Mia's story: a dream of career shaped by values

At the upper secondary school, I had no idea of what I wanted to study, and I had no dream profession. My school friends appeared to have thought-out plans for their future and for what they wanted to study after school. In hindsight, few of them are in professions that they originally thought they would enter. It comforts me to state that a career path does not have to be thought out from start to finish and that, in the end, it can be built out from very different experiences.

I actually ended up applying for commercial studies on the grounds that I wanted to work in an international work environment, travel, and use different languages at work. I started my studies aiming to obtain a Bachelor of Business Administration degree after which I applied for a master's program in economics. My subject was marketing, and I still find it interesting, especially from the point of view of how people make purchasing decisions.

However, when I began my studies for a master’s degree, my values started to profoundly change in the direction of sustainable development. I felt it was important that my future work would not conflict with my set of values. As for my secondary subjects, I began to choose courses related to sustainable development and corporate responsibility. I wrote my master’s thesis on how communication on corporate responsibility has changed over the years. I also applied for internships and jobs related to sustainable development, but competition in the field was intense and job openings were few.

When I graduated, I had no work experience to speak of in the field of specialisation I wanted, but I had had a variety of other jobs. After graduating, I got a job as a change management consult in Chile, and, after I had returned, I worked in Finland for a time in marketing, which also enabled me to combine my corporate responsibility perspective in them. At the time, I was also involved in the Zero Waste Finland ry, an association that we founded in Finland. While I was involved with the association, I had the opportunity to work with a way of life that I felt was close to me, in addition to which I thought that would support my dreams of a work career.

I applied for a job in the municipal sector related to development at the circular technology. I got the job, which meant that I, for the first time, also got a job in my field of specialisation. My choice was facilitated by my communication skills, my experience of business cooperation and other experience that I had gained from my previous career and working as a volunteer, in addition to which my motivation played a significant role.

Sustainable development extends to many work roles

Today, I work in the in the municipal sector in tasks related to the circular economy. The circular economy refers to the sustainable use of natural resources within the limits of the earth's carrying capacity so that materials and resources circulate in the economy for a long time and do not end up as waste. Economy is an important part of change, as the circular economy creates new business and enables new types of jobs. Although, personally, I promote transition to the circular economy in the municipal sector, I can see that there are job opportunities in the circular economy in the public sector, organizations and companies.

The circular economy reforms the way how we design goods and services, how we use materials, how we think about the ways of minimizing waste and utilizing by-products at every stage, and how we question our practices. As I can see it, sustainable development and the circular economy can be integrated into their work in many different ways.

My career path will continue to take shape in the future

I have sometimes wondered if I would have done something differently and studied environmental sciences instead of the commercial field, for example, if I had already known after school age that I wanted to work at a job related with sustainable development. However, the commercial sector has helped me to understand the economics of sustainable development and to enable me to work in a wide range of roles. My co-workers really have different study backgrounds, which reinforces my thoughts on how many kinds of skills are needed in the transition to sustainable development thinking and action.

Ecological sustainability is a particularly important issue for me, but I am also increasingly interested in social sustainability. My career path has taken me to this point in about ten years, so I believe that my thoughts and experiences will continue to bring me into new and different directions in my future job. As people, we are changing all the time and this is also reflected in the kind of things we consider important in life and work.

Mia Johansson