Outi’s story: going through university to reach a new career

Career story

I think of lifelong learning as an opportunity to add depth to your skills and generate new beginnings and career paths. Finland has excellent paths for studying and learning as an adult, which allows people to shift from one sector to another and bring their accumulated competence to new organisations and teams for everyone’s benefit. For me, lifelong learning opportunities opened a path to university and a transition from the private sector to the public sector and TE Services’ business and recruitment services.

I started my career in logistics, which is something I still love. Logistics was my core competence for about twenty years. It’s a great match for a person who likes schedules, because time is one of the most important factors in logistics.  

My employer was a global IT organisation based in America, where my tasks included internal and external logistics, order and supply chain management and exports and imports. My tasks also included planning and implementing national and international equipment delivery projects together with the delivery network, internalising new customer relationships, providing customer advice and service, reporting, teaching at work and acting as a supervisor. 

Logistics was – and still is – so close to my heart that I also taught the subject to adult students part-time for two years. 

When your skills come up short

Because I was teaching at work and acting as a supervisor, I started thinking more and more about how globally decentralised teams work, what is change agency and leadership and what people want from their work. I also wondered how the organisation had made on-the-job learning possible and what it required in practice, how people’s careers worked and what does it look like when an organisation values employees equally. We worked in Finland, but many of my close colleagues were in other Nordic countries and others were slightly farther away in Europe. We used a decentralised work model, and changes at work were increasingly commonplace. I ran out of tools and knowledge.  

I had always been interested in educational sciences and societal issues. I wasn’t interested in making a career as a teacher or an early childhood educator; instead, I was interested in how education and business life could meet up. The answer to this was adult education, also known as lifelong learning.  

That’s why I started studying educational sciences at the Open University of Helsinki. I did basic and intermediate studies in adult education and management modules there. As soon as I started my studies, I knew I was on the right track and completed the basic courses with such good grades that I was allowed to continue directly to intermediate studies. As I started intermediate studies, I knew I could do it and that I wanted a university degree. I looked into the admission requirements of different faculties at different universities and the open university pathway. 

On the road to learning

I landed on the Faculty of Education at the University of Tampere and the specialisation of lifelong learning that they offered. I chose the University of Tampere because they had interesting courses on the change and development of work as well as good optional courses on management, organisational psychology, employment and civil service law and administrative sciences. 

I got in first try in autumn 2019 with 109 credits and graduated as a Master of Education in spring 2023. I received my Bachelor’s degree papers in January 2021, after which my ideas for the next step in my career started to become clearer.  

I had heard many good things about the TE services as an organisation, so I decided to apply for a specialist position in the logistics, construction and sanitation sector at the business and recruitment services of the Uusimaa TE Office. I did not get picked the first time round, but encouraging words from the recruiter convinced me to reapply later. I got the job, and the rest is history. I started on a temporary contract and now I have a permanent position. I love to go to the office– and to the kitchen on remote days – every morning. 

Studying a new degree as an adult is not the easiest way to get to your dream career and dream job. It has eaten up some of my savings, made me spend my weekends, holidays and vacations writing course journals and essays and studying for exams, and tested my family’s patience. Studying decided how I spent my time for many years, but it has ultimately been worth it. It no longer fazes me when all kinds of things happen, like COVID-19, which turned studying into distance learning overnight. Having studied and graduated during COVID, we didn’t have the opportunity to make friends at university or build a community, and we didn’t get to learn about the university as much as we would have hoped. 

Generalist as a specialist

What do I do for a living? I’m a specialist who graduated as a generalist. I identify and solve problems, I see causal relationships, I manage big pictures and can put matters in a broader context. I also think critically, I have influence and I know how to engage in dialogue. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but you should be reaching your goals. I help SMEs with recruitment, I market our services, I network with internal and external actors, I am involved in the European Union’s network of public employment services, I ask, I listen and I help my colleagues. This work would not be possible without a good team and skilled colleagues. 

As a grown woman, I finally landed nicely on my feet. People don’t talk enough about different careers in Finland. Work tasks change, jobs disappear and new ones appear in their stead. This requires adaptability from both employees and employers. I am more and more a consultant who talks to SMEs about changes in work, helps them understand their role in successful recruitment and advises them what employees want.  

Employers should be aware that jobs will increasingly become learning environments as education moves away from the formal environment. Change in the world of work is so fast that not every jobseeker and employee is a professional ready for any task. Making on-the-job learning possible is an important competitive factor. In order for organisations to have a skilled and committed workforce, they need to have on-the-job learning processes. Age is not an obstacle to learning. 

I feel like I’m in the right place. A career in the private sector helps you understand employers and the business world, and a university degree is not just an academic merit. Especially adult education gives practical tools for working with changes and supporting others. It has also helped me understand society, education policy and the impact of education on business and employment. 

In my free time, I bake and then gift some of the results to my friends who are not so much into baking, and I do yoga and water gymnastics and grumble about there being too many people in the water running pool. If I won the lottery, I’d build myself a water running pool at least 25 metres long. I go for “expensive” currants, because it might be cheaper to buy them from the freezer aisle in the store, but I’ll do the four-hour drive with my family to our cottage when currants are ripe to pick them from our own bushes. Usually while it’s raining.  

I am also learning new skills, like towing trailers – even though I will not reverse with them – and I read baking and cooking magazines in Swedish. Well-being at work is also up to you, which is why I do a lot of non-work-related things in my free time and mend my brain by writing with a pencil and doing all kinds of things with my hands. 

Believe in what interests you and work for your dream. Finland offers excellent opportunities for adult learning. We have jobs that you’ll love to go to every morning. For me, it’s the business and recruitment services of the Uusimaa TE Office. 

Outi Tötterman
Specialist, business and recruitment services
Uusimaa TE Office