‘The students I have met will do well in their careers, I’m not at all worried about that’ – Ville Karttunen is a mentor for students at Aalto University
Working life takes centre stage in mentoring discussions
Ville Karttunen is currently mentoring a master’s student at Aalto University. They meet about once a month to discuss working life from the younger person’s perspective. The exact nature of the mentoring process depends on the student. When Ville is mentoring a student whose goal is to land their first internship, they focus on discussing the student’s CV and internship applications. Ville’s current mentee is more focused on their personal growth and self-understanding, sometimes resulting in more personal conversations.
‘The agenda is usually set by the student. They think about topics they would like to discuss and prepare questions, for example. The mentee should have a main goal and a number of milestones,’ Ville says.
Ville and the student have discussed questions pertaining to working life, such as what makes a good leader or, on the other hand, a good employee. They have also discussed ways to learn to know oneself, the student’s goals for their internship, or how to find one’s first internship with no prior experience in the field.
‘I have for example described the kind of job interview answers that impress me whenever I’m conducting a recruitment interview.’
According to Ville, it should be underlined that the student decides on the extent to which they will follow the mentor’s advice.
‘Meanwhile, the mentor has to understand that they can only give advice based on personal experience. If the mentor assumes that they are somehow educating the student, something has gone wrong,’ he adds.
The mentoring process also enables the mentor to grow.
‘Meeting students is a brief respite from the rat race and long stretches of meetings. It is an opportunity for me to stop for a moment, for example to think about my expectations for the people working for me. In addition, I get feedback on whether my thinking is still up to date.’
Mentoring sometimes forces the mentor to step outside their comfort zone.
‘I once mentored a young man who was a skater through and through. I who have zero knowledge of skateboarding culture! He had founded a skateboarding club in Otaniemi and his social circles were nothing like mine. It was a healthy experience for me to see the world outside my personal bubble,’ Ville says.
Ville Karttunen encourages students to trust their competence
Ville studied business strategy and system analysis at Helsinki University of Technology (TKK), the predecessor of Aalto University. He admits to not having understood the potential of his field when he was young. It was only during his career that he has realised just how extensively he could apply the knowledge he had gained during his studies. The opportunities opened by education are almost always broader that students understand.
‘A mentor with working life experience could certainly have helped me recognise the opportunities available to me if I had applied for mentoring back in the day.’
Earlier, Ville acted as a mentor to a student who had made a career leap from real estate to the energy sector.
‘The student was worried whether they would ever get a job with no previous experience in the energy industry. I think that a knowledge of real estate is immensely useful for someone working in the energy sector. There is certainly a demand for cross-sector skills.’
Ville would like to help students believe in their skills and ability to find the right path. He too remembers what it felt like not to get hired for a summer job because he lacked skills and experience.
‘Aalto graduates are such top experts that there will always be a demand for them. You just need to know how to advertise your skills. The students I have met will do well in their careers. I’m not at all worried about that,’ he says.
Ville’s tips on how to succeed in your first summer job as a student
1. Never hesitate to ask for advice if you don’t know how to do something, even if you may feel embarrassed to admit your lack of competence. Your more experienced colleagues will want to help you succeed.
2. Take the opportunity to get to know people from outside your field, too. In your career, you always benefit from understanding not only your field of specialisation but also the customer or the supplier, for example.
3. Don’t be afraid of failures. If you set your targets high in your career, it is inevitable that sometimes you will fail. Failure is always an opportunity to learn something new.
Picture and text: Sari Eestilä, Caruna