International Workers' Day is meant to celebrate the fellowship between all workers, in Finland and worldwide. For this day, I would like to share my recent personal experience with attempting to change my career. I hope that my experience, and the tools I used to go through it, will strengthen and empower fellow workers, particularly from intercultural families, who struggle with their own work situations.
Throughout my life, I always wanted to be an academic researcher. Already when I finished elementary school, at the age of 12, I asked to write in the yearbook that my dream is to research history and foreign cultures. As soon as I could, I started my academic studies, first in Israel, then a Master’s in Helsinki and a PhD in Turku.
My main reason to move to Finland, and definitely later to Turku, was to progress my aspiration of becoming an academic researcher. But life sometimes has its own plans, and on my first day at Åbo Akademi University I met a fellow PhD student who, a year and a half after, became my wife. Less than 2 years after that, still during my PhD studies, we got our Finnish-Israeli son, and became a happy (albeit occasionally tired) intercultural family.
This was a fantastic process, but there was only one problem with it: during it, I understood that I don't want to be an academic researcher anymore, at least not for the time being. There many reasons to it, some related to me, some related to the university, and some related even to Finland as a whole. But regardless of the reason, it does not change the outcome, that I need to change the professional direction at which I aimed for a long time.
As most people know, changing a career is not easy. Even more so, it is pretty difficult to change a career when you are an immigrant, with limited knowledge of the local language, society, and labor market. Ultimately, it sounds almost like a mission impossible when you try to do it in my condition: a rather recently wedded, to a person from a completely different culture, less than a year after your first son was born, when you anyway have insufficient support as your own family is in a different country.
But I believe that there are ways to make it work. Although I’m still at the beginning of the process of changing my career, I have already learned some lessons which I would like to share. I believe that these lessons are valid for many people, and in many life situations, but obviously and specifically for immigrants trying to change their careers in Finland.
The first lesson, maybe obvious, almost a cliché but still very true, is the need for patience. A lot of patience with yourself and your environment is required when figuring out whether you need a career change, what new professional direction suits your wishes and strengths, and obviously in promoting these changes by leaving the old job and looking for a new one. On the practical and emotional levels, all the above-mentioned necessitate slow, painstaking work, compassion, and resilience.
Patience and empathy are required not only from you, but also from those closest to you, particularly your partner if you have one. And from personal experience, if your partner is from a different culture than yours, additional effort is needed in communicating your professional change, to make your partner a real, supportive partner of the process. Discussing with a partner from a different culture about any topic, including professional development, demands extra attention to formulations, for clarification of your and your partner's cultural norms, and even just for bridging knowledge gaps regarding the local labor market and the specific profession. Particularly, if your partner is local, they might know local resources that can be of help to you, beyond the limits of the specific professional domain.
We in Familia also have our "Duo Job hunting group". We also occasionally offer work try-outs, meant for people who for example aim to change their career and look for a meaningful work experience in the field in Finland. For example, these days we are looking for an office secretary for a work try-out.
If, like me, you are looking for a job while having a small child at home, you can also seek assistance in child care. Such help is offered sometimes by your municipality in Finland, and organizations like The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (MLL). Also, even if as an immigrant you don't have a lot of family or friends in Finland, be bold in asking for help from those you have, they would love to help more often than not.
Lastly, seek mental support, always and especially during big life and career changes. Even if you are a bit low on finances due to unemployment, there are usually free or affordable mental services offered by your municipality, organizations, or KELA psychotherapy for professional rehabilitation if needed. Receiving these, however, might take a bit of time so again, patience and resilience are needed. But you can do it, and I can do it, change our career and do something we enjoy! Trust the process!
blogi - blog
Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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