no title

other than being asked what my religion is, another question that always leaves me thinking “what does it matter to you?” is: what did you study? referring, of course, to what i studied in college or university. some questions are even more specific, what academic title(s) do i have?

yes, i get that a lot, in here and in my home country. when asked here, in Finland, it’s even harder for me to answer because i don’t even think the subject exists in universities here (i haven’t done any research though, since i have no interest in working in that field here). but just for the record, as i’ve said before, currently i work in a field that needs customer service skills, sales skills, and also deep knowledge in textiles.

most of the time i get this kind of question while i’m at work. as this country has the best education in the world (say the surveys from around the world), i’m not that surprised that people want to know where other people went to school or what they studied. most people i know here love going to schools. some of them enroll to university after university every time they finish their previous studies. it’s like there’s no end to their thirst of studying.

i’ve been using the word “them” and not “we”, because i guess i don’t belong in the same category. i love learning new things as well, and there is also no end to my thirst of studying. but i don’t necessarily think universities, colleges, or schools are the only places i can study the things i want to study. academic titles have never been that important to me, and i’m happy with what knowledge i have so far that can get me my current job.

with no academic title but excellent skills, you can get pretty far in my home country. but the bad news is, for people like me, it would be hard to find a job in a place like Finland. i don’t mean just any job, of course, but the ones that you probably have eyes on. for example, even though i have no degrees in fashion, i was once a fashion stylist/editor for a local magazine back in my home country. after i moved here, when i was still learning Finnish language, i tried my luck to be a part of the design team in Marimekko. thinking back now, i must’ve been out of my mind to even think i would stand a chance. i’m pretty sure they threw my CV and portfolio straight to the garbage bin. :p

through a twist of luck (i’m pretty sure that was the only reason), i managed to land a job at my current workplace. well okay, maybe my history of running my own fashion boutique back in Indonesia also played a tiny role, in the sense that i knew about textiles, customer service, and sales well enough, regardless of whether or not i actually have any degree in any of those fields.

though i’m still quite far from my dream (which is to have my own fashion store), but i’m forever grateful for this rare chance my previous boss gave me. by doing this daily job, i learn more and more about the things i am most passionate about, the things that would prepare me in the best way for when i can finally run my dream store in the future.

anyway, to be fair, in Finland those people who asked me where or what i studied were mainly curious because they wanted to know what they should study in order to land a job at my workplace. and i could never answer them properly, because i always felt that i’m an exception, since A: i didn’t go to school in Finland, and B: …okay, here’s the truth, i actually studied Advertising back in my home country. Advertising, as in the Communication field, NOT Graphic Design (though i did also learn a bit of Graphic Design there). whereas my co-workers have always been those who studied textile design, fashion design, business, and handicraft, among others. plus, as i said before, i don’t actually have any academic title, because i took a 3 year diploma program (though it did take place at a university). to get an academic title, i would’ve had to take another year of studying, but i decided not to and jumped right into the working life.

comparing my home country and Finland, i can’t deny that i wish things were a bit different, both there and here. i wish it was less strict here, that people don’t necessarily have to have certain degrees or academic title to get a job, as long as the job in question doesn’t involve people’s life or death, of course (as in doctors or other paramedic fields), or academic teaching. jobs that require creative ideas or designs might work for those with no academical background as long as they can prove that they have it in them. but on the other hand, i wish that it was a bit more strict in Indonesia, that not just anybody can end up being an English teacher (who can’t even pronounce the word “umbrella” correctly –> my English teacher in middle school), a translator (who translated “toilet paper” as “kertas amplas” which means “sandpaper”. ouch), and let’s not even mention the political jobs.

i guess both countries can learn a bit from the other one. if you’re like me, and have no title, don’t worry. you’ll do fine in life!

and i hope one day i have the right answer when someone asks me that question again. opiskelin mainonta, työskennelin muotitoimittajana vähäksi aikaan, olin myös freelance romaanin kääntäjä ja mitäsköhän muuta. :p

6 thoughts on “no title

  1. Really? Here in England skills and experience comes first unless of course you graduated out of Oxbridge where the subject doesn’t matter. Interesting, also here because the bachelor degree is only 3 years the Diploma /D3 you took would count as a degree. Also there are a lot of apprenticeship opportunity to get into fashion or any other creative skills.

    I Think in Indonesia is the same though, my cousin was telling me that a degree from other universities than ITB, UI and UGM you don’t stand a chance unless of course the connection plays a part. Ordinary people (no connection) with no degree has little chance because all the Office jobs now asked to have a min of S1.

    But what is great in Indonesia is the ability to be entrepreneurs or do a little start up.

    • when i moved here some 8 years ago, it was just decided here that graduating from ammattikorkeakoulu (polytechnics/universities of applied sciences) gives you a degree equivalent to bachelor’s degree, yet these studies usually again takes about 4 years so my kind of diploma program still doesn’t count (it only counts as a sort of vocational school diploma).

      i’ve known lots of friends and other people in Indonesia who did not graduate from those places you said that easily becomes teachers (without any teaching experience or even the correct education), with and also without any connections. sometimes it breaks my heart, thinking what kind of ‘educations’ the little kids of the next generation is getting at schools. 😦

      another big difference is how in Indonesia there are so many people that there seems to be a job for everyone and anyone. Finland on the other hand doesn’t have that big of a population yet, that most of my co-workers who went through all those universities and got all sorts of degrees will most likely still end up doing everyday job in stores or schools while dreaming of making their own names one day.

      i agree with entrepreneurs in Indonesia, it’s a lot less hassle than here in Finland as well. though, just like in everything else, it also means that you’re on your own, whereas in Finland you get a startup help from the government (up to half a year or even a year, depending on how well your business goes).

  2. Actual skills are still the most important thing in Finland in order to survive in working life. For certain jobs, a degree might be required or might be seen as a plus when applying for jobs. You can’t be a doctor without a degree, even if you had the skills. But in lots of jobs, the education doesn’t matter or plays a very small role over the skills.

    I once met a senior graphics designer working for the largest newspaper in the country. He said he tried to get to this top university to study art and design for many years, but never got selected. Finally he decided to just study it himself, and look how far he got.

    I haven’t got a single job in Finland based on what my education is, even though in small talk it is not uncommon for people to ask about it.

    • true, of course actual skills are what’s most important. but in the case of applying for a job, or when there is a job opening, in most cases (even in most creative/design fields) the employer would first and foremost list some academical degree as a must, and from what i know so far is that if you don’t have it, then they won’t even look at your application. i guess this is what bothers me most, because it almost feels like people with no academical degree have to work twice as hard just to first get job experiences elsewhere (if anyone would even employ them in the beginning, with no previous working experience) so that they would get a good portfolio, then maybe, just maybe, they will get lucky enough to get past that “first impression” phase where the employer will actually consider calling them for an interview even when the applicant has no “proper education”.

      you & your friend are proofs that those can still happen and that when they do, these people with autodidact educations can and will go far (if they do have the skills). so i hope in the future it will be even more common. 🙂

  3. Fascinating! First off, I love that you work in textiles- which is so cool. You have such a great eye for unique patterns and prints, I’m sure you are truly gifted at what you do. Secondly, I completely agree with you- so much of life is our experience in actual life, not necessarily what we’ve learned in a “formal” context. I always joke that I majored in Spanish Literature. I picked it because I loved it- and I never look back 🙂 xo!

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