In Puolison polku - Partner's Path, we have been working extensively with foreigners who have a Finnish spouse, but also with these Finnish spouses directly.
Having a spouse or partner often plays quite an important part in one’s emotional well-being. Finnish or not, your partner will give you support that some immigrants, who are alone, might lack. This is an important resource, as emotional and physical well-being is a crucial part of any integration process.
Your Finnish partner will bring you all kid of support, especially in terms of networks, language and culture sensitivity.
When you move here for a Finnish partner, or when you meet a Finnish partner here, as you become a couple, his or her family and friends become yours. You will have a direct access to Finnish society and people, that might be more difficult to get for other foreigners. This can cause a lot of guilt, dependence and isolation for you and your partner (see “couple relationship”). In the case of your job hunt, we encourage you to mention to everyone you meet through your partner’s networks that you are looking for a job. Ask questions about someone’s industry, go for coffees, expand your networks. Friends and family are an important circle of trust and we encourage you to make the best out of it!
A Finnish partner can be a great support in learning Finnish and more generally speaking in dealing with Finnish language. Many Finnish partners translate paperwork, help with writing a resume or a cover letter, help to read job offers. Even though your partner is offering this help, remember that he or she is not responsible for your learning. Practicing Finnish with your partner can be very tricky, especially if you have a common language.
Make your home a safe space where you can practice Finnish, without making your partner a language teacher, and without forcing yourself.
Having a Finnish partner gives you a direct access to Finnish culture and habits. We have encouraged our participants to enjoy this opportunity to learn “from inside” about the behaviors, the traditions, the cultural references. This will come as a very precious support for your own general well-being and to build up a feeling of belonging. However, many participants have also mentioned that they have felt like they were “disappearing”. Make sure to discuss openly with your Finnish partner about your own identity and culture. Reserve some time for your own food, music or movies, speak your own language with your friends and family.
You will slowly build up a third culture in your home, in which you will feel safe and confident. Two feelings that will be extremely important on your path to employment.
In Finland, open applications are quite common. Sending open applications is of course a way to maybe get an interview, but it is also an efficient way to get acquainted with the market.
To make an open application, you need to study the industry and the company you’re applying to, get informed about the current state of business and read the news about the field. Developing a network is an important part of sending efficient open application, since that’s how you will most probably get to hear about good opportunities or good timings to send your resume and cover letter. Discussing with your networks is also very important if you want to better understand the kind of skills needed for a certain position or company, as well as their current challenges.
It usually works better to send an open application to someone you have already met, or to a company you’ve already been in contact with somehow.
Open applications work the same way in Finland as in other countries. You can send an email to get a confirmation that they’ve received your resume about a week after having sent the first one. Calling is always a bit sensitive in Finland, unless you already know the person or have at least already met somehow.
Open applications can also be a bit unformal, at least for a first contact. LinkedIn is a very good tool to let people know that you are interested in their company or product.
An open application should contain who you are, what you are able to do, how this skill set relates to the company challenges or needs and why they should consider you. This can be done in a very concise and clear way, in an email, a cover letter and a resume.
Networking is a way to get in contact, develop relationships with people and build networks. In one’s own home country, networks are built since childhood. Networks come from your family, your family’s friends, school, hobbies that you’ve had growing up, local community’s activities etc. In your home country you also have developed, on top of that social network, a professional network. Colleagues, partners, people working in your sector that you met at professional events. You have direct networks (people that you know personally) and indirect networks (friends of friends for example). In both these networks, you have developed different kinds of relationships, based on shared interests, and mutual help and support. You knew who could help you with something, and people would turn to you for other topics.
When moving to Finland, most of our participants have to start all over again. Your partner and sometimes his friends and family become your only network. This can create a lot of stress and anxiety for both the foreign and the Finnish partner. Unwanted power dynamics in the couple, isolation and loss of self-esteem may develop, and hinder both the couple’s relationship and the job hunting and integration process.
NETWORKS AND WELL-BEING
Before talking more about the importance of networks in job hunting in Finland, it is important to understand the importance of networks for one’s well-being, mental and physical health. Isolation, depression and anxiety are extremely common among foreign partners. Making friends (of your own), feeling useful, heard and supported is extremely important. Peer support groups, hobbies and volunteering are three ways of making friends. Many of our participants have also met friends at their language courses. Do not neglect the importance of friends and social life, as your mental health and well being are the foundation of a well-functioning job hunt.
NETWORKS AND JOB HUNTING
Networks, especially in Finland, are the key to find a job. 7 to 8 jobs out of 10 (in Spring 2020) are not advertised, and most people find their jobs through their networks and personal contacts.
Networking requires you to put yourself in contact with strangers and might feel a bot uncomfortable and scary. You can participate to fairs, go to events from your own industry and go to actual networking events. But other ways also exist to expand your professional networks:
One of the main questions that we’ve received has been on how to keep motivated/be motivated. Motivation is a double dynamic, that comes from will and from results. Wanting something can motivate you to take actions. Getting or achieving something can also make you motivated to keep going.
We therefore encourage you to be able to define your goals, but also to develop gratitude. Where do I want to go and what do I have now?
Motivation is like a motor and participating to events or group meetings where you get to hear other people experiences helps you to build motivation. Sharing experiences is also a powerful reminder that your motivation doesn’t always have to be at its best, that you don’t have to feel guilty about not being motivated, and that your mental and physical health and well-being are condition sine qua non for your motivation level.
If moving to Finland and being able to speak English makes the process somehow easier, it would be wrong to say that English is enough to always get by. As always, in some individual cases, English is enough. But for most of our participants, language is if not the most, one of the most important topics related to their job search. Because your partner and his family speak Finnish, because of your kids, to make new friends, to have more options for work… Finnish language is present everywhere. When integrating, it may be the cause of a lot of stress and anxiety, for both the partners. How long will it take me to learn Finnish? Do I need Finnish to find a job? How can I help my partner learning Finnish?
Learning Finnish often becomes at least a preoccupation, and is very often lived as a constant challenge, present in every aspect of one’s life.
"Kela manages social security services and benefits, such as the national pension, child benefit, basic unemployment security, sickness and parenthood allowance, income support and rehabilitation. Kela also provides health care benefits paid for private health care.” https://www.infofinland.fi/en/living-in-finland/settling-in-finland/finnish-social-security
The system might be difficult to understand when you just move to Finland, especially if your partner never really has had to deal with it. One thing that is quite unclear for many foreigners is the link between KELA and TE-toimisto. As of when we are writing this article (Spring 2020), KELA and TE are two different entities. Being a client of TE-toimisto (the agency that helps you look for a job) doesn’t entitle you to any benefits from KELA. Benefits depend on your own personal situation, and we strongly advise you to not base your plans on what you’ve heard or read online when it comes to money, benefits and support that you could or couldn’t receive from KELA.
Why do we talk about a “process”?
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?
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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.
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”.