Sometimes seen as a skill, sometimes seen as a challenge, adaptation is always a factor in intercultural families. Adapting to your partner’s culture, adapting to Finland as a new country, adapting to the Finnish job market… But also adapting to the new you that emerges in this new context. Adapting to frustration, sadness, excitement, uncertainty. In Partner’s Path and Familia, we do not consider that adaptation is a necessary step to take to be able to go forward. Adaptation is a process and takes time. Adaptation doesn’t mean that you have transformed into something different from who you are. Adaptation means that you are at peace with who you are, in your new environment. You learn how to navigate new spaces, cultures and representations and can work towards your best interest. Adaptability is your ability to changing conditions and be flexible.
One of the most significant things that we have been discussing extensively with our participants, is the fact that adapting is not a straight line. You might adapt to some things faster than others; you might feel that you’ve adapted and realize at some point that you didn’t. You might also have an easier time to adapt to certain aspects (cultural differences at home) and less to other (the Finnish work culture for example). The key work that we have been doing with our participants regarding adaptation, has been in two steps: why do you want to adapt and how can we support you to do so. The most important part is the ability to do some self-reflection work and look inside yourself: which parts of my values, beliefs, culture, behaviors, expectations are interacting everyday with my environment?
In your intercultural family, communicating about changes and what is new for you is a very important step to take. What may seem obvious to you might not be for your partner, and verbalizing your questions or simple comments might help tremendously your partner in understanding how to support you.
How to adapt better?
Throughout the years, we have realized that a few basics of the Finnish job market were sometimes unclear to many of our participants. As this document may age, we haven’t written down specific information and encourage you to look for the most updated details. Nevertheless, here are a few essentials for you to know!
Degrees, certification, past contracts and proof
In Finland, it is quite common to be asked to give proof of any degree or certification that you claim having. When moving to Finland, make sure to have copies of your diplomas, courses certificates, diplomas etc. You will probably be asked to provide them to your employment counselor, as well as by your potential employer. Another important point is that in Finland, quite differently than in many other EU countries, lower skilled jobs very often require you to have a certificate, a specific training or an official document, even though you have experience from abroad. For example, if you want to work with food or hospitality in general, you will be required to have your hygieniapassi (Hygiene passport). This tests costs around 40 euros and proves that you know the basics of food safety. If you plan to work with children, you will be asked to prove that you don’t have any criminal record, and might probably also be required a Hygiene pass. Other very common certifications are the alcohol passport, the work safety card, and the security officer passport. If you are planning to apply to a lower skilled job, we highly recommend passing these tests and have these documents as a proof that you are ready to work immediately in these fields in Finland. Lastly, remember that the rule is that you should be able to provide a proof of everything that is on your resume. Very paper counts!
Our participants have often had trouble to understand the role played by TE-office in their job-hunting process. First, to benefit from TE-toimisto’s services, you need to register as an unemployed job seeker at one of their offices or online. If you are an EU citizen, you can do so immediately. This registration can also open rights for you to receive certain benefits, only if you have a Finnish social security number. In TE- toimisto, you will then be assigned a counselor, who will build up with you an integration plan. Depending on your needs and wishes, this integration plan can include education, language courses, work trials or integration courses. Make sure to ask questions and to state clearly what your goals are, to make sure to have a plan that is as relevant for you as possible. We encourage you to not solely rely on TE-toimisto for job hunting, and to very quickly diversify your job hunt by networking, mentorship programs, peer-support groups and other kind of events.
TES (työehtosopimus, or collective agreement)
In Finland, each industry follows a specific collective agreement, that specify the minimum wages for the branch, benefits, leaves and other rules and rights of the worker. To have an idea of your rights and obligations as a worker, read the TES of your industry. You can find them online, most of the time in Finnish. You can ask help from a union to get them translated. In a TES you will most of the time find information on the general rights and obligations of the worker and the employer regarding salaries, holidays, different kind of leaves, types of contracts, benefits.
In Finland, a cover letter should not be longer than one page. Your cover letter should especially describe your concrete achievements, with numbers and figures if possible. Regarding the format of the cover letter, we have often observed with our participants at Familia, that the words chosen were sometimes not exactly fitting in a Finnish context. When in most countries, the cover letter is used to sell oneself, in Finland it is more used to give facts. We have therefore often advised to avoid the use of too many superlatives of “strong” words. Instead of “Loving”a sector, you might want to write that you are “passionate” about it. Instead of you being “extremely talented” you might want to describe the very good results you got and let them speak by themselves. Our participants have also often asked if they should write their cover letter or resume in Finnish or in English. If the job opening is in English, you can write in English freely. If you have the choice between the two languages, you can also write in English without a doubt. If you are answering to a job offer in Finnish or sending an open application, we would advise you to send a resume and a cover letter that you are able to write by yourself. Of course, you can have someone spellcheck it. But we would advise you to make sure not to give a false image of your abilities, especially when it comes to high skilled jobs.
The content of your cover letter should include your motivation to apply to this specific position, your specific skills and results, and how you and the company could benefit from each other.
You can ask your Finnish spouse to spellcheck it or read it through, but remember that this might feel like being responsible for a partner’s job-hunt and might cause a lot of stress for your partner. There are solutions for it: CV clinic are offered by several NGO's free of charge.
Recruitment and work life in Finland can be subjected to discrimination. Race and gender are often understood and perceived as discriminatory factors. But your age, religion, gender, sexual orientation and other factors can also be discriminative.
In Finland, it is illegal to ask for certain personal information such as your family situation, whether you have children or planning to have some, your age etc. These are personal information that you are not expected to disclose. You are of course allowed to do so if you consider that they might be relevant for your application.
If you face or suspect to face discrimination during a hiring process or at your workplace, contact the non-discrimination Ombudsman.
Discrimination and racism may be difficult topics to discuss about with your partner, who might have had very different experiences from you. Open dialogue is very important for you to feel supported and not isolated, and several NGOs organize peer support groups for you to meet people who share similar experiences.
During our 3 years in Partner’s Path, we have realized that entering the Finnish job market, putting your foot in the door by getting your first opportunity is often one of the hardest steps towards employment. Here are therefore the main entry doors to the Finnish job markets for foreigners with a Finnish spouse. As we mentioned earlier, one of the key factors on the Finnish job market and to be hired in Finland is trust building. As we explain more in our article on the resume, references are extremely important in Finland. When you haven’t had work experience, these can also be difficult to get.
Here are therefore ways to start understanding Finnish work culture, develop your networks, build genuine relationships with people who could become your references and gain professional experience in Finland.
One of the main topics that we have been discussing about with our participants has been the importance of friends and relationships in their job hunting and integration processes. If friends can be linked to networking, they are also very much linked to your own well-being and integration in Finland.
Loneliness impacts your general well-being and therefore your job-hunting process. Meeting new friends is often a big challenge for people who recently moved here. Our first advice is to get active and find a hobby or activity that will connect you to link minded people. Many NGO’s as well as city services offer free or very low-priced activities.
Having a Finnish spouse, you might feel like your friends are your partner’s friend, and that it is difficult for you to have your own circles. This feeling of being dependent on your partner might create a lot of frustrations for you and for your partner who will feel responsible and guilty. Having your own friends is an important part of having a balanced relationship.
Another issue that many of our participants have had has been into making Finnish friends. Not speaking Finnish might feel like a barrier to you, as well as some cultural differences. From our participants’ experiences, volunteering and hobbies are the most efficient way to meet new Finnish people. Don’t hesitate to ask them out for coffee!
Integration is a process, and you will notice that at some times you are more ready to open up to Finnish friends, when at other times, you will feel like spending more time with people who speak your mother tongue or connect with your old friends back home. These phases are normal, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
Setting goals has been one of the topics that we have discussed the most with our volunteers and participants. Though the task can feel stressful and overwhelming, especially when you feel that you’re not reaching them, we encourage you to work on your goals. This will give you a direction and a motivation. First, try to set realistic and measurable goals. Divide them into long term and short-term objectives, in order to stay motivated but also know “what to do next”. Once you have an idea on the direction you want to take, share these goals with people from your industry, your partner and peers that have the same experience as you ( people who just moved to Finland, mothers, people who are learning Finnish etc.). NGO workers and TE advisors will also be able to make comments and help you to decide what to do next.
Goals go hand in hands with priorities, as we develop more in “motivation”.
Multiple research all over Europe have shown how unemployment has a direct effect on people’s health. Both your physical and mental health are affected by unemployment and integration. Do not overlook the very basics of your health like sleep, nutrition or physical activity. Job hunting may become the only thing you want to focus on, but the lack of basic care might create a vicious circle making you less capable to look properly for a job, and therefore feeling more stressed and more inclined to neglect your sleep or other basic routines and so on. Don’t either overlook the consequences of your new Finnish environment on your health. The lack of sun and the climate directly affect your energy levels. Many Finns take vitamins and have a doctor following them when the autumn comes. Don’t hesitate to mention these to your doctor.
Do not overlook either your own mental health. Changing country, going through major changes in your personal life such as a marriage or children, unemployment, integration process, all these things that are “normal” in your life are major stress factors. Anxiety, depression, stress are very common among immigrants, especially unemployed ones. Make plans, break down problems into smaller issues, spend time and share your experience with others. Don’t hesitate to get professional help, and to talk about your mental state with your doctor. Some of our participants have expressed guilt and shame in feeling depressed or overwhelmed. “I should be happy to be here”, “the conditions here are way better than before” “this is a good place for my kids”. All these reflections are very common but can’t overtake how you actually feel. Being depressed, sad, angry, frustrated is a normal and common thing, and you have the right to have these feelings and emotions. Don’t reject them.
Getting an interview is already a challenge for many foreigners looking for a job in Finland. Of course, like everywhere, a good CV and cover letter, answering to a job offer are essential to catch the recruiter’s interest. But there are a few other tips or situations that can help you to get an interview more easily.
Once you’re called in for the interview, how to do well?
Why do we talk about a “process”?