In this blog post, we talk about job hunting in Finland and the importance of networks. We also talk about what those networks actually do. And we give you a few tips on how to start building networks in Finland.
Importance of networks in job hunting in Finland
It’s a well-known fact that in Finland networks play an important role in finding a job. A 2017 survey by Sitra revealed that only about 30 % of applicants found their current job by applying for an open position. Almost all the rest had ended up in a job that had never been officially open. How did that happen?
It is clear that in job hunting in Finland networks play a role. Almost 25 % of respondents in the same survey said that they themselves approached their current employer. The same proportion said that their current employer approached them.
In the first scenario, the person must have had an idea that it was worth approaching the company and ask if there were any suitable positions available. In the second, the employer must have learned about the employee from somebody. This is the type of information that gets passed around in networks.
So, having networks means that you get information about employers that are open to hiring new people. Employers, in turn, hear about suitable candidates.
Personal networks form throughout the years of growing up, going to school, and interacting with others in the same area. So, how can a person that hasn’t had these years of unconscious networking gain such networks in a new environment?
We’ll talk about that in this blog. We’ll also talk about what kind of networks help you find a job since not all networks created are equal.
Let’s start by looking at a recently published article about the strategies some international students used to find a job in Finland after their graduation.
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International students and their experiences
In a recent study, Rolle Alho of the University of Helsinki studied the experiences of 31 international students when they were job hunting in Finland after graduation. He identified successful job search strategies the students had used to land a job. The results of the study came out last week.
Alho´s interviewees came from different countries and studied different fields. They were all highly educated with either BA or MA degrees or were just about to graduate with their degrees.
Alho wanted to study out how the students found out about job opportunities in Finland, what role their different social networks played in their job search, how they overcame the challenges they faced (such as discrimination), and what was their experience of support given to them by their universities and Finnish unemployment services.
Students job hunting in Finland: their networks
Alho’s study confirmed the importance of networks in the job search strategies of these international students. Only 6 of his 31 interviewees had found their current job by applying for an advertised job. And even in these 6 cases, some had had prior connections with the employer for example through an internship.
Studies from other countries have indicated that ties to immigrants of one’s own nationality are important in finding a job in the new country. This wasn’t true for the international students. For them, ties to the majority population were crucial for finding employment.
Alho thinks that this might be because Finland is a relatively new country of immigration. In Finland, the immigrant communities are still quite small and often fragmented. Thus, having ties to one’s ethnic/national group doesn’t necessarily mean having networks that would help with finding employment in Finland.
The students in Alho’s study had formed important networks to the majority population by volunteering for NGOs and other associations, attending networking events, and meeting people in hobbies. They had also been able to create networks through traineeships and internships while still at the university.
Alho didn’t go into that much detail concerning what having those social networks means in practice. For that, we need to turn to studies focusing on Finnish-born students.
What role do those networks have in job hunting?
There are a number of theses that have focused on the importance of networking for graduating university students. These theses help us understand what it is that networks actually do and where you can form them.
Marjo-Riitta Poutiainen looked at networking as a gateway for employment specifically among social science graduates in her thesis from 2011.
In her study, students benefitted from networks they had built in volunteer work or in hobbies. A job ad had circulated in mailing lists associated with those activities. Someone they know had recommended a position or an employer to them. Some had even been asked to start working for a particular company by someone they knew.
She found that even in cases where students hadn’t found available job openings through networks, having networks had helped them in the recruitment process. Some, for example, found out that they knew the interviewer or someone else involved in the process.
What Poutiainen emphasizes is the role of these networks in transmitting information. This can mean transmitting information about open positions to possible candidates. But these networks also transmit information about suitable candidates to recruiters and companies. Having someone vouch for you as an employee is important.
Networks can also have value in other ways. Employers can also value your networks for themselves.
Poutiainen also emphasizes that based on her analysis most of the students had benefited especially from so-called weak social ties. These are social ties with acquaintances, people you see less often, and are less close with. That’s because new and interesting information moves through these networks rather than between family members and close friends with whom you have strong social ties.
Her finding was aligned with previous research elsewhere in the world. Alho’s study also confirmed this. So, how to build these weak social ties?
Building networks in Finland
So, hunting for a job in Finland requires networks. There are a lot of blogs and LinkedIn posts about networking in Finland. Those blogs and posts are most often directed at people who have been born here. As such, they focus on professional network building but don’t address the larger issue of starting from scratch.
In addition, Finns have a reputation for being hard to approach and to make friends with. I think it’s true that we are not very open to communicating and interacting with people we don’t know. So, how do we even meet anybody new?
Building social networks in Finland
We do what the international students in Alho’s study did. We meet new people by volunteering for NGOs and associations. Finland is the promised land for all kinds of associations. No matter what your passion or interest is, there’s most likely an association for it in Finland.
What is it that you are passionate about? What interests you? Google if there is an association for that in Finland. If the association seems to only function in Finnish, don’t be intimidated by that. Contact the activists and see if it is possible for you to join their activities regardless.
We also met people through hobbies. We have written before about Finnish adult education centers which offer classes in all kinds of activities. They are a fantastic way to learn new things and meet a variety of people. Adult education center classes gather together people from all age groups and from all walks of life.
Those of us who have children, also meet people and create networks through them. In our blog post directed to expat spouses, we gave links to some groups that are out there for parents of younger children.
Parents with daycare and school-aged children can get active in parent councils. If you spend a lot of time standing next to a football field, start talking to other parents. Sports associations also depend on parents volunteering.
This type of networking obviously takes time and is naturally less goal-oriented as it is quite random. Building professional networks isn’t.
Building professional networks
Anna Pihkala from the Humak University of Applied Sciences and the now-finished Baana project (www.baanalla.fi) says that professional networking starts with identifying one’s competences and learning to speak about them to that potential network. This might be difficult if you are not very familiar with Finnish companies or Finnish working life in general. For this purpose, the Baana project produced competence cards. Those can be used to identify one’s skills and competencies.
We’ve already mentioned how important LinkedIn is Finland. Build a presence there. If you know the industry or the company you would like to work in or for here in Finland, start sending connection requests.
Don’t send the request without a message. Introduce yourself and explain why you would like to make the connection. Saying that you think that person is someone who’s really experienced and someone you can learn from is a nice way to start a professional connection.
Follow people on LinkedIn. Through them and through your connections, you’ll find out about events you can attend and start meeting people in person.
Most events are now online. This has changed networking, but there are benefits to this as well. For example, there’s now an abundance of free events to take part in. Take advantage of these opportunities and participate, contribute to conversations. Make a note of who else is attending and send LinkedIn connection requests to the organizers and to the other participants. Don’t forget to mention the reason for the connection request.
Remember to also think about what it is that you can give to others. What skills, knowledge, and expertise do you have that could be useful to your contacts? Think about how you can be helpful. The key ingredients of social networking are trust and reciprocity.
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