"Most important is what you can and are willing to do", Alexandra Santos
Alexandra Santos has been living in Finland now for 14 years. She has experienced the corporate life through Nokia and Microsoft, but later jumped into freelancing and became active on the start-up scene.
For Alexandra, settling down in Finland was not originally planned. She studied in Porto University, Portugal which was connected with University of Tampere. An exchange year was something to experience, but the idea was to choose something different than traditional destinations such as England or Scotland: “I wanted something exotic - to spend one year abroad in a country where I’d never go back again”. Alexandra thought Finland felt like a good place to go to. One year after her exchange, she returned for a six-month work opportunity which turned into a ten-year career. What happened?
The difference is in the work culture, that Alexandra compares with the Portuguese one. At Finnish workplaces, employees are often given trust, responsibility and possibilities to grow. This is not something that happens in Portugal. There’s not a lot of a hierarchy in a Finnish company.
Of course, it is not always easy. Language is one aspect that can be tricky, but not in personal life. Not speaking fluent Finnish in professional life often narrows opportunities and slows a career development process. Alexandra’ strengths are in technical translations, language related topics and project management. However, now she is going through a career transformation process which is still a bit of a question mark - looking to learn and do something new. One thing she knows for sure: her next work should be in a small company or a start-up. The general feeling for Alexandra is that changing a career in Finland is easier than in Portugal. Here you are not judged by your background or the diploma you have. Most important is what you can and what are you willing to do.
Alexandra’s advice to other jobseekers is: “be brave enough to contact people. Finland is a small country and despite everyone seeming busy, people are willing to help most of the time. Events are good ways to get to know people. After all, networks are key, even if it takes time and effort to build them. It does pay back in the end “Alexandra points out and she supports her statement by adding that pretty much all of her job opportunities have come through networks.
Some institutions do get critique from Alexandra because of too much talking about problems, but not offering solutions and opportunities. HR departments could use more information on what actually means to hire an international. A concrete example is the need of breaking the myth that when hiring immigrants, there’s no need for all material to be in English.
Transformations start with small steps.