First job in Finland – an experience from an international job applicant

TEXT | Srushti Shah

I completed my master’s studies in Finland, but finding a job has not been an easy journey. Even though Finland has an aging population and needs international talents to fill the labor gap, the job search process has still been, surprisingly, more difficult than I would have imagined.

Even though there are numerous events for integrating international people in the job market, there are still some factors that cannot be solved immediately; the language barrier is one of the greatest. Secondly, being a fresh graduate and a non-European international makes it harder to gain an employer’s trust without having years of experience on your shoulders. However, I believe we all have our challenges in different areas of life, hence our experience of finding a job, or any area of life, cannot be compared to that of others. 

Having gone through this experience of finding employment and having a different take on some situations, I thought of sharing the experience to help some of you in building up an alternative perspective for job seeking. I believe sharing experiences has a power that somehow makes us feel connected and less lonely in this process. Sometimes this sharing might just create hope for someone who is looking for a job right now and make them feel at ease by knowing that landing a job in Finland is still a realistic goal to have.

As we all have different situations in life and they exist for different purposes in each of our lives, it is clear that there is no such ‘formula’ for finding a job. We discover the ways that worked for us through our journey and we share it with others hoping it might make their journey a bit easier.

So here I am, a master’s graduate in the field of design from Aalto University sharing my experience of looking for a service design/ user experience design job

If you are an international candidate looking for your first job, I know exactly how it feels, and here are a few points that I reflected on from my experience and I hope help you to go through this process sportingly. 

  • We are valued for who we are, as much as for the skills we offer

Coming from an art and design background, I have always needed to show a work portfolio when I apply for jobs. Over the years, I have realized that it is very important for a portfolio to be a reflection of one’s personality rather than it being just a sequence of projects. Some of the ways we can reflect personality in our portfolio are: mentioning what in a particular project inspires us; our approach towards the project brief; personal learnings and takeaways; and our role and interests in a team project. Having a few additional pages for talking about extra circular activities will help us to portray ourselves beyond design.

  • Mentorship feels like a guiding light in the dark tunnel

In my job-search process, I had a mentor through a mentorship program who conducted monthly meetings with me and connected me with relevant people in the industry. In my personal opinion, the job-seeking process is lonely and, in these times, it feels great to have a mentor with whom we can talk about our state of mind and seek advice whenever we want to make sure we are on the right track. It gives hope and ideas in taking new approaches while applying for jobs.

  • Rejections are faster ways of improving ourselves

The job-finding process comes with the unspoken fact of receiving rejections almost every day. It is difficult to be motivated and optimistic about getting a job when our inbox is filled with rejections. While experiencing this, I told myself that in the end, I just needed ‘one’ job offer, and it was okay if I received multiple rejections. I focused on constantly looking for more opportunities and giving my best in all applications I made.

  • Having any source of income to have a cushion to fall back on

I was fortunate to have my student job still going while I was looking for jobs. It helped to support me in terms of living expenses, and it was always good to have something else to think about during the day as it is not possible to keep making applications all day long for an uncertain period. Working part-time in a cafe, or having freelance work are some of the ways we can have a source of income to support ourselves until we get a job, and it also helps us to have a daily schedule.

  • Helping others

While looking for jobs myself, I kept my eyes open for all the openings that might be relevant also for my other job-seeking friends. I believe thinking about others when we have not figured it out for ourselves makes us feel more powerful and in control of the situation. In return, it also helps us to widen our network, learn about new job openings, and most importantly create value for someone who is in need too.


I cannot emphasize enough the role of networking in getting a job. Building a network helps us to stay connected with like-minded people in the industry and knowing people in the field we want to work in helps us to gain insights on the openings, requirements, and so on. A few ways of creating a network are attending events that are relevant to the field of interest, following up with people on LinkedIn, asking for feedback on your portfolio, creating content for something that is inspiring for us, getting connected with like-minded people, participating in hackathons, and so on.

  • Staying connected with family, friends help us to be at ease

In this stressful process of looking for jobs, we find it easier to distance ourselves from the world and to be in our own space because we think that helps us to concentrate better. But in my experience, staying constantly connected with people I love gave me more strength to go through this phase every day, and sharing about my day with them gave me a new perspective to look at life.

  • Eating well, exercising, doing our work, is all we actually can do.

As a non-European job seeker, there are also many practical things at stake and that kept me consumed entire day applying for jobs. It was very convenient for me to ignore my diet, workouts, and spend the whole day just applying for jobs. However, I realized early in the process that eating right and exercising is what helps me to give my best and it is what makes me feel good about myself. Eating right, exercising, taking care of myself, and putting in my honest efforts for the job finding process is what made it possible for me to find a job without ignoring my overall well-being. 

Lastly, being optimistic and hopeful are the two crucial values to stick by in this process as we cannot practice any of the above-mentioned tips without these values. 

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