Metropolia University of Applied Sciences has offered to immigrants with a higher educational background since 2021. This programme aims to strengthen immigrants’ employment in their own field in Finland.
As Business Coordinator in the Career Boostme, I have noticed that polishing job application papers and sparring job search skills are of primary importance in terms of employment. The job seeker’s own activity also plays a very crucial role.
During the meetings with people studying through Career Boost programme, I’ve heard many stories of despair when job applications go unanswered or when more than a hundred applications have already been sent, but there are no invitations to interviews. One sentence becomes all too familiar to many: “Unfortunately, this time the choice was not directed at you.”
Looking at the statistics, it is clear, that the employment situation of people with an immigrant background has improved significantly over the past couple of decades. In 2000, the unemployment rate of immigrants was up to 31%, while in 2019 it was 18% (1.). The number is still too high, but the trend is going in the right direction.
At SIMHE-Metropolia, we have been extremely happy every time a person with an immigrant background has been employed or found an internship. We know how difficult it can be to find a job. Learning from success is important, and maintaining hope is at least as important. That is why I want to share Sufi’s, one of our Career Boost participant’s, experiences of job hunting in Finland. I hope this story encourages other job seekers to continue pursuing their dreams in Finland.
Let’s talk about Finnish language
Sufi moved to Finland two years ago. He started supplementary training at Metropolia UAS programme’s Business Accounting line and started active job search while participating in the programme. When asked what kind of difficulties he faced in his job search in Finland, Sufi immediately mentions language skills: “The main obstacle to me, which was the main cause for several No answers, was the language barrier.” (2a)
Riina Kangasniemi’s Master’s thesis Challenges and support of immigrants’ employment in Finland – Experiences of counselors and highly educated immigrants (3a), published in autumn 2022, sums it up clearly: the language skills are the most important factors in the employment of immigrants. Highly educated immigrants faced requirements of excellent Finnish language skills in the workplace which formed an obstacle for employment. This finding is supported by the observation that the Swedish-speaking recruitment professional, Sofia Pohls made in 2022 when examining 400 job advertisements: 366 of them required fluent Finnish language skills. (4.)
At SIMHE, we hear a lot about the importance of language skills. Language issues are also on the list of standard topics when I meet company representatives and employers. To summarize the discussions: as long as Finnish working life is dominated by Finnish, the importance of language skills will be emphasized. Especially if the working language in one’s field is Finnish, then knowing some Finnish is an essential skill.
There are various language courses offered on different levels which you can practice on your own, if there are no Finns in one’s own networks. For example, for parents who are at home with their children, meeting new people can be very difficult in practice. The Finnishcourses.fi website (5.) has gathered all Finnish courses in one place, where you can easily find the right courses by selecting the level and city. And if you need tips for networking, please check our Career Coach’s blog The Art of Networking – Where to start if you don’t know anyone in Finland (6.).
The crucial points in job search
Sufi has gone through the process and knows what worked for him. He listed the most important tips (2b):
- Put an effort to improving your Finnish language skills, it will pay off.
- Create a professional CV.
- Be open to new(For how to find hidden jobs, read our blog: Playing hide and seek with hidden job markets )(7)
- Even though your intentions and attempts are the most important part,
The just-published Kangasniemi’s Master’s thesis (3b) also confirms Sufi’s observations to be correct. The items listed below were seen to contribute to getting a job:
- The job seeker’s job searching skills; i.e. CV and own activity
- capital; i.e. knowledge and language skills
- integration into society
In addition to the job seeker’s skills, the thesis (3c) distinguished two other main categories of factors in promoting employment:
- The labor market and the employers. Among other things, the attitudes of employers and the opportunities they offer were mentioned regarding the labor market.
- Societal factors. The various services offered to immigrants, on the other hand, were raised as important in societal factors.
When society is changing too slowly, one can influence one’s own opportunities in the job search, for example, in the ways Sufi mentioned.
Finding the support available
It is difficult to influence employers’ attitudes and societal development quickly, but there are plenty of different services aimed at immigrants. And since the challenges of employment of immigrants have been identified at the Ministerial level in Finland, there will be new projects and openings in the future as well. For example, the me is running at Metropolia UAS until June , and new programmes are constantly being developed. It is therefore worth actively monitoring the services and participating in them as much as possible.
Services supporting employment such as (10.) are real opportunities for the unemployed. The job seeker can inform recruiters about these possibilities, since according to my experience, not every recruiter is aware of them.
Active use of the services available can provide just the right amount of support. Sufi felt that he got support from Career Boost: “Clearly, I got a lot of help. Thanks to my Career Coach, I made a professional CV, and feeling supported meant a lot and prevented me from feeling lonely.” (2c)
Difficulties in job search might build up negative feelings which is challenge many job seeker face. In addition to this many face the same feelings and hardships alone. Getting to know other people in the same situation while attending services can provide support when one can no longer believe in the process. “Honestly, I was frustrated and disappointed, but these days, I feel more comfortable. I know it’s just the beginning, and I must keep developing myself with an emphasis on Finnish language to get my targeted job as a Specialist.”(2d)
After a couple of months active job searching Sufi’s hard work finally paid off and he found a job. “I finally got a contract for an English position. But I will never give up on improving my Finnish skill, at least for the next ten years.”(2e)
Be the change you want to see
A lot still needs to be done in Finnish society, working life and organizational cultures in order to improve the employment of immigrants. The process requires as diligent and multi-level work as improving the equality of women in working life, which is also still in progress. WNow many women are in leading positions, just look at our Prime Minister Sanna Marin. As the Finnish work culture becomes more diverse, immigrants and their offspring will also get into important positions and perhaps new solutions will be found for language skills requirements, for example.
Change requires political will, the awakening and opening up of the state, municipalities and employers, as well as the resilience of individuals. Fortunately, the change has already been awakened in many places and more research information is also available. “Keep calm and search for job while practicing Finnish”, as one famous quote could say.
- EK (2021). Tilastoja maahanmuuttajien työllisyydestä. https://ek.fi/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/20211017-tilastoja-maahanmuuttajien-tyollisyydesta.pdf
- (2022). Participant in the Career Boost programme at Metropolia UAS. Interview.
- Kangasniemi, R. (2022). Maahanmuuttajien työllistymisen haasteet ja tuki Suomessa – Ohjaajien ja korkeasti koulutettujen maahanmuuttajien kokemuksia. Master’s thesis. Jyväskylä University. https://jyx.jyu.fi/bitstream/handle/123456789/81664/1/URN%3ANBN%3Afi%3Ajyu-202206133273.pdf
- Sören, J. (2022) Svårt få job med knaglig finska. Hufvudstadsbladet 23.12.2022. https://www.hbl.fi/artikel/61aabe47-3514-422c-b668-6a512b381fd1
- Finnish courses (2023). https://finnishcourses.fi/
- Hoppania, R. (2022). The Art of Networking – where to start if you don´t know anyone in Finland? Blog post. https://blogit.metropolia.fi/variousvariables/2022/08/25/the-art-of-networking-where-to-start-if-you-dont-know-anyone-in-finland/
- Luoma, T. & Vaittinen, J. (2023). Playing hide and seek with hidden job markets. Blog post. https://blogit.metropolia.fi/variousvariables/2023/01/25/playing-hide-and-seek-with-hidden-job-markets/
- Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in Finland 2022 Pay subsidy is granted for employing unemployed persons. Webpage. https://tem.fi/en/pay-subsidy
- Oppisopimus. Webpage. https://oppisopimus.fi/en/student/apprenticeship-training/
- TE-palvelut 2022. Work try-out practices and provisions. Webpage. https://toimistot.te-palvelut.fi/en/work-try-out-practices-and-provisions
Maria Osamitsu works as a Business Coordinator at SIMHE (Supporting Immigrants in Higher Education in Finland) services and Project Manager at AMKosaaja project. Her aim is to smooth the path for international talents to Finnish labor markets by creating relevant networks and strengthening customers’ job searching skills.