When you finish comprehensive school, you need to think about your next move. Are you going to enroll in upper secondary school or choose vocational studies? On average, it’ll be another three years before you’ll have to make another choice: keep studying or enter the workforce? For a young person, the transition into full-time employment is one of the most significant milestones along one’s educational journey. But how can this transition serve everyone, especially now that the coronavirus has put many jobs on hold and delayed some students’ graduation? This situation may affect this year’s graduates and their careers for a long time, which is a cause for concern for us at SAKKI.

If I think about my own transition into working life and how it was for many of my friends as well, the shift took place already during our vocational studies. In my opinion, the periods of work-based learning are a chance to get a foot in the door. Cooperation between educational institutions and workplaces provides areas with the types of workers they need, which is why nearby businesses are among the most important partners for education providers. I got my server’s diploma in Kuopio and managed to work lots of extra hours through temporary staffing services. I spent four months at a local hotel’s restaurant during a work-based learning period and continued to work there over the following spring and summer. Without the work experience, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t have gotten the first restaurant job I applied for after moving to Vantaa.

The transition into full-time work was both wonderful and horrific. Mostly wonderful, though—being able to do the work that I studied for and that I feel is right for me. This isn’t always the case. The shift brings major changes, for example, in the kind of responsibility you have, going from student healthcare to occupational healthcare services, entering a work community as the “new girl/guy,” and possibly not getting any peer support during all of it. There’s a lot to take in and understand. When joining the workforce, it’s essential that you know your rights as an employee, even if the union representative system functions well at your workplace.

If you end up staying home, unemployed, after graduating—whether it’s because there are no fitting jobs available or because your job job-seeking skills are not that great—the risk of facing a longer period of unemployment increases. With how the coronavirus changed things this spring, the worry is that there are fewer jobs available for recent graduates, as even some long-term employees might need to be laid off. Naturally, the circumstances are different in every job sector, but I couldn’t have imagined a situation like this six months ago, let alone back when I started my vocational studies.

Nevertheless, there’s no need to fear the transition into working life, and I hope that you, the reader, will do the following if you’re already happily employed:

Teach, share your knowledge, and do everything you can to provide a young, recently graduated person joining your work community (slightly anxious of what’s to come) with a good chance to succeed in their new job. If a young employee doesn’t know everything right away, don’t question their skills or educational background. Welcome them as warmly as you can even if it’s frustrating at times. After all, there will come a time when this young person takes over your duties as you retire. If you choose the route of snide comments and a “don’t you dare voice your opinion, kid” attitude, you are personally increasing the chance of another young person ending up alienated and marginalized. Remember, there once was a time when you started at your first job.

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