Saija's story: Your career can be anything but linear – yet everything is useful
I will always remember when my team member commented to me that many people have a very linear career and are clearly progressing, while yours is a real mishmash. I really appreciate the comment because it describes my path very well.
My career has been about listening to my intuition and going where it guides me. At first, I studied to be a restaurant chef. Chef work interested me because the profession allows you to create beautiful things with your hands. After my studies, however, I was completely lost, and I did not know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I spent my youth in the capital region. After my chef studies, I moved to Lapua, where I participated in a workshop for young people organised by the employment services. The coaching organised there focused on future work plans. The only thing I was interested in was helping people, so I applied for Social Services studies in Seinäjoki.
I was ashamed that I had dyslexia and I dared not tell you about it in the entrance exams. At that time, there were still a lot of stigmas concerning dyslexia, especially between one's own ears. Even though I didn't tell anyone about it, I was able to get in from a reserve spot. After starting my studies, I noticed that I was particularly interested in families with children as a theme. That's why I started working for child welfare.
Years in various jobs before and between studies were full of experiences. I worked as a cleaner, and both the airport and the factory halls, and everything in between, became familiar to me. One summer, I worked at PowerPark as an amusement park ride driver. During those years, I gained many good experiences of working life and customer service, and I learned a work approach that has stayed with me, wherever I have worked.
Coaching studies gave new perspectives on encountering people
At the end of my Bachelor of Social Services studies, I hungered for more tools for encountering people. Therefore, I started studying as a profession coach, or nowadays called a Life Coach, at a private school. This was time before coaching was trendy. There were only two of us 24-year-olds studying these leadership skills with others who were much more experienced in working life. In a word, the experience was revolutionary. The coaching studies provided me with a lot of tools for encountering people and improving emotional skills and self-knowledge.
I have always been passionate about promoting my personal and others' development. I have been able to implement this in all my tasks in working life. The things that interest me have mostly been found on the other side of the Atlantic. For example, writers Brené Brown and Simon Sinek have written about things that interest me.
Since 2014, I have been an active member of Junior Chamber activities. This has enabled me to study with the learning by doing method. I have led various projects that develop society or people's competence, such as the Joulupuu campaign and mentoring programme, also I have collaborated with various actors and networked with people across various professional fields. I have also been able to practise performing skills in leisure time activities. Through failure, you will learn a lot and quickly.
The position of a project manager proved to be the fulfilment of dreams
During my career, I have always worked with topics that are on show in the media. When there was the crisis in child welfare work, I worked in substitute care. When a large-scale entry took place with asylum seekers, I worked at a reception centre. During the COVID-19 crisis, I worked at the ELY Centre trying to help entrepreneurs the best I could.
Before the ELY Centre, I worked for TE Services for a few years. From there, I transferred to the ELY Centre to run the From Family Leave to Working Life pilot project. I also started master's degree studies (MBA). There has been a major change in my career before and after the ELY Centre, just like in my own self-knowledge before and after the coaching studies.
It was easy for me to take on the role of project manager because I had accumulated a lot of experience from various tasks, from customer service to sales. This experience made it easier for me to sell the project idea to pilot areas and to build and tailor the implementation to suit different areas, from Lapland to Southern Finland. The project was very successful and led to the establishment of the From Family Leave to Working Life follow-up project. Thus, all work experience is meaningful, even if it is not perceived as such at first.
As a project manager, it has been interesting to consider the well-being of my team and how to recruit. Management is very natural for me, it is amazing. In addition, I have been allowed to carry out various development tasks, such as facilitation of events and service design, and I have put myself out there through both videos and various cooperation projects. This job has truly been a dream come true.
You can do anything - eight insights from my career
When I looked back at my very interesting career and life path, I had a few insights that I want to share with you.
1. It is never too late to try something new or learn something you have never tried before. Experimenting and learning new things can provide energy and a new perspective for the present. In addition, it is always worth investing in learning emotional and subordinate skills and encountering people. However, take care of yourself and set limits to avoid exhausting yourself.
2. Security is important. Learning new things or putting yourself on stage can be frightening. But is it even worse if you don't even try? I think it is. It is important to understand your own mechanics, as the nervous system can react strongly when we are experimenting with something new. There are many different ways to create a sense of security for yourself. For example, mindfulness is a good way to try.
3. You can do anything. You have a lot of potential. It may already be obvious to you, or it may still be progressing. Your strengths should never be taken for granted, as they make you unique. Believe in your own competence and continue to develop as needed. Remember to always be on your side.
4. Failure is a truly important learning experience. During my journey, I have made mistakes, many times. Every time, I have gained a lot of expertise. Don't be afraid of failure because fear cripples you and causes more damage than failure itself. However, in the event of failure, it is important to take responsibility for what has happened and to do your best to correct it.
5. Celebrate your successes. Don't forget that the journey is the most important part of this life.
6. Many of us have a lot to practise in accepting the positives. If you don't know how to respond to a praise, just say thank you. It is enough. Also remember to give others feedback on things you value in them. Too often we forget to make them visible because we take them for granted. Let's spread the good, because it is good for all of us.
7. We are never ready, and you can always learn new things. If you don't know what you want to learn, don't worry, it is normal. I have let go of the question "what am I going to be when I grow up?", because I think I am always going towards the next thing that is interesting and meaningful to me. And it doesn't necessarily have to be related to work.
8. Remember the joy! In life, you will face challenges and surprising situations, but remember to find hope wherever you are. Sometimes it is a good idea to consider your situation from a slightly longer perspective. "What would an 80-year-old me say to me here and now?” Give yourself permission to enjoy your life.
I have gained work experience from a young age, before, between and after my studies, for about 20 years.
My education includes Bachelor of Business Administration (YAMK) (2020), Brave New Leader training (2020), Life Coach (2009–2011), Bachelor of Social Services (2010) and Restaurant Chef (2004).