Namrata: Battling through Internship, Networking, & Startups
Namrata Sethi from Mumbai
It has been three and a half years since I moved to Finland. I am originally from Mumbai, India, a huge and populated city. Before that, I lived in Australia and the US for some time, and then we moved to Finland.
It was a significant change because Mumbai had no concept of winter. So, moving to a cold country was a big challenge for me. Things like dressing and adjusting to the dark and climate were not easy.
In India, I was working as an entrepreneur. My background in India was designing. I used to design hotels and residences in India. Then I worked for a while in Australia and the US.
Advice and first steps
When I came here, the first thing I wanted was to work. For me, not being able to work was like going crazy. Therefore I went to the Indian embassy to ask for information, and they told me that I must go to an employment office called TE.
I told them about my work experience, and I said that I am keen to work soon. But the first thing TE told me was to fill out a form to KELA. It was very weird for me. I wanted to work immediately and get my life back on track. But they told me to open a bank account for the money they would give me as support. I had no idea that there would be these kinds of social benefit systems as help and support in the integration program. This was very weird to me because I just wanted to work immediately.
Then I started the process of learning the Finnish language. The clerk told me in the TE office; that this is a paper to sign, all in Finnish. And I couldn't sign first if I didn't understand what the documents were...and they told me that I was in the process of learning a language and I could go, for example, to work in a store as a six-month internship work trial learn Finnish as well. It was all a very strange system for me. I wanted to work immediately, and I was telling them all the time that I had much work experience, and I didn't want to work in a store. Why should I have done that if I have skills for a job I already had done work on?
Research about Finland.
Before moving to Finland, I searched, and I couldn't find information about the Finnish system on the internet. I found only some negative things about the dark or cold weather or Finnish people being silent and shy. Therefore, everything I faced here initially, especially in the work office, was surprising and strange.
But later when I came here, I found out it was not totally accurate and even in shops, the workers were very nice to explain to me about food products for example what they were if I asked, and people were helpful and friendly. Also, in my Finnish course, everybody was very skillful and nice, a very good team of teachers we had, and all people were very motivated to work.
Network, Internship, Startup
Then I started to go to events; that way, Finland is very open and good with many networks and events. It was nice to go there and meet many people. Then I found a very good place for my internship in Lafinlandi. So, that was very nice, and that is how I met many people, and I found support and opportunity to find a job afterward. That is how it helped improve and accelerate my skills, and I started working on a startup. I'm already very passionate about entrepreneurship, and I have been an entrepreneur. Indians like it very much, and we always think it is very positive if you do it for yourself.
Here in Finland, there was so much support provided. It got easier after my internship. I got the opportunity to start working on a project to promote entrepreneurship for international talents in the Haaga-Helia-startup school. Then I was thrilled that I finally got to do some work that I like to do.
Work in English
My working language is English, and I didn't need to have a certificate in the Finnish language to work. That was very important and good for me although I finished my Finnish course anyway.
Of course, suppose we live in a country. In that case, I think it is beneficial to know the language of our environment. Still, it is impossible to learn the language quickly when moving to a country.
We foreigners have our skills and experiences of work, and it is right to get involved in working although not knowing the language well yet.
Flexibility in hiring foreigners
Things have changed a lot in Finland anyway. It is still changing its approach towards foreigners who don't know the Finnish language. The system is more flexible in letting the foreigners work without knowing the Finnish language well, depending on what they want. However, I think it has become more manageable now than several years ago.
I like it so much here because it is a balanced, relaxed place at the workplace and we can still have different hobbies. We can meet other people, for example, I like photography, and I have had the time to do it. I also got the chance to meet many people from different organizations.
I had time to explore other skills, and it is excellent, and it is not a fully stressed life like in Mumbai. I have met so many interesting people from different countries. This is such a unique and beautiful experience for me.
Luckan helps foreigners find jobs.
Luckan, they have groups that help in the integration. They help foreigners to find jobs. And I would like to let foreigners know about it, and there the people are so lovely, open and collaborative. One of the best things in Finland is that most of the events are free of charge, and we can participate in many workshops. And this way, I found the best fit for me, and I started to do many things I wanted to do and liked. Here is the link to the project I got involved in working on (promote entrepreneurship in international talent). It took one year and a half for me to find a job in Finland, and it is a full-time job. I must say to foreigners that the network works, and it helps in the journey of finding a job.
Challenges in Finland
The weather was for sure a challenge for me. However, I must say that the weather is not a problem. Still, we must only know how to dress appropriately according to the weather. What type of jacket to have, sort of shoes, hats, etc. I mean to learn to dress suitable to the temperature and weather then for sure it is not a big problem anymore once we know how to dress correctly. It becomes a part of our life, and it is ok then.
For example, going to the forest is so beautiful, berry picking is so lovely and such a beautiful experience and exciting. Walking in the forest, picking blueberries and eating them, or walking on the frozen sea was another beautiful experience.
Work environment and colleges:
My work environment is very encouraging, supportive, and collaborative. They have been very supportive at the workplace, and what I like most is the trust factor. I have much trust in colleagues and the manager. If I need help, I know that I can reach them, and it is easy for me to approach and get help and support. Another wonderful thing is that we can share ideas at work. If I have a particular vision for the project, I can easily talk about it.
Working conditions in pandemic
During the pandemic, it has been supportive. The colleges were so supportive during this pandemic, and I appreciate it. Working from home has become more relaxing; sometimes, I get crazy with too much work.
I like to do entrepreneurship projects, and I think Finland offers lots of support for entrepreneurs. There are many things, many initiatives when people come here. People must have positive attitudes and be open to new things. For example, I was open to learning new skills too. And I have done marketing for my business. Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people is very important.
Sharing inspiring messages for foreigners
I think failures happen, but this is how we learn, and we can get up from failures and learn a lot and continue again. I also had losses, applied many times, and got rejections. But the important thing is to keep on doing.
Is this my dream job
I would love to have a job where I can travel a lot; since childhood, that has been a dream. However, I love my current job, and it is interesting to see how the world goes after this pandemic.
Message for foreigners
It is essential to have the right attitude and not lose hope and courage. Many Facebook groups are very nice. One can join them, reach different communities in Finland, do nice things together, and get support and ideas.
Finland is a beautiful land, and for sure there are many nice things to explore here as well. I think we slowly adapt to the new environment, start to adjust to the Finnish lifestyle, and find many beautiful things for sure here. Nature is charming, and the safety factor is important to me too.