In March 2023 we, Elle and Christy, were fortunate to host the Boost your Future event. We discussed the journey of professional artist life with four Uniarts Helsinki alumni, Kristina Bogataj, Paola Fernanda Guzmán Figueroa, Nóri Varga and Mioko Yokoyama. Then Männikkömetsä job coaches Aapeli Tourunen and Sakari Siilin gave an inspiring presentation. Both of us were blown away by the value of the answers that were brought up in the discussion. With the intention of transferring advice from graduates to students, this blog summarises what we gathered.
How to find work?
It is surprising to know that the majority of jobs are found through connections in Finland. Although it might seem intimidating to tell people that you are looking for a job, it is necessary to be open and tell people what you are looking for. It takes a lot of courage to ask for work but it is also a sign that you are taking the initiatives! It never hurts to ask and you can even try posting on Facebook and search all sources.
A support system and community can bring you a long way in finding jobs and rooting in Helsinki, networking starts from somewhere and each connection leads to other connections. It might seem like you are taking baby steps but each step leads to the next step and so on. Our four guest alumni agree that it is definitely not easy to find a full time job as artists, so they usually have multiple sources of income, for example teaching as well as freelancing in projects. Mioko for example had four part time jobs while studying. Some were from connections from friends, others from direct applications.
Another important tip from the alumni is to take the opportunity from the study to learn new and diverse things. Artistic practice is diverse and finding something that you are interested in and resonate with usually brings you to the suitable community and working environment.
The topic of free work was brought up during the discussion, it is a controversial topic as it might get you some exposures but also possibly causing a domino effect in the salary standard in the field. Why would they pay if there are free artists? Yet, how do we handle the situation if someone asks you to work for free?
Avoid doing free work whenever possible. Always try to negotiate a salary, even if it’s small. Some unions provide standard price lists for artistic works, which can help ensure fair compensation. Seek advice from teachers, friends, and industry professionals to navigate these situations.
It is also important to understand the background of the organisation who invites you, is there funding behind that should be able to afford a proper salary? The alumni also expressed that the working process and situations are quite different in the fields of music, theatre and fine art, therefore a different reality in the salary situation.
The possibility of making your own company is also brought up. As an artist you might want to make your own things, instead of work on other peoples projects. Starttirahaa is a small grant to start your own business that lasts for 6-12 months.
What is the biggest piece of advice?
Lots of different suggestions from learning Finnish to dressing with more colours were brought up during the discussion. Ultimately they are tools allowing for a better understanding of the local cultures and a way to make yourself part of the community.
Learn Finnish. Learning Finnish can be immensely valuable for integrating into the local culture and having deeper conversations. However, it requires significant time and commitment. Evaluate your goals and priorities to determine if learning Finnish aligns with your plans in Finland. If you decide to pursue it, reach out to the international community for support. Learning Finnish signals your interest in the culture and society, which can encourage others to assist you.
Find your support group. Participating in different cultural events and multidisciplinary projects is always a good idea as it gives you a sense on the art scene here and is also a perfect opportunity to meet like-minded fellows. There are also lots of organizations who support the development and immersion of artists from outside Finland, such as Globe Art Point, Catalysti, New Theatre Helsinki and so on. You can find the link of their websites below. They have communication with Migri and can help figuring out visa related things.
Return to your inner compass. In our career path it can be hard to feel like your work is valuable. Monetising our work comes from an external capitalistic system. This money for work tells very little about the value and impact of our work. Be reflective but be very kind to yourself. This will give you hope that more things will follow. Work in a way that doesn’t corrupt your inner compass. Meet people and do things that you like. Find what you want to do and why. Find work that is not only freelance. Try looking for work at cultural centres and rural towns too. The work can also be international. You have an open path to Nordic countries and your home country.
Stay positive and respect the environment where we are guests. It is common to feel that we are entitled to things, for example jobs in English, but let’s stay away from this trap. It is also important to keep a good vibe around you. Find the people that give you power and energy and happiness. Dress with more colours. It might be tough at times but positivity attracts good things.
Why is it hard to find jobs in Finland?
70% of jobs in Finland are hidden. Meaning that they are not publicly posted, but instead the position will be opened by word of mouth and the employer will ask their network. This is done for two reasons. Firstly, the rights of employees in Finland are high, so firing someone is difficult to do. This means that employers will be careful of who they hire. Secondly employers will have time and budget limitations, so it is more time and cost effective to ask around instead of going through a posting campaign.
How to systematically start looking for jobs?
When searching for jobs, start by expressing your interests to everyone you meet and collecting data on organizations that align with your skills. Approach these organizations by inviting them for casual coffee meetings to discuss potential job opportunities. Be proactive in highlighting why you’re interested in collaborating with them. Remember to follow up if you don’t receive a response. Keep your email and communication informal, as Finns appreciate a friendly tone. Try starting the email with Moi or Hei. Emphasize your connections and share your clear vision with others.
Structure for contacting
- Introduction | Who are you, where are you from & field of study and education institute
- Proposal | What is the matter you are contacting
- Tell what kind of job you are looking for (internship. part-time or full time job) and ask if they have recently considered hiring new employees
- Grounds Why are you interested the organisation and what you can bring to the table
- Next step | What do you want that happens next
- Casual meeting, permission to send CV & open application
- Wrap up | Best regards & contact info
The journey of finding work as an artist in Finland can be challenging, but with courage, networking, and a proactive approach, it is possible to build a career. Trust yourself, stay calm, and keep moving forward. Remember, you are not alone, and there are support systems available to assist you along the way.
Do you have any thoughts or tips on finding jobs in Finland as an artist? Welcome to leave a message below!
Life of an art student
In this blog, Uniarts Helsinki students share their experiences as art students from different academies and perspectives, in their own words. If you want to learn even more regarding studying and student life in Uniarts and Helsinki, you can ask directly from our student ambassadors.