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Get help from a mentor

International students face difficulties in work life networking. Mentors help them in acquiring work.

Mari Saarela and Nana Imai have a mentorship where both gain and neither one loses.
Mari Saarela and Nana Imai have a mentorship where both gain and neither one loses.

A mentoring programme for connecting international degree students and work life veterans began in September. Through the programme, students can get help and guidance for the first steps of their career path. Mentoring is a part of the WorkPlace Pirkanmaa project aimed at supporting students with an international background in acquiring work.


International students need support in finding work more than Finns since they usually do not have any existing networks in Finland. Even the contacts made during studies are often limited to the University. In addition to mentoring, support for networking is available at company events organised by WorkPlace Pirkanmaa.

"Some of the international students face great difficulties even in acquiring an internship place. Some Finnish students also have trouble getting work but at least they know which companies operate in the Pirkanmaa region and they know people who work here. Mentors may offer their own contacts for the international studentÂ’s use", Coordinator Marika Vanhatalo from WorkPlace Pirkanmaa says.

In addition to contacts, job hunting often requires Finnish language skills.

"Finnish language skills are required in some working environments but not all. The Pirkanmaa region has international companies with English as their working language. It pays to find out how much an international student should focus on Finnish studies while they are still studying", Vanhatalo states.


In the programme, the mentor and student form a discussion pair that meets approximately six times for 1,5-2 hours at a time. The programme has 17 mentoring pairs which include five students of the University of Tampere. The programme lasts until next April. Since mentoring is based on voluntariness, the participants do not receive any monetary compensation.

"Some of the mentors are foreigners and some are Finnish. Some Finns wanted to take part in the programme because they have also studied abroad and remember all the difficulties that international students may have to deal with. The students offer their mentors information on their culture and the current University life", Vanhatalo explains.

The mentors and students discuss, for instance, what the Finnish work life is like, how one can apply for work and what students should concentrate on in their studies from the work life perspective. The University of Tampere career and recruitment serviceÂ’s personnel also offer guidance in similar matters.

"Earlier, all the international students were exchange students. During the past years, the situation has changed so that we now have international degree students as well. We want to send a message to work life that international students often wish to stay in Finland instead of just visiting here", Vanhatalo says.

Vanhatalo feels that employers do not yet know how to make good use of the multicultural work force that graduates from universities.

"A company does not have to make large changes in order to become more international since they can simply hire international students. They have skills of their field and knowledge of their culture and language."


One of the students in the mentoring programme is Nana Imai, a Japanese student who is now studying for the third year in the BachelorÂ’s Programme in Social Sciences. She has also studied in the United States and England before coming to Tampere.

"The University develops and creates new know-how but is very unconnected with the society when it comes to work life. Since the University does not know where students end up working at, it would require an unreasonable amount of time to teach the daily operations of a possible working place", Imai says about the benefits of the programme.

Imai has been in the mentoring programme for two meetings only and yet she has already gained concrete knowledge from the programme.

"I have learned what being a manager truly means. It is not just sorting the paperwork, using the computer and phone and being busy. I have seen what sort of tasks, responsibilities and problems a manager really has to deal with", Imai states and refers to the work desk of her mentorÂ’s, Organisation Manager Mari Saarela of The Finnish Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities. Saarela also finds the mentoring programme useful and not just from the studentÂ’s point of view.

"In our association, the Finnish language is very important but we would still like to find a way in which we could operate with international students. This is mutually beneficial since we want to include international influences in our activities", Saarela says.


Hertta-Mari Kaukonen,
Ville Ilkkala

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Sivujen ulkoasu: Seppo Honkanen


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