Graduation lies ahead and working life is calling. But perhaps there is still need for clarifying career plans. What do employers expect from a fresh graduate? And how have those graduating a few years ago advanced in their careers? The Career Services unit recently organised a Life After Graduation career afternoon for master's degree students in the final two years of their studies. The event, which has already been established as a tradition, took place on 13 April at the Töölö Campus.
At the Nokia Hall of the School of Business, 70 business students soon graduating with master's degrees listened carefully and posed at times tough questions as the alumni and employers invited to the event provided tips on working life, job seeking and career planning after graduation.
In her opening speech, HRD Manager Paula Helle of Finnair emphasised how the transition from being a full-time student to a full-time employee might initially seem like a major leap. Nevertheless, she considers career building to be a matter of evolution; having the criteria for competence and the definitions for capabilities in a constant change along with the changes in the operating environment.
Helle provided a good example from her own career.
'When I started my studies in communication, no one talked about social media at all, it did not exist. Some of the theoretical basis we learned about is still valid, but the world around us has changed radically.'
According to Helle, it is not advisable to resist the change in the operating environment; instead, people should rather keep following it and show at least a little bit of interest, for example, in global megatrends.
'At the recruitment stage, we at Finnair pay particular attention to whether we can perceive the applicant's ability to expand the role for which he or she is applying at that moment and whether the applicant exudes true passion for self-development in the role', Helle explained at the end of her contribution.
Studying is journey to working life
The career afternoon continued with a panel discussion. The panellists were School of Business alumni who had graduated some years ago. Heli Álen of Fazer, Ville Hallavo of Accenture, Joonatan Lintala of Smartly and Bernardo Clementino of Reddal explained what it had felt to graduate and how they had advanced in their careers.
All the panellists agreed that studying had been a journey along which the networks created during the studies had been nearly the most important resource that one could bring with himself or herself to the working life.
'I also utilise my old networks currently when hiring new employees, whether a originating from student organisations, guilds, different excursions, clubs, sport associations or whatever else. Remember that your CV must include things other that graduating and jobs. What else have you done?', Joonatan Lintala emphasised.
Ville Hallavo also continues to trust the power of networks.
'In my work, I utilise my previous networks by 75–80%.'
When asked about possible career planning, the panellists admitted that, upon graduation, they had also had certain fears about whether the selection of a certain major had anchored their career path permanently. Experience has proven this fear to be unfounded.
'You can always make changes, nothing needs to be set in stone beforehand and your direction can change', Bernardo Clementino noted.
'What matters is that you listen to yourself and think about what you are good at, what interests you and where you would like to develop. Have a dream but be flexible for some extent,' was Álen's advice for soon-to-be graduates.
'If you are interested in something, you are probably also good at it', summarised Joonatan Lintala.
Ville Hallavo's message as someone who had also worked as a researcher at the School of Business was:
'Aalto is a good school and it's developing into the right direction. The courses provide you with competence, but you will not learn interpersonal relationship skills at class, so do something else while you're studying, too. You must find the things that most inspire you and start your way towards them.'
Employers introduced themselves
After the actual official programme, the lobby of the Nokia Hall was filled by a group of companies, all of which were interested in fresh business graduates. Indeed, there was lively discussion at the companies' stands as the students wanted to know what each company could offer them.
'We are here to get visibility as an employer and particularly want to expand the traditional mental image of the trade sector', explained Riikka Laiho of Lidl HR function.
Pekka Haaksluoto of Danske Bank, a finance graduate from the School of Business, explained that he was at the event to meet the 'future hopes' and explain what kind of work takes place at a bank these days.
'The School of Business is our number one recruitment channel', Haaksluoto revealed.
StartUps that had emerged from Aalto University were represented by Smarp, a company developing and marketing 'employee advocacy' with origins at the Mikkeli campus of the School of Business and the year 2011.
'We have offices in Helsinki, Stockholm, London and New York and employees representing 22 different nationalities', explained Mikko Koskinen of Smark HR and continued,
'We are constantly hiring people for both sales and technological development. Showing initiative, having a business attitude and good proficiency in English are the most important qualities.'