Saana’s story: performance, teaching and creativity have inspired my diverse career

Before school-age, I wanted become a dancer or a cleaner, then an artist like Aunt Kylli on TV, a brain surgeon, a secondary-school physics teacher and finally a musical star. My dream jobs varied rapidly because I had so many interests and was easily excited about new things. The same still applies.

Creativity fascinated me, and I was accepted into Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts. Music started to attract me, but my skills were not sufficient enough to gain a study place in the field. After a gap year, I started a preparatory year on the music line of Savonlinna Christian Institute.

I was performing with the college band at a Christmas party when a senior military officer approached me and said: “Saana, you’re a born leader. Have you considered a career in the army?” This was a big turning point in my life. The words stayed with me, and when the joint application period started in the spring, I applied to study for a Bachelor of Culture and Arts Degree in Crafts and Recreation in Hämeenlinna in addition to music schools. Teaching was one form of management for me.

A study place opened up for me at a conservatory, but also at Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), which I eventually leaned towards and chose. My studies to become an instructor of creative activities gave me the opportunity to work on all my interests simultaneously – I did not have to choose just one. I did my first internship at a day-care centre and felt like I had finally found my place.

After graduating, I started my Bachelor of Social Services studies alongside work in order to qualify as a kindergarten teacher. In my job at the day-care centre, I was able to use all my strengths diversely, and soon I was in charge of my own day-care unit and team. In other words, I had genuinely ended up in management.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with people, but at some point I noticed that I needed new challenges. I became increasingly interested in team dynamics, management challenges and adult learning. Encouraged by my friend, I decided to take the leap out of early childhood education and care. I jumped into the role of an assistant coach in Novetos, a company specialising in work-related coaching and consulting. There, I was able to experiment with new things and use my creativity to compose music for coaching. I also used songs as part of the coaching process.

Soon I noticed that coaching had many elements in common with guiding a group of children. At the same time, I understood how different the business world was in comparison to the educational and teaching sector. So, again, I started looking for ways to learn more and strengthen my competence. In spring 2018, I started my business studies at Laurea as online studies alongside work, and later in the spring I decided to focus on my studies full-time.

Studies taking place fully online gave me the opportunity to realise one of my greatest dreams. I decided to travel around the world with my backpack and laptop. I first headed towards New Zealand, where I completed an internship as part of my studies at a company specialising in team-building. After that, my adventures took me to South America and across Europe, and I finally ended up studying creative management in the Netherlands for one academic term.

My goal was to continue travelling and look for a traineeship abroad, but the spring of 2020 brought me back to Finland. I started my last traineeship at the coaching company Bravers, where I had an opportunity to work again on the learning and competence development of organisations. I continued working at Bravers part-time even after my training.

No lesson has been lost

While COVID-19 was shaking up the Finnish world of work, I ended up working for the event industry as if by a miracle. Seikkailu Oy, which specialises in team-building in Finland, was faced with something new as events were turning virtual. As the autumn progressed, my work as a freelancer facilitator became increasingly full-time. Soon I noticed that I had created a job for myself as an HR coordinator. I recruited new facilitators and assistants for virtual events, provided orientation and training for employees, and we worked on the new digital business together. During the Christmas season, we worked like crazy when the interest in virtual Christmas parties reached its peak. After Christmas, my duties became established and my responsibilities increased. In addition to internal HR operations, I gained many new customers of my own.

In my work, I was again able to combine many of my strengths and interests. The facilitation of team activities combined the best parts of performance, playfulness, teaching, improvisation and creativity – and at the same time, we were constantly in the context of learning and development. On the HR side, the most rewarding thing was to inspire my own team of freelancers, provide sparring, and to help my team grow into more responsible tasks.

However, the event sector was still in a precarious state, so I started looking for other positions in HR. In August 2021, I started in my current job as an HRD expert at Asuntosäätiö. Once again, my job description is diverse and strongly related to people and learning. I have an opportunity to use my competence in the event sector when organising small and large personnel events in the hybridity of everyday life. Developing orientation, cooperation with educational institutions and recruitment are part of my job description, as are tasks related to promoting well-being at work. In these tasks, I can make versatile use of my competence.

I have reached this point through many twists and turns. At various stages, I have accused myself of making the wrong choices and felt ashamed about the diversity of my educational and work history. For a long time, I was afraid that my CV would give the impression that I was confused and unable to focus. I thought that my interest in many things is a weakness and that I am not particularly good at anything, which means that I am no use in the labour market.

However, I have come to realise that no lesson has been lost. I can use and combine the different areas of my competence in different situations and tasks. I have realised that being a well-rounded multitasker is my strength, and I am proud of it.

There is not just one way to get to your destination. There are many routes, and it is important to make the journey look like your own and enjoy it.

Saana Karikumpu