Why Finland though?
To give a small introduction: my name is Marnix Meijer, I am born and raised in a small city named ‘Kampen’ in the east of the Netherlands and I am 27 years when writing this. My link with Finland originates from 2012 when I met my Finnish girlfriend at my Erasmus exchange programme in Portugal. As a result, I have visited Finland many times during the following years and, for the majority of 2014, lived here to write my bachelor thesis (major in Human Resource Management) for a Finnish recruitment agency. So, in a sense I have already had some Finnish working life related experience.
However, many years have passed since then. We moved together to the Netherlands and worked for a while (me in the role as Delivery Coordinator for Wärtsilä in Kampen). Subsequently, we pursued our dreams of obtaining a master’s degree in Groningen (International Economics and Business in my case). In January 2019, after she had already graduated, I too had passed all requirements of my programme and would have graduated in March.
Yet, it also meant that a decision was needed about our future living place (at least in the near future) as we had no intention of staying in Groningen. We decided pretty quickly it was going to be Helsinki. She would kick off her ‘post-master working career’, while I would seize the moment of being without obligations to learn basics of the Finnish language. My target became obtaining a B1 degree within the Yleinen Kielitutkinto (YKI-testi). This I achieved last January.
Where do I even start?
The thing was, however, that I have already started worrying about my life after the YKI-test, while it has been still months to go. Last year and even as early as in 2014, I applied for several positions. Unsuccessfully unfortunately. Now I think back at this – it makes sense to me. I pretty much had no clue what I was doing. I had no specific goal or orientation, was not aware of the best channels for a job seeker and I did not know how I should behave within a Finnish job interview nor whether the Dutch standards (e.g., regarding CV) differ from those in Finland. I went in many different directions simultaneously instead of focusing on what I really wanted and what would be realistic.
I lost direction and oversight. I did not even know where to start fixing this. This is when EntryPoint made its entrance.
Sign me up!
Last November I stumbled on an advertisement about the EntryPoint mentoring programme. It said that in this programme, mentees (i.e. talented expats residing specifically in the Helsinki Metropolitan area) are paired with professionals from business to academia fields with 3+ years of relevant experience from the Finnish working life.
These mentors will provide guidance and support to international talents to help them succeed. On top of that, it also includes company visits, workshops and an opportunity to meet with other mentees. An official kick-off of the programme would be on the 29th of January, four days after my YKI-test. Perfect timing! Considering my craving for advice and clarity, it was a no-brainer to apply for a spot in the programme.
To ensure a smooth start, an orientation session (specifically for mentees) was organized two weeks before the actual programme launch. During this session, the Chamber Talent Boost team and each mentee shortly introduced themselves. The programme´s goal and its underlying motivations were explained thoroughly and the roadmap for the coming months was shared. Besides that, meeting the other mentees formed an important part of this evening.
For me, it was a refreshing experience to get to know people in a similar position as myself and to realize that I was not the only one struggling with certain things. Having the opportunity to speak with others who can relate well to your situation gave me a great energy boost.
The names of the mentors were also provided that evening. To stay unbiased and open-minded, I decided not to look mine up on LinkedIn before we would meet in person. About two hours, a clear introduction, some coffee and two tasty sandwiches later… And we were set to start our mentorship journey!
Staring into each other’s eyes
The kick-off took place two weeks later. This was when the mentees and mentors met each other for the first time. Obviously, I was beforehand very curious about my mentor. What kind of person is she? What is her background and what are her expectations? I knew the Chamber Talent Boost team carefully matches mentees and mentors (i.e. based on background, motivation, expectations, etc.) so I had no doubt whether they would have created a good match. Nevertheless, it was exciting to meet the person who will be mentoring you for the coming 5 to 6 months for the first time.
To my surprise, however, the introduction was pretty unorthodox. Instead of the traditional way of getting to know each other (read: simply a chat), the Chamber Talent Boost team had set up some ‘warm-up’ exercises. Two minutes staring into each other’s eyes without saying anything was one of them. Little awkward? I would say so. Did it help break the ice quickly? Definitely.
All in all, I found this kick-off a good way to start, especially knowing that there would be plenty of time the coming months get to know each other better. What I did learn during the event was that the mentor, Annukka Tervo:
- is a professional Work Psychologist and Certified Coach,
- has plenty of experience in, among others, International Business and Human Resource Management. Exactly my two educational backgrounds!
Additionally, she mentioned that this was now her fifth time as a mentor within this programme. The previous mentees all had reached their goals, which they had set for EntryPoint. That gives hope!
A leap into the future
Now when I am writing this, the kick-off took place a little over five months ago. My mentor and I had five pair meetings.
During our first meeting, it was all about getting to know each other and to elaborate on what my needs are. A practical need I had was an unbiased, professional look at my CV, LinkedIn profile and application letter (a draft version). She gave me valuable tips on how to spice these up and practical advice such as getting a Finnish phone number. I still used my Dutch one as I reasoned it technically does not matter as Finland and the Netherlands are both EU members. She replied that, while that is true, it also might give recruiters the impression I am not yet certain whether I will stay (long-term) in Finland. This has not crossed my mind. Even more, in the past I was already asked by several recruiters why I had been still holding on to my Dutch number, but never really grasped why they did it. Examples as above proved: this mentoring process would be a very educational and beneficial experience directly from the start.
During this and the next four meetings, she has supported me in both a professional (e.g., how to prepare well for a job interview) and personal manner (e.g., providing a personality test and elaborating on the results). This has helped me in getting a clearer view on my strengths and weaknesses, about the Finnish working life and which direction I want to go as a professional, among many other things. Therefore, these pair meetings have definitely enabled me to reach my goals (but more about that later).
But wait, there´s more!
EntryPoint Mentoring Programme is more than just pair meetings with your mentor. It is also about meeting your fellow mentees, participating in (interactive) workshops, and going on company visits. I could not make it to the company visit but have participated in all the workshops.
Many different topics were discussed within these workshops. An example was a workshop named ´How to Fail Successfully´, during which Sameer Khan (an experienced Digital Business and Account Strategist) elaborated on how demand works within job markets on the Finnish working culture in general. Also, Graham Honeywill (Business Transformation Coach, Career Coach and Mentor with over 45 years’ business experience) hosted a workshop named ´Life Perspectives´, in which he helped us consider our next job or career step from the perspective of our entire life, with this career step as just one stepping stone towards our personal and professional goals.
A third workshop that made an impact on me was named ´Follow Your Difference´ and organized by Fabrizio Trotti (9 years and 4 jobs working experience in Finland). Until then, I was considering my deviating background (i.e. culture, language, etc.) as a disadvantage. This workshop taught us how to change it into an advantage. It made me realize it is this deviance what makes me stand out from the masses of job applicants. On top of that, Fabrizio gave us valuable tips on how to use it consistently in our job search. It has changed my mindset, boosted my self-confidence, and had a significant impact on my application letters and on how I have been profiling myself since then. And guess what? Pretty soon I got several invitations for job interviews!
A message for future participants of EntryPoint.
Hopefully, this blog has shown how the programme is beneficial in many ways. As mentioned, it is targeted at talented expats as a broad concept, be it students, (recent) graduates or international spouses. This means that mentees differ in which life phase they are in, in motivation to take part in this journey and in what they hope to achieve during this period.
EntryPoint has given me a lot. First and foremost, I was matched with my mentor, who is a very valuable sparring partner as well as great to just chat with. Secondly, I learnt many valuable lessons thanks to its workshops, while having met and networked with other inspiring mentors and mentees.
My goals were to better understand the Finnish working life, to figure out which direction I want to go as a professional and perhaps even find a job (though the latter was more a long-term goal than an EntryPoint goal for me). All the program acitivies described above have helped me tremendously in achieving all my goals.
That´s correct, all three of them!
This is because for me, all the experiences and knowledge gained during EntryPoint accumulated in finding an interesting job at a Finnish multinational company! Therefore, I can safely say that EntryPoint has made a big positive impact on my life (both professionally and personally).
I would recommend future participants to be open about yourself, about your goals and towards advice and feedback. Also, it is good to realize that everyone participating in this programme is there to learn from each other and to help one another. Therefore, there is no reason to fear initiating contact with someone. Actually, I can only encourage to do so.
As all is optional, you are yourself responsible for taking the most out of this programme. But above all, it is important to simply enjoy the experience of being part of something meaningful.
Sign-up and get ready for an exciting and inspirational journey!