Looking for a job in Finland as an international job seeker can be challenging. Especially if you are highly educated and wish to find a position that matches your education and expertise. To succeed, you need to overcome many obstacles, such as learning the language, building new professional networks and understanding the local work culture. It’s also possible that your foreign qualifications don’t align with the employer’s expectations, and you’ll need to update your skills or, at the very least, learn how to showcase them better.
Metropolia offers personal SIMHE guidance discussions aimed at helping highly educated immigrants to map their competences and identify suitable study and career paths in Finland. As a SIMHE career coach, I get to see only a small part of my coaching clients’ job-seeking process, and rarely hear about their success stories. To uncover the primary factors contributing to successful employment in Finland, I contacted professionals I had a privilege of meeting in my role as a Career Coach. Five professionals, all of whom have secured jobs aligned with their education and expertise, were kindly willing to give their insights and top tips for those currently seeking employment.
Katja works as a Project Coordinator in Finland with a Master’s in cultural services and tourism. She has over 10 years of experience in organizing events of different scales, from small workshops to large cultural festivals and international trade shows and a working proficiency in 4 languages, including Finnish.
Mazen works as Product Engineer in a large Finnish international manufacturing company. He came to Finland to study a Master’s degree after years of various engineering roles in Sana´a, Yemen.
Nadiia works as Researcher and Recruitment Consultant in a Finnish recruiting company. She holds a Master’s in organizational management and has a decade of HR/Admin/Operations experience in international and national organizations.
Clara works as Associate UX (User experience) product designer remotely from Finland. She first came to Finland to work as a business developer at a spin-off start-up in Aalto University but has now changed her career to UX product design. Clara has a background in business and marketing, specializing in consumer psychology and behavioural decision theories.
Carol works as a senior HR Manager at a Finnish MNC, with a Bachelor’s in Journalism, an MBA in Project Management, and over 20 years of expertise spanning media, management consulting, public relations, capability building, and commercial excellence.
Factors that lead to employment
Networking, participation, activity, learning and development
In Finland, many job opportunities are hidden (1,2) and networks play a crucial role in the job search (3). A study by Rolle Alho found that especially contacts with people from the majority population provided valuable information that helped job seekers find work. The information about job opportunities in the ‘hidden’ job market also increased the number of potential job options for job-seekers. (4). Marjo-Riitta Poutiainen, in her thesis, noted that useful information often spreads through networks of acquaintances and less-frequently-seen connections, rather than with close family and friends (5). Keeping this in mind, getting to know new people is important for professional development and acquiring information about the job openings. The professionals interviewed also emphasized the importance of taking an active approach to networking and connecting with other professionals in the field. Particularly, learning and professional development were identified as essential components of networking.
Mazen: “Staying up-to-date with the latest industry changes was essential for my success. I achieved this by participating in various university programs and events, collaborating with the TE office, engaging in self-study, and focusing on personal development. I believe that every program and voluntary effort played a role in my success. These initiatives helped me stay informed, keep pace with industry trends, enhance my communication skills, and I gain a better understanding of Finnish work culture and norms.”
Nadiia: “To succeed, attending special events, workshops, and staying updated on industry trends and the local job market was crucial. Networking, meeting new people, and building valuable connections were also vital. Being proactive, communicative, and open-minded, and sharing knowledge and experiences with others, were important aspects of my journey.”
Katja: “The most significant moment in my job search was when I participated in a Talent Match recruitment event organized by Espoo Talent Hub. It completely transformed my journey. During this event, I had the opportunity to deliver a quick 2-minute pitch, and, thanks to the connections I made that day, I secured an interview and ultimately landed an 8-month full-time job contract. If I could do it all over again, I would prioritize connecting with professionals on LinkedIn and participating in live events, which are more accessible once again.”
Clara: “My second job in Finland was a project coordinator position at a recruiting consultancy company. I wasn’t actively seeking a new role at that time, but I became aware of this opportunity through a friend I had met at a previous company. She recommended me for the position, and after the recruitment process, I secured the job. Working in various fields in Finland has taught me a great deal about Finnish working culture, about the ecosystem of the Finnish startup scene and about managing large global projects. It has also given me a wide network of international professionals in IT and business management sectors.”
Investing in the right kind of job search strategy
There is no one-size-fits-all job search strategy. The most effective approach depends on various factors, including the skills, experience, and the specific position you’re seeking. However, it’s crucial to communicate your skills effectively in a way that captures the employer’s interest (6) and to tailor each application to the particular job you’re interested in. Here are two contrasting approaches to job search strategies, both of which led to success.
Carol “I found that the career advice I received at various talks and programs didn’t quite align my situation as a highly experienced professional with over 20 years in the field. Suggestions like seeking internships or applying for any available position didn’t make sense for me. Instead, I chose to focus on my true passion: exploring the field of HR. I became more selective in my applications, conducting thorough research on each company’s financials and corporate mission. I ensured that each CV and cover letter were tailored to match the specific job requirements by using tools like Jobscan.co. I listed my work experience based on relevance to the role rather than chronologically, to avoid highlighting gaps in my work history. Even when work samples were not requested, I included them. These strategic steps yielded results. Out of nine applications, I received callbacks for interviews from four companies. I also diligently prepared for tests and interviews, which paid off.”
Clara: “When transitioning to a career in UX design and applying for entry-level positions, I received advice to focus solely on the most interesting opportunities and not play a numbers game. But I was a junior designer with zero years of experience, a full-time job seeker and kept getting rejection emails. I ended up applying for around 120 job openings. In retrospect, it turned out to be a significant learning process. Each application provided an opportunity to practice articulating what I could bring to the prospective company. The more I applied and researched companies, their missions, products, and values, the clearer my vision of my dream job became. As a result, out of the 120 places I applied, I had interviews with 16 companies, reached the second round with 7, the third round with 4, and received offers from 2. After this journey, I ended up at the company I wanted to work for the most, and I continue to learn and grow every day in my dream job.”
Overcoming the language barrier
Numerous studies have highlighted the significant role of language skills as a key factor in the employment challenges faced by migrants. For instance, Arajärvi (2009) found that in Finland, the strict language requirements for jobs and the cost of on-the-job training may influence employers’ willingness to hire immigrants (7). Kangasniemi (2022) also pointed out that highly skilled immigrants face challenges due to the demand for excellent Finnish language skills in jobs and the lack of services tailored for them. (8). Among the interviewees, all encountered difficulties in their job searches because of language requirements. Notably, despite intensive Finnish language studies, four out of five interviewees secured positions in companies where English is the working language.
Mazen: “The greatest challenge I faced was the Finnish language barrier. I dedicated a year to studying the Finnish language. At the same time, I took on some temporary jobs while continuing to search for a permanent position in my field. Ultimately, I was hired by a company where the working language is English.”
Carol: “I have always worked in people-oriented roles, but it was really rare to find a job opening in my field that that didn’t require native-level Finnish proficiency. I invested my time in intensive Finnish classes and online courses at Aalto University in my first year in Finland. However, after adjusting my job search strategy, I focused exclusively on roles and companies where English was the working language. I also targeted companies with a sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) agenda to minimize the risk of discrimination.”
Katja: “I relocated to Finland in 2020 amid the pandemic. Events were restricted, and job opportunities in my industry were non-existent. After 3 months of fruitless job searching, I made the decision to use this crisis period to learn the Finnish language. It took me two years to reach B2 level. During my language studies, I diligently applied for all suitable job and internship openings I could find. From my experience I strongly encourage investing time in learning the Finnish language, as it significantly improves your chances of finding a job in Finland.”
Taking care of mental well-being and building support networks
Unemployment, especially when prolonged, can lead to significant emotional stress. Good relationships are particularly important for coping with this stress. Other protective factors include good health, a strong social and economic status, effective life management skills, and nurturing relationships. (9). Several interviewees emphasized the importance of maintaining a sense of hope, confidence, and perseverance in their job search. Giving up was not an option, and good support networks played a crucial role during challenging moments.
Clara: “Job seeking requires you to be resilient and mentally strong. And yet, sometimes rejection emails hit you hard. I managed to establish a support group of friends who were also job searching in the same field. We supported each other, provided feedback on practice interviews and portfolio sites, and shared information about the latest design trends and techniques. I also had a mentor who gave me constructive feedback on interviews and design in general. All of this was immensely helpful during my job search process.”
Carol: “Job searching can be daunting, especially if you’re new to Finland. Begin by networking and becoming part of a community with people who share common interests. This is crucial for your psychological well-being and emotional health. These networks can also offer valuable advice on navigating the job search successfully in this context.”
Mazen: “In essence, I kept applying and never gave up. Not even during the most discouraging times. I maintained my belief that the right opportunity would eventually come my way.”
Best advice for someone who is looking for a job right now
I asked interviewees what advice they would want to share with people who are currently looking for a job in Finland. Here are their answers.
Mazen: “My advice is to start your job search actively. Focus on where to look for jobs and understand the strengths that are most sought after by employers in specific areas. Identifying your weaknesses and actively working to improve them is equally important. Stay informed about the latest developments in your industry. Never underestimate any effort; it can either lead directly to employment or add to your knowledge, open up other opportunities, or expand your network. If you are a student, seek opportunities already while studying! It’s clear to me now that it’s much easier to secure opportunities as a summer employee, thesis worker, or intern while you are still a student.”
Carol: “Find out what you really want to do based on your passion, skills and experience. Then make a detailed but pragmatic plan of how to achieve it. Put in extra effort to make sure you shine above other applicants!”
Clara: “Have the right support system. Develop a cycle of applying, practicing, attending job interviews and getting feedback and you will keep on learning new things through the whole process. For me the momentum of learning something new throughout the job search experience kept me going. What I regret a lot is that during the journey, I forgot to also have fun. If I could go back, I would respect myself more and enjoy my free time more.”
Katja: “Never give up! Utilize all available opportunities, stay proactive, and expand your network. Check the services provided for job seekers by your city, the TE office, and various employment-related organizations. I got lot of help from KOSKE (Competence Center for Highly Educated Immigrants in Espoo). Make a list of recruitment events in your region and actively participate and approach employers with a concise pitch highlighting your professional strengths. Attend networking events organized by your professional communities to make valuable connections. Explore Further Education with Companies (FEC) programs, as they often lead to employment opportunities. Whenever you apply for a job, meticulously tailor your CV and cover letter according to the job description and the company profile.
Nadiia: “Remember it’s worth aiming for a job at your level or even higher. Your attitude is one of the most important things – do not let it kill your dreams. Set up a clear goal and be confident and honest, and accept that you can´t know everything.”
- Sitra (2017). Työelämätutkimus 2017: Somen kautta voi löytää töitä tai tulla löydetyksi https://www.sitra.fi/uutiset/tyoelamatutkimus-2017-yli-puolet-suomalaisista-vahtanut-ammattia-tai-alaa/
- Luoma, T. & Vaittinen, J. (2023). Playing hide and seek with hidden job markets. Blog post. Various variable, Metropolia. https://blogit.metropolia.fi/variousvariables/2023/01/25/playing-hide-and-seek-with-hidden-job-markets/
- Finnwards (2020) Job hunting In Finland: the importance of networks in job hunting in Finland. Blog post. https://www.finnwards.com/working-in-finland/job-hunting-in-finland-the-importance-of-networks/
- Alho, R. (2020). ‘You Need to Know Someone Who Knows Someone’: International Students’ Job Search Experiences: Array. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.v10i2.120817
- Poutiainen M-R, 2011. Verkostot väylänä työelämään. Pro Gradu. University on Helsinki. https://helda.helsinki.fi/server/api/core/bitstreams/f6bd60e1-a159-4abe-b7ad-9e497a947a73/content
- Hoppania, R. (2021) Knowing your skills is crucial for your career ‒ how to get started? Blog post. Various Variables, Metropolia. https://blogit.metropolia.fi/variousvariables/2021/11/15/knowing-your-skills-is-crucial-for-your-career-%e2%80%92-how-to-get-started/
- Arajärvi, P. (2009). Maahanmuuttajien työllistyminen ja kannustinloukut. Sisäministeriö.
- 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
- Kannisto-Karonen, T. 2015. Urana työllistyminen. Väitöskirja. Turun yliopisto, kasvatustieteen laitos. Pysyvä verkko-osoite: https://www.utupub.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/117697/AnnalesC414Kannisto-Karonen-diss.pdf;jsessionid=BA229B323F43F88E00CA0573B2AB63E8?sequence=2
Riia Hoppania works as a Career Coach in Metropolia supporting highly educated immigrants with their employment and study paths in Finland. She has years of experience working in a collaboration project with the employment services supporting job seekers with different backgrounds.