We just accept students who are fluent in Finnish.
That is the response I have, probably, received from 50 recruiters or more, since I am looking for an internship in Finland. I am originally German-speaking and I just started learning this very hard language some months ago, and by now I am able to introduce myself and read quite an amount of the signs in stores. But I am very far from talking simple chat. I don’t want to know how many more years I would need to invest until I am able to communicate on a business level.
In the beginning I was looking at Finish companies that might offer internships but after the first 20 refusal due to missing language requirements I actually started to look for my home country’s companies in Finland. I asked DHL, DB Schenker, Kuehne + Nagel and some others whether they would take me, but although they are German originally, they just want interns who speak Finnish. Is it that insignificant that I am German born and might be able to facilitate the communication channel between Germany and Finland. And why is it that Finnish seems to be the corporate language in those companies?
That gets me to the question of what I am supposed to do. It is mandatory for my degree to do an internship abroad, but no company in my country of choice (Finland so far) seems to want me. Why is it impossible to find an internship in Finland without proper knowledge of the language. Someone suggested a Finnish job search portal, but unfortunately I am not able to log on there.
For the seven month I have spent in this lovely country so far, I had not a single problem with not knowing the language. In every store, at the police registration, at university, schools or other public places I got around with English just fine. Every single person knew English, some even do know German, and was able to assist and process my inquiry. Now that I really have to rely on my English skills, no one seems to care.
I wondered whether the same has happened to foreign students in Germany as well. But actually all large companies, like DB Schenker, DHL / Deutsche Post, offer positions for foreigners in their reigns, that demand sufficient knowledge of English and might recommend German, in this case, to apply and eventually get the trainee position.
What options do I have left now?
- I could decide for another country to do my internship. I could go to Great Britain, where they definitely need English-speaking interns. Even rents might be cheaper elsewhere, so I could together save a tremendous amount of money.
- Maybe I get an internship through good connections (I prefer the German term of Vitamin B (Beziehung = contacts). I can ask professors whether companies they work/have worked for or they know about award internships to students.
- Worst case scenario: Drop the double degree I am striving for and take up an internship position in Germany, where my language proficiency meets the requirements.
- Drop out of university and marry a millionaire!
- Well, maybe if I keep on searching some company might have mercy and opens their doors for me and might be surprised by what, or better who, they have employed.
Endurance is patience concentrated. (Thomas Carlyle)
Be aware: I am a very patient person! And maybe I will end up in Switzerland.
That is so true. And ridiculous I think. There are so many companies in Finland that have English as their corporate language, yet they ask all the applicants to be fluent in Finnish! What is the point if you still need to do your job in English!? And what is even more ridiculous, is that most of the companies spend huge amounts of money in employees’ English training; the employees actually go to a language class once a week on their work time. Wouldn’t it be better to learn English by chatting with a colleague on a day to day basis?
But don’t lose your patience yet, I know for sure that there are English speaking people working in Finland without knowing any Finnish. You do have a chance!
Good luck with your search!
Dear student(s), Thank you for a very interesting and current blog post. It is true that finding a work or placement in Finland is not easy for students without Finnish skills. Every year also I am trying to contact local companies and promote our international and very talented students. Big multinational companies are all saying that they would need business students that have strong international skills but quite seldom they offer an actual post to us. Fortunately there are companies that do recruit our wonderful international students but it demands a lot of work and patience (and some luck) to find the position.
They say that at least 70 % of open vacancies are filled through personal networks, so there’s no job advertisement to be found. You just have to know somebody that knows somebody. This makes job hunting very challenging for people that have stayed so short time in a country.
As you listed your options, I would recommend for you to keep on applying patiently and use your fellow students’ help. The staff of our business school is also happy to help all students. So ask your lecturers and you are also very welcome to visit my office B217. Let’s see what we could come up together.
Heidi Kaukoranta, Placement Coordinator
Read Tube’s Vacancies announcements and see some good link lists of recruitment companies from EBA,EM,IBL -student information workspace
I can almost see the frustration on your face but don’t give up. Persistence is often rewarded. There are many opportunities (especially if you accept an internship without salary) especially in the fields of technology and medicine. Business related internships can be harder to get but i’m sure the opportunities are there.
Even though the corporate language of MNEs is usually English, the local language is unfortunately often required not only in Finland but almost in any other country. I’ve had the chance to talk with the HR manager of TNT Express in Vienna concerning the topic who elaborated their recruitment policies concerning the foreigners and people with foreign backgrounds. In Vienna offices they have at least one foreigner in each office room with various sets of language skills. However, daily business is still mainly conducted in German language mixed with English for communication between offices internationally. I imagine the situation is quite similar with other transportation companies since their business is very much linked with local customers.
Even though the free movement of labor has opened many new doors for Europeans, the language barriers remain and will be there as long as we have strong national identities. In many cases the companies do not discriminate based on language skills, they are simply looking for persons who are perfectly fit for the positions.
While looking for companies who could support a Bachelor Thesis students i have talked with many interesting people who encourage all applicants to show enthusiasm and point out the what you can offer for the companies. Me and my colleagues received 20-30 rejections before we could find two companies, who were willing to assist us and only one of them could offer information in English language.
I know it is harder to find an internship in Finland than in GB for example but keep trying.
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