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European Public Affairs alumna: “I have been tremendously lucky”

European Public Affairs alumna: “I have been tremendously lucky”

Recent UM graduates looking for a job during COVID-19 pandemic

She has time for an interview every day at the end of the afternoon, Ida-Susanna Pöllänen informs us by e-mail. Once she is on the telephone from Finland, the recent graduate from the master’s of European Public Affairs tells us that she has a job.

The day after she graduated, on 31 July 2020, she started as a Public Affairs employee for Kreab, a consultancy agency in Helsinki that specialises in communication advice and public affairs; they employ experts who maintain contact with policymakers from the local, regional and national governments, but also the European Union.

“I have been tremendously lucky,” she says a number of times during the interview. Unlike many of her fellow students, Pöllänen was able to start on her work placement. With the very same Kreab. Although it was touch and go when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. “They wanted to postpone it until the autumn, but I said it had to happen in spring because otherwise I would incur a delay in my studies.” Well, it appeared that the company saw the sense in that. “Kreab was very flexible, I was very grateful to them for that.”

Being bold

She worked hard, showed them that she was capable of helping companies with questions about communication and public affairs (how to deal with regulations and legislation from the various governments). She also appeared to be adept at social media. In the third month of her work placement, she was so bold as to inquire whether there were any vacancies. The communication section did not have much work because of COVID-19, customers stayed away, she explains, but at the public affairs department it was business as usual. “Eventually, I was able to stay there. I started on 1 August.” At the moment, she is dealing with queries in the energy sector. “I am in contact with policy officers from the EU, what legislation is in the works, what does that mean for my customers, how can we anticipate that?”

Lots of luck

She knows that many fellow graduates have had a tough spring. No work placements, instead of that they were allowed to write a more elaborate thesis, so that they could still graduate on time. But then there is the next hurdle, as Pöllänen well knows. The search for a job. “There is not a lot of work. I sent off between fifteen and twenty letters when it wasn’t clear yet that I could remain at Kreab. I did not receive an answer from a single organisation.” At the time, she was very worried: how would she be able to pay the rent?  “Many fellow students have that problem now. They have had a difficult spring and now things are often not much better. I rushed off to Finland at the end of March, I could not say a proper farewell. Our graduation ceremony will be online, that is really so sad. No graduation party, it’s like everything has been obliterated. Everything is unsure for a lot of graduates. There is a great deal of stress, I hope that my fellow students will get help in their search for work. I am an exception; I have been so lucky.”

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