Persistence, hard work, and being proactive was the thing that led me to getting my first few job opportunities in Finland, says LUT graduate and Fulbright Alumni Erica Martin. She was interviewed by EK’s American trainee Anna Bogdan as part of our #STAYinFinland campaign.
Erica Martin, a recent graduate from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), moved to Finland from the United States in 2019 on a Fulbright Graduate Award to complete the Master’s Program in International Marketing Management. Having completed her thesis, which examined how Chambers of Commerce in Finland can use social media marketing to promote their services, she was employed as a Marketing Trainee at Airbus Defence and Space Oy.
It’s all about networking
“As an international talent, you come here knowing no one – you’re starting from zero. This makes it very difficult, in two years’ time, to make all of the connections that your local peers get just from growing up here”.
Martin’s first position in Finland was one she found in the hidden job market. While attending a company visit hosted by LUT, she was able to stand out by identifying the company’s interest in expanding to the United States and presenting her experience with sales and marketing there.
After taking time to complete her degree, Martin re-joined the job market to search for opportunities that would allow her to continue living and working in Finland after graduation.
“I applied for so many different opportunities. It was a very competitive job market, and especially with Covid, I felt there were fewer opportunities. I’m also competing with Finnish students, who are fluent in Finnish, so even if the company only has a few Finnish companies or customers that they’re marketing to, they still have a leg up over me, who only speaks Finnish to a basic/intermediate level.”
Martin had heard of the biannual Airbus traineeship program and knew that, considering it is a multinational company operating in Finland, international students were likely welcome.
“There were many people applying to entry-level positions, and everyone wanted to stand out.”
“Persistence, hard work, and being proactive was the thing that led me to getting my first few job opportunities in Finland”. One way Martin did stand out was by going out of her way to meet representatives face-to-face. When she heard of a lecture in which an Airbus representative was presenting, Martin jumped at the opportunity, even though she wasn’t in the class.
Alumni connections count
Having met LUT alumni, Martin notes how eager they were to help current students, and how these alumni provide a perfect network to get to know professionals in Finland, and to learn of new opportunities. ”By enhancing alumni networking, universities could help international students expand their networks and learn of new opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Martin’s colleagues at Airbus Defence and Space Oy have been welcoming from the start, and ready to include her in their responsibilities. As a multinational company, it is no stranger to international trainees or English at the workplace.
While Martin noted the challenges of starting a new position remotely, such as missing out by not being physically present, she has found that chatting with her coworkers a few minutes before meetings is a highlight, and a quirk.
“As long as my Finnish colleagues don’t have a previous meeting, they’re always there a few minutes before,” says Martin, attributing this to Finland’s famous punctuality, “It’s always nice to get a few minutes of chit chat.” This habit and organized coffee chats give her the opportunity to practice some Finnish and make remote working a bit easier.
“Although I see that it would probably be easier for me to go back to the US and find a job opportunity, I’m willing to take this additional challenge and try to make it here.”
Martin’s advice for jobseekers and newcomers:
- Join affinity groups, associations and networks hosted by universities or professional organizations, such as the Erasmus Student Network or the International Working Women of Finland. They not only share advice and opportunities, but also provide support by connecting people.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your new workplace. Do turn to those colleagues, too, whom you’ve never seen face-to-face!
- If you find yourself working alone all day, ask your colleagues to join their meetings to have some more interactions and opportunities to learn during the day.
- For those studying Finnish, try to use Finnish in simple everyday interactions such as before meetings and during coffee breaks.
The interview was made by our American university trainee Anna Bogdan as part of our #STAYinFinland campaign.