The MegaMatchmaking, a premier recruitment fair where recruiters and jobseekers have an opportunity to interact, was held on the 14th of September at Tullisalli in Oulu.
One of the major highlights of the event was the panel discussion hosted by Kamal Singh from ELY Centre. The panel discussed how to internationalize the job market in North Ostrobothnia and the importance of Finnish language skills.
Read Kamal’s story: “What I love about the people here is that they are great listeners”
The discussion featured four panelists: Pekka Paurola an entrepreneur and owner of 1Bar, Sari Päivärinta from OP Financial Group, Shefat Islam, Business Advisor from BusinessOulu and Arek Cwiek from Osuuskauppa Arina. Pekka and Sari are locals but have migrated to Oulu at some point in their lives, left for other countries, and then happily found their way back to the city.
Shefat found herself in Oulu after hearing of the great Finnish education story from a colleague. Coming as a master’s student in autumn 2021, she came, she saw, and she stayed. Arek, on the other hand, gave in to his wife’s pressure to move to Finland, finally settling in Oulu in September 2020, as he could not find 101 reasons why they should not move to Finland from Poland.
Talks in the corridors point to a very tough job market for the international talents in Oulu, but Shefat had a relatively fair experience. Having sent out about twenty applications nationwide, she settled for a position at BusinessOulu – thanks to the networks she made during her internship in the same organization the previous year.
Arek, who apparently hates sending out CVs, moved to Finland and maintained his Polish job position only to call it quits later determined to immerse himself in the Finnish language and culture via the job market. Although explicitly willing to take up a volunteer position in the company where his wife worked, he was surprised to get a paid job, an opportunity that powered his desire to learn the Finnish language.
For Pekka running a hospitality business, international talent is a no brainer, and he took up the opportunity presented to him in 2022 when the city received a high number of immigrants from Ukraine. And from this, he now values the experiences that international talents may bring into an organization. Asked on how his company has managed to integrate international talent in the wake of the traditionally hard to learn Finnish language, he was quick to point out that; he had a hard time at school, having spent time in Norway and how he thinks, as the legend goes that Finns love beer, he’s pretty sure that the person who constructed Finnish grammatical rules was under the influence!
In all this, he emphasized how mindset shift from the employer to try international talent, and the employee to learning the Finnish language is the way to go.
With her experience at OP Financial Group in Culture and Change Management, Sari, who appreciates internationalization, had a few tips to share for international talents, such as the need to search for companies that have both English and Finnish websites. Pekka’s tip is to mingle with the right people in your field of interest, which leads to a social setting and building the social capital that can propel you to your next position. To the students, he encouraged internships in strategic organizations and companies that may serve as the next employer or will be a good recommendation for a job after graduation.
“Dig deep into your connections. Do what you can do, not what you want to do.”
Asked on the best tips for finding jobs, Arek and Shefat shared similar tips stressing the importance of building a network. “Dig deep into your connections. Do what you can do, not what you want to do.” Arek stressed, pointing out how important one needs to always ask, as keeping quiet will also leave you with negative answers. Shefat was emphatic that one should not disregard their previous experiences as they are “part of you…and to be yourself” and for students to use the University of Oulu’s Career Centre for jobs, internships and summer positions.
When it came to Finnish language, which is arguably one of the main barriers for international talent to get their appropriate job positions, Arek was quick to point out that “If you want to get into a person’s head, use the language they understand, if you want to get into their heart, use their native language.”
Shefat pointed out that as much as her colleagues are very accommodative, she is eager to learn the language. Kamal underscored the importance of taking the language as a skill that can open doors. Pekka and Sari were in harmony with cementing that there are organizational challenges associated with changing the language culture in companies overnight. However, they were optimistic that times are changing, and Finland is opening up to using English as a working language wherever necessary.
Talking about his experience in the restaurant industry, Pekka pointed out how working with Finnish clients is a great opportunity to learn the language for international talent while organizations should view international talents as assets that bring diversity in decision making and problem solving. “Learn to integrate internationality in your business or watch your company die” Pekka concluded. For Sari, embracing international talent cannot be overemphasized as she called for recruiters to “wake up as you are missing opportunities…” She further stressed that there is a need for education and motivation, a little pushing to encourage internationality.
The consensus among the panelists was that there is a need for convergence between the international job seekers and employers to meeting halfway. For international talent, acquiring Finnish language skills should be seen as a professional skill or linguistic capital, while employers were called upon to view international talent as assets that can spur the business growth.
Text: Jobert Ngwenya
Sari Päivärinta, Arek Cwiek, Kamal Singh, Pekka Paurola and Shefat Islam.