My career: From start to Finnish
Svetlana Piirto, Latvia
Customer experience operations specialist
The reason Svetlana ended up in Finland was work. In Latvia, she worked for a company providing project management support services to Finland. She was offered a 12-month on-site assignment as a project management specialist and process consultant in Helsinki. The contract was extended, and then she met her Finnish husband. As a result, she stayed here permanently. Now Finland feels like a second home where her family lives. She has been living and working here in different companies for eight years and is “loving it so far”.
How Svetlana got her current job is she wanted to work for a particular company ever since she started using their product. She knew clearly the environment and sector she wanted to work in and sent five open applications to different contact persons at the company. Her friends told her that Finns do not act like this, that she was being way too persistent, and she answered: “That’s okay, I’m not Finnish”. She recalls that she did not give up until there was a position suitable for her. Svetlana accepted a temporary contract at first just to have the opportunity to prove herself. Now she has a permanent job. Her conclusion: “take your chances and never give up!”
When asked for the Finnish word that best describes working here she says ‘vuoristorata’, a roller coaster. “There will be ups and downs, but it will be exciting.”
1. What I find surprising about working in Finland… is the summer holiday culture when it feels like the whole of Finland is on holiday in July and the work stops and festival season starts. I love the idea of a long, uninterrupted holiday and how it is respected by companies. I like how Finns value family time and honour work-life balance. Another thing that I admire is that people have a choice how to come to work – some choose a bicycle over a car no matter the weather. It is a true cycling country.
2. My favourite thing about Finland is… the purity of water. It is such a luxury! My family from Latvia always say how tasty water we have when they visit here. I also like the wildness of nature, good social security and the honesty of Finnish people. I also fell in love forever with karjalanpiirakka (Finnish rice pie) after trying it for the first time.
3. The piece of advice I would give to someone contemplating coming to work in Finland is… use your network. If you do not have one, start building. Go to social events, e.g. expat events and company events, join different communities, attend trade shows. Invest time in learning the language and decide for yourself what you want in the long term. Do a lot of research beforehand, get to know the culture. The job search is never an easy process even for native people. It will not be a smooth journey, and you must be prepared for some disappointments. It is all about how far you are ready to go to pursue your dream career. As a side note: be prepared for the darkness and D vitamin supplementation all year long.
4. The best way to enjoy the weekend after a working week is… very individual. Speaking for myself, it is a gym workout and sauna… This is both my hobby and way to relax. I’m a personal trainer and nutrition coach in addition to my office job, so I cannot imagine my life without training. Gym time is my “me-time” and, of course, time with my family is another way for me to recharge myself for the week ahead. I’m very happy to see how active people are in Finland and how early kids start their sports hobbies.
5. My initial expectations of Finland were… “I will be freezing here”. In reality, it is not that bad, and in comparison to Latvian weather it is just a few degrees’ difference. What I was not prepared for is the darkness and winter lasting until May. I learned to live with it, but I honestly miss the sunshine. Also, I had that stereotype that Finns are very reserved people and not easy to contact. However, experience shows that they have a great sense of humour, they are very helpful, polite and supportive – just give them some time to get to know you better!
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