Finland has been a topic of discussion as a welfare state in several media stating its 100+ years as an independent country or as the happiest country in the world ranked by Forbes magazine. “Finland’s 5.5 million residents enjoy more forest per square mile than any European country, extremely high environmental standards, and a very low threat level making it one of the most peaceful places on earth. With a high ratio of immigrants now also calling Finland home, the World Happiness Report made particular mention of the consistency in happiness between these and locally born residents”. Maybe you have even heard a story about babies who sleep in a box. “For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.”
Now the biggest news is that Finland must attract up to 35´000 skilled foreign workers by 2023. “Finland can restore a world-class research and innovation funding system, where businesses, researchers and funders together seek solutions for major challenges. Digitalisation and artificial intelligence can be harnessed to benefit Finland,” says Jyri Häkämies, the CEO of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK).
But what is it like to work in Finland and especially to get a job in Finland? In my work in executive search I have been fortunate to meet and interview several non-native Finns about their work life in Finland. The following notes are based on such discussions and 18 years of experience with company structures and leadership styles.
WHY CONSIDER FINLAND?
Work-life balance is appreciated and looked after, companies in Finland have a unique, honest leadership style, flat organizations, there is credibility in the workplace. The people are result-driven, ambitious, there are no politics in the work place. There are plenty of opportunities to grow as a leader.
WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE IDEAL JOB?
You need to be actively researching companies and industries, first look at the leadership team, if there is a diversified team it counts as a definite plus. Also look for global, international service/product/client lists and English as a corporate language. On a personal level build networks: ex-patriate circles, LinkedIn connections, get referrals from your network. All in all, entry-level jobs are harder to get, established middle and senior executives have it easier.
Build your personal networks, by origin, interest group, take part in cultural events and start-up events. Be prepared to tell your story to everyone who listens and what benefits you could offer to an employer. Be prepared to grind, help, participate, volunteer, meet people, even work for free initially.
WHAT DO GLOBAL EXECUTIVES MISS THE MOST?
It seems that a lack of ambition, dreaming big and lack of wider career opportunities can be frustrating as the Finnish environment can be small and domestic for a global citizen. This is a country with great opportunities and life style but sometimes one also needs a hardened skin and not only because of our weather.