Why is belonging so important for us?
We all have the need of belonging to something. The basic need, according to Baumeister and Leary, is, the feeling of doing purposeful things and taking part. Whether it is inside your family, the workplace, or say, the local chess-club, the need to connect is vital. This feeling improves our well-being, and lowers the levels of loneliness and depression. Belongingness can be achieved through what you do, and as an adult, a big part of your everyday life is concerned with your work.
So what would happen, if this sense would be taken away from you unwillingly? Or for example, if you could not work within the field of expertise you have? This is sadly, everyday life among many highly educated immigrants in Finland today. My question is, how can this happen, and how can we prevent this?
Work as a part of one’s well-being
As Burton and Waddell stated, upon discovering your own fields of interests in adulthood, work and your workplace becomes a big part of your everyday life. It is the source of your income, and satisfies many of your psycho social needs. Your own work is central for your identity and enables you to see where you stand in relation to others. Belongingness increases your willingness to work within groups by the group norms and rules. The closer you feel with your working community, the more purposeful you feel, and the more efficient and goal achieving you are.
So we could almost say that work is key for one’s well-being. As I have been arguing, work improves your well-being, work links to belongingness, which on the other hand is an essential need for all humans. So what if the “work-piece” of the bigger puzzle falls apart, what is there left for you, can you feel purposeful at all?
Arriving to a new country, is work the key to belongingness?
As a refugee, you enter a so-called Limbo phase when leaving your home country. This is a very distressing time where your life is in an “in between phase” in the migration process before the asylum decision. You face uncertainty regarding your future, you have abnormal living arrangements and might even have economic challenges and limited access to activities.
How do you achieve a feeling of safeness and belongingness, when your whole life is turbulent, at the same time the country you are in has an unfamiliar culture and language? I myself, as a previous exchange student know how important it is to find at least one stable pillar in your life when everything else is unfamiliar. In my case, my studies kept me going. As a highly educated immigrant, I would assume you would want to work somewhere where you feel you are valued for your own competences.
The importance of pursuing a career in your own field of expertise cannot be stressed enough. As an immigrant, you already have a tenfold risk for developing post traumatic stress disorders and other symptoms of distress and depression. So why would you make the future even more disrupted by not allowing one to work who already possesses a higher education degree?
Thoughts about the future and solutions for this?
For Finland to be a more international country, we need to strive for a more international working force as well. The SIMHE-services have encountered several cases where highly educated immigrants want to continue their own career path, but because of the regulations or not finding a place, they cannot. They are so motivated in maintaining their skills and connect, that some would even work for free. A downgrade from your own field of expertise creates a feeling of self-worthlessness and increases lacks of motivation.
Highly educated immigrants need to be recognized for their skills and degrees they possess. They need, just like anyone else, to feel the sense of belongingness, that they are a part of something. As an intern, and as a social psychology student, I sense that the services that SIMHE provides is of great importance, but could in the future also be done on a bigger scale.
What is there left for us to do? How can we improve our integration of highly educated people in Finland? Did you, while reading this and after reviewing the SIMHE-Metropolia web page, come up with new ideas or questions regarding this topic? Or do you even already have a solution for us? We at SIMHE-Metropolia would like to hear more about your thoughts!
SIMHE Metropolia trainee,
Social psychology student at Svenska Social- och Kommunalhögskolan vid Helsingfors Universitet