Alum Saara Niskanen: 'Apply for internships or summer jobs with an open mind'

International Business alum Saara Niskanen works as a journalist for School of Business Premium Partner Alma Media's Talouselämä magazine and enjoys the possibility to talk about things that have an impact on people's lives.
Saara Niskanen, photo from Saara's own collection
Saara Niskanen, photo from Saara's own collection

Who are you? What did you study at the School of Business and when did you graduate?

My name is Saara Niskanen and I work as a journalist for Talouselämä magazine at Alma Talent. I studied at the School of Business, then still at the Helsinki School of Economics, majoring in international business and minoring in Finnish language and communication. I graduated in 2008. 

What has your career path been like?

During my studies, I became interested in journalism and was able to gain work experience in the field, first as a summer journalist, then as a permanent assistant alongside studies and finally in full-time employment. I was particularly interested in financial journalism because I studied economics and felt that economics plays an important role both in society in general and in the everyday lives of all of us. At first, however, I found work in slightly different fields in women's magazines and local city papers, which was lucky, as they gained diverse experience in various subjects. Surprisingly, my different background also proved to be an asset when I got my first job at a business magazine. Later, when I specialized more in financial topics, my extensive experience has been useful, as the range of financial journalism topics varies from companies and the stock exchange to well-being at work, responsibility, and consumers' everyday lives. I think it is important write about economics for everyone, not just for experts in the field.

How did you end up in your current position? / How did you become a journalist for Alma Talent?

I started as a journalist at Alma Talent in Talouselämä magazine in 2019. Before that, I worked as a journalist for the financial news agency Startel and Taloussanomat, among others.

Highlight studies from the perspective of employment (what you think has been particularly important in your studies/what has been most useful)

A degree in business has brought an in-depth understanding of how the economy works both in theory and practice and how it affects society as a whole and people's lives. The studies increased the skills to interpret and analyze economic information and draw conclusions from it. In addition, practical skills such as IT and language skills were accumulated. Many journalists have studied, for example, journalism, but education in economics also provides journalists with useful skills. 

Would you do something differently in your studies (what to add, where to go, what events/services/opportunities would you use) / What advice would you give yourself if you were studying now?

At the School of Business, I was involved in club and organizational activities, and I recommend it to everyone: student activities are a good counterbalance to cramming, and at the same time you get to know new people and learn cooperation skills needed in working life. There could have been even more involvement in the organizations right from the beginning of the studies. 

What does your job entail / describe is your example working day / tell us about your work tasks?

In the Talouselämä magazine, I have been able to follow the economy very extensively, as the topics have varied from companies' earnings announcements to startups, the everyday life of home cleaning entrepreneurs and ground source heat pumps. I have also managed, for example, Talouselämä M&A monitoring. At work, you can constantly get to know new things and discuss them with experts in your own fields. The days vary a lot: sometimes an unexpected news situation renews the calendar, and the stories need to be quickly brought online, sometimes you can delve into a longer story for several days. In some shifts, I take care of publishing Talouselämä articles online and on social media channels and send newsletters, for example.

What have been the highlights of your career?

The most important thing has been to be able to talk about things that have an impact on people's lives. Through my work, I have been able to get to know many topics and people that I would not have come across otherwise. In this work, I have really been able to follow both the Finnish and global economy as well as society at large.

How did studying at the School of Business prepare you for working life?

During the studies, I gained extensive expertise in different fields of economics, such as financial markets, economics, statistics, marketing, and the outlook of different industries, which has been useful in working life as a financial journalist. When writing a story about a company, for example, it is important to be able to interpret material financial figures, financial reports, and the business environment. Group work and projects also provided a wide range of practical skills, from teamwork and problem-solving to presentation techniques and website creation.

The studies also prepared me for the internationality of working life, as my major studies were in English, and during courses and case exercises, I got used to meeting new people from Finland and abroad, and considering, for example, different cultural backgrounds in cooperation. International student organization activities broadened my perspective beyond my major subject.

How do hobbies and work experience during studies affect different career stages?

Already during my studies, I had the opportunity to work as a freelance journalist for magazines where I had worked in summer jobs and between studies. It also led to full-time employment. Studying and full-time job was demanding, but the opportunity to take a couple of months of unpaid leave for studies helped a lot in writing my master's thesis.

Your advice for those thinking about their studies and tips for working life?

You should also take advantage of the opportunity to study courses other than those related to your major, for example through JOO -studies or the Open University. If you are interested in, for example, financial journalism, courses in communications and journalism, among others, will be useful. It is also a good idea to apply for internships or summer jobs with an open mind: working as a financial journalist also benefits from work experience in media in other fields or in completely different fields.

What are the key characteristics of the journalist?

At least analytical skills and the ability to structure and summarize things. An open mind, perseverance and healthy toughness are also important.

In your opinion, what are the most important working life skills?

Important general skills include, for example, cooperation skills, analytical skills, prioritization, and the ability to present and express one's own views. Still, it's good to remember that no one can know everything. I would like to encourage all students to trust themselves and that they will have time to acquire the necessary skills during their studies and careers.

What do you expect from the future / what hopes do you have for your future career?

I wish I could always develop further in my career and learn new ways of working. Right now, I'm interested in, for example, the possibilities of data analytics and artificial intelligence.

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