Lately, I've been getting more and more questions about "making it work" as an entrepreneur in a foreign country. At this point in time, I've had my own business as a Luxembourgish entrepreneur in Finland for almost 5 years, and it's been a road with lots of ups and downs. With the European Elections ahead, I have reflected more and more on the situation I am in, what has enabled me to this career path I chose. The services and opportunities that are made possible by the EU are possibly even more crucial to those of us living abroad, and it is important to think of those upon relocation.
As Europeans abroad, and entrepreneurs abroad, our votes are more important than ever.
As a European citizen, many of us are in the lucky position to be eligible for many programs and support structures that help us make it abroad. With the European countries being a union also for the free movement of workers, a lot of things are tons easier for us. We can live and work in pretty much any country we choose to, without compromising on benefits and quality of life. Especially with the European Elections ahead of us, it is even more important to recognise the importance of our voice. Politics can be daunting at times, but especially then it is absolutely crucial for us to make use of the democratic privilege we have and use the power we have been given.
Read all about the European Elections here.
It's been really inspiring to seeing a lot of the younger generation finding a deeper meaning and interest in politics today, and while I don't call myself a political activist of any kind, I've been more and more aware of the changes that we have in our hand. Mainly relating to my personal history and career path, which wouldn't have been possible with the opportunities we have nowadays.
Diving back into the topic of making it work abroad as a foreigner in Helsinki: it is hard to begin with, there are challenges like working culture, language, building a network and so much more. Helsinki has a growing community of foreigners in the workforce, and also many new entrepreneurs who are looking for opportunities in the North, and we are lucky to have organisations, funds and support networks to help us find our way.
I have a strong feeling these days, that people are often not aware enough of the options there are and struggle with things that could make their lives so much easier. And I wonder if it's because of the lack of general information, or is it also a bit of pride that people think they want to make it on their own? It is a mystery. But, I have put together ideas, thoughts, programmes and organisations that can help you to find your way abroad.
Programmes and support organisations
Erasmus + linguistic support: For many of us, this is where our story abroad starts, with exchange studies. The Erasmus programme is well-known and I assume it doesn't need a lot of introduction, but the online linguistic support was new to me. Available for those who study abroad, this is a fantastic resource especially if you are considering to extend your stay or to move to your country of choice permanently.
EURES: is a EU platform that connects job seekers with matching job offers, and it provides tons of tools for that as well. From a CV builder to all kinds of information for those wanting to move and live abroad, this website has curated everything you need to get started. It is also great for employers and recruiters to find talent from across the EU.
Your Europe portal: this service is helping both businesses and EU nationals & their families on the quest to move countries. From a collection of information on the process of moving abroad, what I found extremely useful is the very easy and well-put together section for doing business in Europe, which is great to educate you on the steps to take, with an introduction to contracts, financial things to keep in mind - this is a wonderful starting point.
European Education Area: one main thing I always try to preach, is to continue your own education. Life doesn't end with a degree, but especially if you are an entrepreneur, no employer is going to take care of you being on top of your game and sending you to coachings and training. This initiative by the Commission helps with language training and new skills, and I will definitely try to take advantage of these programs as much as possible. Currently, I am taking a Finnish class specifically for foreign entrepreneurs, which is partly funded by a EU fund, which makes my life so much easier and enriches the whole experience. Last autumn, I took an online course in graphic software, because I felt like not being able to use those was holding me back. It is never a waste of time or money. It's the number one thing for me.
Support on site: there are always organisations and programmes that help people in their chosen location. In Helsinki, there are a couple of place I send people to when questions arise:
- NewCo Helsinki has been such a great help for many in finding resources such as financial help, advice on business plans or just as a great spot for finding opportunities (such as my Finnish class, I stumbled across that here!)
- Simhe: an incredible valuable service by the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, which helps immigrants to get help and clarification when it comes to their degrees and qualifications, and how they translate to the Finnish landscape. It’s very important to set the right groundwork so you know what to work with.
- International House Helsinki: helps foreigners to get started with all paperwork that’s needed and provides a great guideline to move forward once you have decided to relocate. Their consulting services help people to settle in, find jobs and mentor you along the way.
General tips for making it work abroad
Speak for yourself: Especially in this day and age where information is everywhere and readily available, it is crucial that you represent yourself in the best possible way for potential future employers or clients. Especially as more of an "outsider candicate", us foreigners abroad have to speak up even louder. It is a mystery to me how many people I meet still don't have a proper LinkedIn profile (which is a super important platform in Finland!), have no website on themselves or the services they offer, and have no easy and professional way to communicate (big pet peeve: @hotmail/@firstname.lastname@example.org as your email address. Hells no). Make sure your representation is up to par, that your communication is flawless (spelling programmes save me on a daily basis) and again: if you are not sure: ASK!
Network, network, network: I know I know, we hate it all and it can be such a dread, but it's so crucial. To me, a lot of it goes along with the point of keeping up to speed, that is going to events and conferences, hear talks and meet speakers, talk to the crowd and share opinions. My favourite thing to say to everyone is, that you never know who you meet. A seemingly pointless acquaintance could end up being a valuable contact. You simply don't ever know. Be kind, follow up, be interested, research the people you meet and make sure you don't ever burn any bridges. Many jobs never reach the common platforms, because companies recruit internally or based on recommendations coming from in-house. Being known and on peoples' minds is important.
Mainly, what I want to say: make sure you are aware of the support structures that are available to you. Don't be afraid of the paperwork that comes with it, it will pay off in so many ways. Help is at hand, and we should take advantage of it, while at the same time it's really important to play an active role in your own success. If I'm honest - writing this post was a great reminder for me to practise what I preach. Things aren't often what they seem, and the last couple of months - business wise - have been tricky ones for me. But: all is looking up - much of it thanks to a lot of the things in this post. Exchange and visions are important, and so are you.
Make sure you use your vote on May 26! If you vote in Finland and you're still a bit clueless, you can use the Vaalikone to find a good match for you.
This post has been created in collaboration with the European Commission in Finland.