Tarja's story: I took the jobs that were available

Career story

I started my career by collecting berries and mushrooms for sale. I had a summer job in the gardens. After upper secondary school, I went to a sports institute to take a basic course as a sports instructor, which gave me my first qualification: I became a swimming instructor. I did this job for a few years. After this, I did mixed work, for example, in a bakery and a hospital.

Next, I went to Mänttä to study to become a paper process manager. However, this school was left six months short when I was accepted to study laboratory technology in Vantaa. During my studies, I worked for Metsä-Serla in Äänekoski, where I also completed my thesis. After graduation, I was able to work for a fish farm that was a great place a fishing hobbyist.

Work continued in the chemical industry as I worked at Genencor. In this work, I participated in the development of the ISO 9000 quality system, which also led to international assignments. In this job, I was exposed to production moulds and became ill. I was in a really bad condition, but I can cope with the disease nowadays, as long as I avoid exposure to mould. Because this is an occupational disease, I retrained as a telecommunications engineer.

Studying took place far away and travelling took two hours a day. In addition, I was responsible for caring for a small child when my husband was in shift work. All this made studying challenging. After my theoretical studies, I completed my thesis for the City of Jämsä on the renewal of the call centre system. At the same time, I made part-time research project preparations for JAMK University of Applied Sciences. Despite the challenges, I graduated just over two years after I started my studies.

I thought I’d easily find a job. But it wasn’t that easy. I was accepted to teach telecommunication technicians at a vocational school. Soon after, however, I noticed that the facilities were not suitable for me, so I was looking for a new job. I got a job at Sonera's technical customer service. The commute was long and moving to the new premises would have extended the commute even further, so I was looking for work closer to home.

I started working as the head of an IT recycling workshop for young people at a working orientation foundation (Työvalmennussäätiö). The work was very versatile and challenging in a fun way. I supervised two young people until their vocational qualifications with an apprenticeship. It felt good when I was able to help them. I was also able to work with other rehabilitees because I worked well with the entire range of those being rehabilitated. Unfortunately, there were also moisture problems in these facilities, which resulted in me having to look for a new job again.

I returned to the renovated vocational school facilities to teach. However, it soon became clear that I still cannot be in the premises, so I had to go looking for something new again. At this point, I completed the teacher's pedagogical studies.

I wrote more than 150 applications, not lying

In Jämsä, a development project for the support organisations of the communities of Central Finland began, and I became a project worker. Workspaces were offered in premises where I could not work, but I was lucky to be able to work from home. This job taught me a lot. I learned to get along with very different people and organise large events. I succeeded well in the project, and I can be proud of myself. Operating models developed during the project remained in use. However, projects are always fixed-term, so I was looking for work again.

Next, I was substituting the teacher of technical work in a primary school. The work was fun, but challenging, as the groups are large, and the feeling of inadequacy eats motivation. You don’t have time to teach everyone, and someone always suffers.

Then there was a situation where, despite my efforts, I couldn’t find a job. I ended up in a Rekry hybrid training for engineers at the TE Office. During the training, we learned to use a new design tool, and I did my work placement in Harvia in Muurame. I became familiar with SolidWorks and Vertex in addition to the former Autocad. However, no workplace opened up based on this course.

I found a new job as a fixed-term data updater in a network company. I learned a couple of new tools again and I learned about the anatomy of electricity stations. Here, I was also able to take advantage of my previous skills when we organised an open day at the new station. With a familiar partner, I served approximately 150 people in off-road conditions. This gave me a lot of praise from the leadership of the house. Unfortunately, the work was fixed-term, and the writing of applications began.

I wrote more than 150 applications, not lying. For most of them, I didn’t even receive an answer. I got interviewed a few times and I was always left behind the younger ones. At a family club's board meeting, there was talk of job-seeking, and thanks to my relatives, I got work at an asphalt station the following week.

So, I started at YIT as an asphalt worker. Initially, the work involved managing the weigh station and environmental issues. More specifically, I inspected recycled asphalt loads and produced reports. I spent a couple of summers doing these jobs and the station's IT support.

Over time, the management of the weigh station no longer required full work input, so I moved on to learning the work at the laboratory on the side. For a couple of summers, I was my predecessor's partner in the laboratory. There was a great deal of work in two shifts. In the summer of 2022, I was already solely responsible for the laboratory, but I also managed the weigh station when I could from my other work. The work is very physical and very project-based.

I feel that I’ve been able to do many great things in my life

I continue to work as a coach and assistant for a blind national team shooter and as an hourly teacher for knife-making students at an adult education centre. The high point of my coach's career is still coming, but the best experience so far is from November 2022, when we ranked fourth in the World Cup. The coaching has given me great successes and experiences. Teaching is my second nature, so sharing my skills is a pleasure.

Regarding the challenges of working life, I could say that getting sick at work blew up the order of things. I’m very careful about occupational safety and health at work, which may not please everyone. However, I tell everyone that health should not be sacrificed to work. Another significant challenge in working life has been poor management. If I could change something, I would add the teaching of emotional intelligence to management training. The ability to listen to an employee is a sign of a good work community.

You can think about how different careers can be. My sister worked 42 years in the same job. I have a slightly different career. It’s not been boring, though it’s not been easy.

My childhood dream was to become a doctor, but it did not come true. I feel that I’ve been able to do many great things in my life. I enjoy it the most when I get to coach and teach. I like to make another person realise their own abilities and start using them. The versatile experiences have given me insights into things. I feel that curiosity is one of my good qualities, and I always try to familiarise myself with the task I’m doing at the time.

In my free time, I charge my batteries while fishing in nature and enjoying the forest in a versatile manner. Sport continues to be part of my free time, even though there has been a decline in competitiveness over the years. I engage in versatile manual skills, mainly technical work.

Tarja Sorri