“Believe in yourself” – An alum inspires confidence in students as mentors
Tiina Äijänaho, an alum of the University of Helsinki who works as a career coach, volunteers as a mentor to help and support students with the transition to professional life. In addition to sharing experiences and tips, Äijänaho also wishes to highlight the joy of work and self-kindness.

Recognising your skills and strengths. Career opportunities, job-seeking and entrepreneurship. Wellbeing and coping.

Tiina Äijänaho, an alum of the University of Helsinki, is serving as a volunteer group mentor for students of the University of Helsinki for the third year.

“I hope to inspire in the next generation of students confidence in themselves and in the fact that things have a way of working out,” Äijänaho says.

“I’ve had extremely heart-warming experiences.”

Group mentoring is part of the activities of the University of Helsinki’s alum community, where present alums can share skills gained in professional life with future alums and support them in transitioning to professional careers.

Äijänaho, who graduated with a master’s degree in social and cultural anthropology in 2010, works as a career coach and team coordinator at an upper secondary level institution. She also has experience in recruitment and individual mentoring.

The opportunity to provide coaching in a group attracted Äijänaho to becoming involved in the University’s alum activities.

“I was fascinated by the idea of our being able to talk and share different perspectives in a small group, as well as help and support one another. This makes it possible to then offer good ideas to a larger group in one sitting.”

Alums serve as an important link between students and professional life

During the six-month mentoring periods, Äijänaho meets her group of a handful of students once a month. Together, they discuss topics relevant to the students’ studies and future professional life. Äijänaho offers tips and viewpoints as well as talking about her experiences, but does not impose advice.

“Of course, there are good practices, for example, in job-seeking, but no single well-functioning way to do it. This is why I prefer to encourage students to find ways and opportunities on their own.”

Often, students may, for example, perceive their post-graduation career options within too tight a frame. Äijänaho hopes to be able to broaden the opportunity horizon.

“I see alums as a really useful and important link between students and professional life.”

Alongside navigating the challenges of studying and professional life, Äijänaho wishes to convey to students a message on the joy of work and the positive aspects of employment, such as learning new things, colleagues and networks. In the middle of the pressure experienced by many students, it is also important to talk about kindness towards yourself. In fact, Äijänaho’s message to students is that you do not have to, and indeed cannot, give your all at all times.

“In some things, a little less will do.”

Mentoring is rewarding

Äijänaho has noticed that, among the mentors of the University’s alum community, there are many faces familiar to her from earlier years.

“I think it speaks to the fact that mentors consider these activities useful.”

Äijänaho finds that mentoring helps her keep herself up to date on the current trends in studying and professional life. Group meetings also engender ideas for developing her work with upper secondary level students.

She, too, draws joy and energy from the successes experienced by her mentees. Among other things, students have provided Äijänaho feedback on finding it easier to continue on their own after receiving help and support.

“Being able to help and do something good inspires and encourages me to carry on.”