Pinja's story: The most important thing is that the work is meaningful – not where the workplace is located

My name is Pinja and I‘m a Communications Coordinator educated in the field of social sciences. I’m currently working in communications for a Finnish child and family organisation that focuses on strengthening the well-being of children and youth, as well as on educational co-operation between home and school.

My interest in social questions and especially inequality issues developed after upper secondary school, and this interest led me to study Social Anthropology at Tampere University. During my studies, I became more and more excited about international questions after choosing political science and international relations as a minor subject. Since international development and the global situation were on my mind a lot I started considering new directions for my studies, because I was no longer sure that my current studies would take me to where I wanted to be. Based on my reflections, I ended up applying for a Master’s Programme in International Development Studies at the University of Jyväskylä, and I was delighted to be selected.

My study programme provided me with a good knowledge base regarding international development questions and strengthened the feeling that changing my major subject had been the right decision. At the same time, I also knew there were very few development co-operation jobs in Finland and the competition for them was fierce. Listening to my friends and acquaintances and reading job advertisements made me aware that it can be very difficult to get a foot in the door because many jobs often require years of experience. I decided that I was going to accumulate as much work experience as possible while studying so that I would have something from my own field to add to my CV after graduation.

I took all the internship opportunities that were possible as a part of my studies and I also searched for grants that would help me finance them. During my master’s studies, I completed two internships. One of these was a position supported by a university grant at Demo Finland, a co-operative organisation of parliamentary parties. I focused on organising international visits and events as well as supporting communications, and I really learned a lot about development co-operation and activities in the Finnish political party field.

Another work placement during my studies was an EDUFI (Finnish National Agency for Education) internship funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland. This allowed me to work in a development co-operation organisation. I travelled to a small country called Djibouti, which is located in the Horn of Africa. Its capital city is home to the headquarters of the local co-operation organisation IGAD. My internship lasted for six months and I mainly worked in refugee education, where I helped with decision-making and reporting. My most unforgettable memories from that time are related to material collection trips to the refugee camps, where I interviewed teachers who worked there.

I completed another internship after graduation, this time at the Scandinavian office of the UN World Food Programme. This gave me some work experience related to the operation of UN organisations, which had been a goal of mine for some time. This was a communications position, and I was responsible for the organisation’s Finnish internet and social media communications. Even though I was familiar with communications assignments from previous jobs, I only then started considering a possible career in communications.

When that internship ended, I started looking for another job. At the same time, I also began thinking about things that were important to me and which I would like to see happen in this new job. Questions related to education and equality had become important to me, and I also saw myself very clearly in a communicative role. Even though I had earlier experience with international tasks and teams, I didn’t want to limit my options too much because the most important thing for me was meaningful work rather than a specific location.

After four months of active job hunting, I luckily ended up working at this truly warm-hearted organisation where I can fulfil myself and work with issues that are important to me. I hope I can continue in this position as long as possible and get the chance to develop my competence, especially in the area of communications. I still want to keep my options open to courageously accept new and even surprising opportunities, regardless of whether they’re in Finland or abroad.

I would like to offer a piece of advice, especially for generalists like myself: don’t view your own choices as too final – there’s always a chance to change directions. Be brave about trying new things and building a career that looks like you. You can get great ideas outside working life and, for example, volunteer organisations and hobbies may provide new insight into your areas of interest. It’s never too late to learn something new and embark on a new course.

Pinja Front