Mentoring supported building my confidence


Juliet Kankare participated as a mentee in our mentoring program, which started in March and ended in August 2020. In this program, we tested mentoring teams with two mentors and mentees, and Juliet was a part of one mentoring team.

Before Juliet joined the MESH mentoring program, she had lived in Finland three times. The first time was in 2002, when she moved to Helsinki as an exchange student for a few months. Next time she applied to do her PhD at the University of Turku in 2008. After finishing her PhD degree in Finland, Juliet moved to Northern Ireland for a few years. The third time was two years ago, when she moved back to Finland again with her Finnish husband and small son.

When her son started at daycare about a year ago, Juliet started her job-seeking process in Finland. She’s an astronomer by profession and unfortunately positions for astronomers are very limited. Also, many of her previous contacts in professional networks didn’t work at the university anymore and the university had nothing to offer. Then she started to consider other options.

She sought advice from the Employment Office but found it hard to get help for her situation. She got the feeling after meeting several professionals that there is a lack of services for highly educated international talents. In the beginning of the year, Employment Office sent information about the MESH project and upcoming mentoring program. When Juliet joined the program, she wished to meet a person, who could give ideas what she could do with her degree apart from research and academia.

Recognizing strengths and being introduced to new people

Juliet had two mentors and one peer-mentee in the mentoring team. They were very active in mentoring – there were meetings every second week. The mentoring was a positive experience and it matched quite well with Juliet’s wishes. During the process, Juliet worked with her CV and tried to figure out where her strengths lie and how to verbalize those skills.

“It was a lot about how I see myself. It gave me a bit more confidence. That I can actually do something outside of the university.”

Mentoring also expanded Juliet’s networks. Her mentors introduced her to a couple of people. She had a cup of coffee at the river with one physicist. Also, the mentors shared the names of some people through LinkedIn.

“And I haven’t still found the job but now at least I have the feeling that I know what I can look for and they (mentors) also helped me to do this open application to different companies and even find companies that could think about hiring me and introducing me to a couple of people, who are working in these companies and who could tell me what they are looking for –“

Between the mentoring meetings, Juliet also worked actively to achieve her goals. Her team decided to do exercises of the workbook that was given to the participants to support their process. The workbook gave structure and a thread to follow.

Being in a mentoring team, Juliet got all the attention she needed from her mentors, but there was one challenge. The challenge was a language barrier. The peer mentee was more comfortable speaking Finnish than English – and Juliet had the opposite situation. Even though the team were considerate and always gave a summary of the Finnish discussions, it would have been better if they would have been able to stick with one language. Juliet feels that the mentoring team as a concept is good idea, but the team should be able to use one language to avoid language barriers.

Doing it online!

When Juliet and other members of the mentoring group started the process, we were able to have an orientation meeting face-to-face on the campus of Turku University of Applied Sciences. Right after the orientation, the situation with COVID-19 got worse and the mentoring pairs and teams needed to meet online instead of face-to-face meetings.

Juliet highlighted that it is nice to meet people, but nowadays we are quite used to use online connections. Juliet and her mentoring team didn’t have problems with doing it online. But as a matter of fact, they were able to meet outside in-person in the summer.

“We even managed to meet outside in a café during the summertime. So, we didn’t have to do everything through Zoom. “

Future plans

Now after the mentoring program, Juliet continues to look for suitable positions and sends open applications to companies. Also, she joined the Mothers in Business network to find out, if it would open some doors and give some ideas.

“I would have never thought to reach out to something like that (Mothers in Business) before the MESH program.”

Finnish language is something that Juliet feels would be best to focus on. She joined a Finnish course again to improve her skills. Juliet highlights that Finnish skills would be important – not only for working life but also for other things. In the future, she would like to be able to talk with his son’s teachers and friends.

One thing, Juliet especially emphasized, was that the mentoring helped with her confidence and gave new perspectives for the future. As Juliet puts it:

“I’m not immediately thinking “oh God, I don’t have anything to offer to those people”. My views are broader what I can actually look for. And having some ideas where to look. So instead of sitting at home thinking “oh God, I don’t know what to do”, I have an idea on how to proceed.”


Juliet’s LinkedIn profile


Writer: Janna Peltola, Turku University of Applied Sciences

Photo: Vlada Karpovich from Pexels