A clear focus helped to land the traineeship of her dreams

Ngoc Vu
Ngoc Vu
5 min

Many international students in Vaasa struggle with finding internships and summer jobs relating to their field of study. This is often the case even for those who already have a degree as well as work experience from their home country. Thankfully, there are exceptions, which prove that an international student can find his or her dream job against all odds.

When given the chance to contribute and learn, the student can be a great resource to an employer at the same time as he or she can start to develop into a future expert in the field.

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This story is part of a series brought to you by Vaasa International Talents in cooperation with Vaasa International.

Ngoc Vu – or Elly, as she calls herself – comes from Vietnam. As with many Vietnamese names, people in western countries can find them hard to pronounce. Therefore, it is common not least amongst the younger generation to give oneself a western name, even if one has an easy name. Elly says that she chose this English name because both her names mean “sunshine”.

“I actually wanted to keep my name, but every time I try to introduce myself, I have to say it several times and it’s still hard for people to get,” Elly says.

Ngoc Vu in Saigon, 2019
Ngoc Vu in Ho Chi Minh, 2019

Elly comes from the city of Ho Chi Minh, former Saigon, which is home to approximately 10 million inhabitants. It is the financial and industrial centre of southern Vietnam and its major harbour.

Elly moved to Finland in 2019 straight from high school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in International Business at VAMK University of Applied Sciences.

Attracted by heart-warming articles about Vaasa

“Most people in Vietnam would choose USA, Canada or Australia for their studies abroad, but I wanted to choose a new country, Finland,” Elly says.

Elly recalls coming across heart-warming articles mentioning Vaasa as the sunniest city in Finland. “That sparked my interest,” she says.

Vaasa was mentioned as the sunniest city in Finland – that sparked my interest!

Currently a third-year student, Elly was one of 23 international students accepted to the Vaasa International Talents programme in the spring of 2021.

Through the programme, Elly hoped to find a job related to logistics and supply chain management. She had been interested in these fields already when she first applied to VAMK UAS, but her own attempts since 2019 to find a related job had so far been unsuccessful.

“Before moving here, I was already aware that searching for a job in Finland is very difficult for international students,” Elly says.

In early 2021, Elly had spotted an ad on LinkedIn for summer jobs at Wärtsilä. As it happened, the Vaasa International Talents programme had not yet even started when Elly was called to an interview and was eventually offered a summer job as Delivery Coordinator Trainee – a dream come true.

Lack of experience no barrier to a summer job in Finland

Even though she had no previous work experience from Vietnam, Elly managed to land a summer job at one of the biggest companies in Vaasa. Elly explains:

It is not a tradition to have summer jobs in Vietnam. Summer is for holidays, but part-time jobs for example in restaurants are very common, as people work and study at the same time.

In addition, prior to getting the job offer from Wärtsilä, a few other companies to which Elly had also sent job applications had called her to a video interview.

How did Elly manage so well to introduce herself to potential employers?

“I assume it is because I am very focused. I knew from early on that my future career would be in logistics and international delivery,” Elly says.

Elly also put a lot of effort into learning about the potential employer and into building a CV that meets the job description by listing the relevant skills to the specific career, as opposed to general skills.

HR Manager reveals the secrets to job search success

Johanna Kakkuri
Johanna Kakkuri

So, is being focus-oriented the key to standing out from the crowd when applying for a job? We discussed this intriguing issue with Johanna Kakkuri, who works as Senior HR Manager at Wärtsilä. Kakkuri is also involved in the Vaasa International Talents programme, sharing her HR insights about Finnish working life culture and common recruitment processes at Finnish companies.

According to Johanna Kakkuri, there are a few important things to keep in mind when applying for a job:

Indeed, being focus-oriented is good. It is good to know what interests you and what you want to learn more about when searching for a job. It is still important to be humble and open-minded, since you seldom get the opportunity to work exclusively with tasks that are of particular interest to you. You need to be ready to take on other assignments as well.

What if you do not yet know what you would like to work with?

Perhaps your education is very broad. Perhaps you may not have any prior work experience and thus cannot compare different types of jobs or functions in an organisation. You might be open to different alternatives.

In such cases, Johanna Kakkuri recommends specifying the elements that would keep you motivated at work.

What brings you energy? If you apply for a job, you do not need to state that you are interested in it, as this goes without saying. Instead, tell the potential employer why you are interested in something.

Show added value to the potential employer

Johanna Kakkuri recommends that job applicants bring more information on how they work.

What additional value would you bring to the company or the team? It is not necessarily only your skills and knowledge but your personality that matter. Be proud of yourself, yet humble.

According to Kakkuri, it is more important to highlight the skills that you have, rather than those you lack.

“If you think you lack something, emphasize that this is an area which you have always wanted to learn or know more about,” she says.

These are good things to include in a cover letter.

To employers: “Don’t be afraid of diversity”

Johanna Kakkuri also has an important message to employers:

Employing someone like you is very easy but may not always get the best results. Instead, consider what is currently missing in your team in terms of gender, age, or nationality, for example. By bringing in a new person, you can complement what is lacking, thereby helping both you, your team and your organisation going forward.

Elly’s own advice to employers thinking about hiring international employees is to keep an open mind. She is grateful to the Wärtsilä Summer Power programme for recognising her potential and allowing her to be part of the Wärtsilä Marine Business team.

“I feel that I was treated as an official employee, not being classified as a ‘trainee’, which I truly appreciate,” Elly says.

Elly’s experiences of creating and following up project shipments to customers worldwide met her expectations and made her want to deep-dive even further into the topic. She is currently writing her Bachelor’s thesis for Wärtsilä on maritime transportation, aiming to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business within 2022.

To new international students, her advice would be: “Try to identify your field of interest, define your goals and work on improving your knowledge and skills to meet the market demands.”

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