Meri’s story: there is no single way to succeed in life, but everyone must find their own path
At school, I was always a good and conscientious student. I was in the student union board and gave speeches at school celebrations. I thought I was going to be something big. However, I did not really know what I would be as a grown-up: my ideas varied from architect to lawyer. For a long time, I was going to be an actor. I even got accepted to the Tampere Arts-Oriented Senior Secondary School, but I never ended up going. I completed general upper secondary school in two years, and during the gap year that followed, I was carried away by work.
I went to a University of Applied Sciences for a year, just to see what the Bachelor of Business Administration studies were all about. I came to the conclusion that I would rather make such an investment in university studies. I am still wondering, though, what could be the right university degree for me. After all, it is not too late yet.
During my first years in employment, I tried a variety of jobs from a kiosk assistant to a conference host. There was always something on offer for a person willing to work! When you have a humble attitude and you are ready to try different jobs, you may be surprised when you find out what you really like. When I was 21, I started working on an apprenticeship contract (Further Vocational Qualification in Sales) and felt that apprenticeship studies were the right way for me to study. I had an opportunity to work, study, and maintain the quality of life I was accustomed to. However, learning and self-development are an essential part of my nature, and I have never really been able to stay still.
I don’t regret for one second that I tried out franchising
I took my biggest risk at the age of 25 when I resigned from a permanent full-time employment relationship and set up my own company. I became a franchise entrepreneur in the Arnolds chain in Tampere. At best, I employed 10 people, and my company started off quite well. The experience was extremely educational. During my entrepreneurial career, I completed a Further Vocational Qualification for Entrepreneurs on an apprenticeship contract while also developing a great deal as a person. Unfortunately, major changes took place in the market and in my life situation. I sold my business in just under five years time, and my company went bankrupt. There are still some dues to be paid and lessons to be learned for those times. My career as an entrepreneur ended up being financially expensive to me, but in terms of learning and development, it was invaluable. I do not regret for one second that I tried out franchising in my day.
I returned to the trade sector and quickly proceeded to a supervisory position. I noticed that I like to manage people in a goal-oriented manner. Because of my entrepreneurial background, I had a much better understanding of figures and I had learned concrete measures to improve the profitability of the unit. Again, I wanted to develop further and studied for a Specialist Vocational Qualification for Trade Supervisors alongside work. At regular intervals, I changed units and cities within the chain, because I did not really know how to settle for anything: I wanted more and more. In the end, I even changed companies. Since 2015, I have been working for my current employer. Here, too, I am already in the third unit. I have now been working in the same unit for over four years and I enjoy doing my work every day. I believe I have grown up and learned to enjoy the moment instead of looking too far in the future. I have learned to challenge myself in the here and now. Of course, I did complete a Specialist Qualification in Management and Business Administration alongside my work. At the moment, I am leading a team of about 15 people, and I have been privileged to choose all the team members.
Combining work and leisure time is an essential part of emotional well-being
I like my work and it is very rewarding, but I also know how to wholeheartedly enjoy my time off. It is important to distance yourself from work and relax. Your home should be a safe haven where you can be yourself and rest. My family includes a husband and a dog, and I really value the time spent with them. I go to the gym several times a week together with my husband. My drive for development may have shifted from work-related challenges to the gym. I do goal-oriented bench press training instructed by a coach. It is completely different and a good counterbalance to the challenges provided by my work. We also travel as much as possible, as we want to experience and see the world.
You have to take care of your personal well-being at every stage of your life, including emotional well-being. Physical well-being often also increases emotional well-being, but it is not enough. Sometimes I need a so-called “do nothing day” to spend in comfy clothes and with my hair in a bun, reading a good book or watching a TV show – all day long. Combining work and leisure time is an essential part of emotional well-being. No matter how much you like your own work, you must be able to distance yourself from it. We should never make ourselves indispensable – quite on the contrary! I feel that the more superfluous I am in chores related to my everyday life, the better I have succeeded in my own work.
Courage always pays off in the end and we must know how to turn failures into educational experiences
I feel that I have learned much more from different jobs and teams than any individual degree could have ever taught me. Things are very different in theory than in practice. My most important advice for operating in the world of work is getting along with different people and understanding their differences. Almost all types of work tasks involve encountering other people in one way or another, and a keen understanding of human nature makes this much easier. Whether you work as a team leader or a team member, you must always be able to respect others and to understand that not everyone thinks the same way. You will probably not like everyone, but you should learn to get along with everyone. I would also like to highlight talking as an important piece of advice. Talking is always a good way to solve things. People should have the courage to be speak more often and more openly about their thoughts and suggestions. Many issues that started off small would have been solved in good time if people had talked more about them.
Sometimes I think about the university degree that I do not have and look back on my past, wondering why I did not just start studying for it in my day. However, I quickly come to the realisation that I have built my path well. Although the journey has been different from that of many others, I have ended up in a good position in my life and I do not currently feel that I need major changes. There is no single way to succeed in life, but everyone must find their own. I feel that my path and the failures along the way have taught me to be a better person. Courage always pays off in the end and we should know how to turn failures into educational experiences. So be brave, experiment and look for the right path for you, change direction when you feel like it, or even stop: this is your path, nobody else’s!