Needs for Career Guidance

During the VALOA project, we learned that the biggest challenges for international students who are trying to find employment in Finland are:

  • Lack of networks and contacts with the Finnish work lifeLack of
  • Understanding on how to access the labor market, what the opportunities are, and how Finnish work life functions
  • Lack of opportunities to study the Finnish language during studies and lack of Finnish language skills
  • Lack of "a guiding light" or a belief that there are opportunities in Finland for international students

The VALOA project also conducted a survey on the employability of international students. The study was carried out in the University of Tampere by Yulia Shumilova and Yuzhuo Cai (2012). According to the study, the major barriers that prevent international students from finding jobs are, in this order:

  • Lack of Finnish/Swedish language skills
  • Lack of a right contact/access to professional networks
  • Lack of opportunities to gain relevant work experience (e.g. through internship)
  • Small labor market
  • Lack of career guidance in higher education institutions
  • Ethnic/cultural/religious discrimination
  • Lack of access to job search information
  • Lack of career advancement opportunities
  • Residence permit restrictionsOther

Career guidance should be closely linked to study planning and guidance. The difference between career and study guidance is not very clear in the Finnish university system. Career guidance emphasizes the transition from university to employment or further studies. Study guidance and reflection on personal study plans/curriculums is a very important part of one’s studies and should be given more emphasis in Finnish universities.

Successful transfer from university to work life is not only about writing an impressive CV, but also about possessing certain skills and competences, being able to reflect on them, and understanding how they affect one’s ability to make decisions and follow one’s dreams together with personal values. Career guidance plays an important role in understanding the complexity of life planning in more detail.

In guidance work, creating a dialogic and “safe” environment is important. Penttinen & Skaniakos further developed a model created by Nummenmaa (2003) for “approving guidance dialogue” during their ESR project (2008–2011).

There are different ways to incorporate career planning in studies through teaching, guidance, and employer collaboration. Some approaches to career guidance are presented in this toolkit.

The number of non-Finnish students is still relatively low in Finland, but the strategy for internationalizing higher education in Finland, issued by the Ministry for Education and Culture, includes a goal to increase the number in the future. Internationalization strategies alone are not enough. Systematic incorporation of study guidance and career guidance, in addition to the inclusion of a new perspective to intercultural education, are needed in the curriculum work of international degree programs in Finnish universities. The terms ‘international’, ‘intercultural’, and ‘multicultural’ need to be defined in strategies and curriculums in addition to defining the kinds of competencies that students are expected to achieve during their studies. Universities of Applied Sciences are currently using a competence-based curriculum. Look more from the guidebook.

International students need to establish contacts with work life and find opportunities to actively participate in Finnish society already during their studies. This should be taken into consideration when planning international degree programs as well as in the study and career planning of universities. However, we need to realize that the international students’ needs for career guidance are not always related to the new host country, but they may also be interested to learn how they can utilize their international experience and their university studies in their home country or in a third country.

Career and life planning should be ongoing processes during studies. The need for career guidance varies from student to student, also depending on the phase of studies. International students are not a homogenous group, and each student’s needs and realities are different. During graduation, more emphasis could be placed on supporting the students as they transfer from studies to employment or apply for funding to continue studying.

International students need guidance and education with the job search process in Finland during their studies. The more contacts they create and opportunities they have to collaborate with employers during their studies, the better prepared they are to find work after graduation. It is important that students are provided with an understanding of the competencies that are developed during studies. Finnish work experience is important, and students can be guided to look for different opportunities to volunteer and participate in society, and thus gain some initial Finnish work experience.