October 28, 2019

My career: From start to Finnish

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John Cozzi
Wales, senior communications manager

According to John, the reason he ended up in Finland is three-fold: love, sub-prime mortgages and pipes. Back in 2008, he was part-way through a plumbing apprenticeship in South Wales, the UK. He found himself in Barcelona in May, attending the bachelor party of one of his school friends. It was here that he met his wife, a Finn from the city of Seinäjoki. A couple of years passed, and the 2008 financial crash meant he was out of a job. They decided he’d come to Finland for a year to give it a try. He’s still here 10 years and a couple of changes of profession later.

What I find surprising about working in Finland is… the dichotomy between equality and hierarchy. Finns are well known for a classless society and letting everyone’s voice be heard, but at the same time business relationships tend to be quite formalised and traditional in some cases.

People have a tendency to stay within the well-defined confines of their own job roles and not want to step on the toes of others. Yes, you may sit in the sauna next to the boss, but you can’t walk up to him and tell him what’s bothering you!

If I could change one thing about Finnish working life it would be… the realisation that experiences and qualifications do not define the potential of a candidate. The bias for playing it safe means companies want to hire employees who can seamlessly slot into their organisation. This, however, doesn’t take into account the potential a person has to grow into a role – and to deal with change when it inevitably comes.

How I got my current job is… a series of fortunate events. A good friend of mine contacted me one day and asked me if I would be interested in providing live reporting for the 2015 Nordic Business Forum conference, as she would be travelling for business at that time. I applied, was accepted, and was able to add a well-known name to my CV.

I was studying in 2016 and had founded a small communications agency at the time. It looked like my wife was going to change careers, so I ended up applying for full-time jobs at communications agencies based in Helsinki. The Nordic Business Forum opened a few doors, and eventually I found a great home at my current place of work.

The piece of advice I would give to someone contemplating coming to work in Finland is… to have an objective that isn’t a sideways move – and to stick with it. Some people are lucky enough to move to Finland as an employer is keen on adding them to their team. If this isn’t the case, try to think about where you want to be five years from now

Every move you make should get you closer in some way to that goal – whether through acquiring new skills, making connections, finding a home with a solid career path or whatever it may be. People who come here just looking for any job they can do until they find their feet tend to become disillusioned the fastest, as they don’t make forward progress. Think long-term and start your journey!

What is good to know when doing business with Finnish companies is… their bullshit meters are astonishingly strong. Avoid jargon, sales techniques, false promises, over-promising, anything disingenuous. This is a cautious, delicate dance. Behave in an authentic way, approach your relationship as one where you look to support their business – you are not trying to upsell your services. Be five minutes early, stick to deadlines and calendar invites, always agree on next steps, and you’ll be fine!

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