Only half a century ago it was not at all unusual in Finland for the lives of several generations of one family to fit inside the gates of one factory area. The parents earned their living from the factory and the kids moved from elementary school to the factory’s own trade school and then followed in their parents’ footsteps to jobs in the factory. For twenty years of service, one was rewarded with coffee and cake, and for forty years, with a gold watch. Retired employees often got a rocking chair, where they could peacefully rock and watch the familiar life of the factory grounds through their living room window.
Nowadays, the typical career path has twists and turns. The twenty-first century employee doesn’t get all their wages from a single office. Many even have multiple sources of income at the same time. This type of ‘intermittent work’ is not always a necessary evil—it can also be a choice. Today, young (as well as more seasoned) professionals want to experience many different things and have a feeling of being one’s own master in their working lives. Someone’s ideal pace of life might be achieved by half a year working and the other half surfing in Bali. And if returning home feels less than tempting, many tasks can be done remotely from the resort.
As work changes, education needs to keep up with the development. Educational paths don’t necessarily lead straight to a certain job or even to a certain profession. Very few graduating students have a job in their specific field of expertise waiting for them. In fact, many graduates can’t even provide a definitive answer to the question of what their field of expertise actually is. For some, this translates to an immense sense of freedom where anything is possible. For others, it is a source of uncertainty and fear.
Any line of work these days requires meta-skills, such as the ability to learn new things, to control one’s own time management, to identify the essential, and to think critically. Most fields and levels of education these days pay more and more attention to these skills. However, these skills aren’t enough. Young professionals also require a strong competence profile and versatile knowledge of the realities of the job market – their rights and responsibilities, possibilities and pitfalls – to be able to build their career path on a sound, healthy and independent foundation.
Surely, at the time of retirement, each of us would like to be able to look back on our careers and see that the way we have led our (professional) lives has been fulfilling, rewarding and suitable for us. This should be the case, regardless of whether we are feeling nostalgic while rocking in our chair in the living room, or while watching the Bali sunset, swinging in a hammock.
Original text: Miia Santalahti
This blog post has been translated into English by Tampere University students of multilingual communication and translation studies.