I loved to study history. I was a proud student of the humanities. However, the realities of the world of work were breathing down my neck all through my studies. The prospect of finding employment made me nervous, especially since there was no clear employment path in sight. University staff and older students encouraged me to experiment and develop my competence in work areas which interested me. Many students had apparently found work by combining their field of study with their passion for their hobbies, for example. While the encouragement worked, I was still apprehensive. Could I really find a career by just following my heart about what was meaningful to me?
A career survey conducted among graduates employed for five years after graduation, which was frequently quoted during my studies, gave me a great many ideas for contemplating my own career choices. The extensive survey data consolidated the story about individual career paths, where your own activity and enthusiasm become intertwined with a good command of your own field of study. When I later worked for the Student Union of the University of Helsinki and the National Union of University Students in Finland, I kept on returning to the same research data. The career monitoring survey was a good tool for studying the differences between employment in various fields and the status of academic degrees in the world of work.
When last spring I received my own survey to answer, I felt a sense of closure. Suddenly the research outcomes I had quoted became personal: what was my career path? What had my degree prepared me for? And what other factors had contributed to my employment?
It was touching to realise that, in the end, my career path has so far been formed largely by the same factors as the graduates about whose paths I had read as a student. I have found employment with my degree, but also always through my own active effort. Hobbies, elected positions and my own interests have played a significant part alongside my specialist competence. I have had fixed-term contracts and as well as work in projects. Between them I have spent a few weeks unemployed. My current job is my first permanent position and my third proper job after graduation.
Consequently, I thank my university not only for excellent education but also for the successful career coaching. When it comes to the humanities, there is no clear path to be found in a crystal ball, but good guidance, appropriate research and general encouragement play a huge role in how students view their future and in how they present their competence. Both are needed at work, regardless of the stage of the career. That is why I encourage all of us to take a few minutes to answer the survey: it may be unbelievably important for current students!