value and can easily get a job than applying with a CV and cover.

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