Mika Launikari


Mediterranean heat in Finland

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For its northern location, Finland is enjoying surprisingly warm summers and relatively mild winters. Overall the month of July has been perfect this year. The past week (21-27 July 2014) has been the hottest one for more than 50 years countrywide, so the national meteorological statistics indicate. The officially measured and registered temperatures across the country have reached +32-33C in the shade in the past days and even the nights have been amazingly “tropical” around +25C. But as it seems the all-time high reading of +37.2C from 2010, measured in the Eastern part of the country, will remain unbroken this year. Needless to say, also the water in the thousands of Finnish lakes is exceptionally comfortable this summer (around +23-25C).

For many tourists from southern Europe, Asia and Latin America these relatively high temperatures in Finland come as a huge surprise. They might never have expected such Mediterranean heat up here in the north; instead before arriving in Finland they have been preparing themselves mentally and physically for much colder type of weather here. So, when observing these foreign visitors or when talking to them on the streets of Helsinki, it becomes clear that they are fully enjoying the beauty of the Finnish summer with its fresh greenness, long-lasting days (hardly any night) and pleasant, easygoing style of living.

It is often stated that we Finns have two personalities or mentalities: one for the winter, the other for the summer. In the middle of the darkest wintertime, we tend to turn inwards and many of us seem to have depressive disorders, and we feel like dying, because the winter with is hardness takes a toll on our energy. But when the summer arrives and the nature starts blossoming, we wake up again, we are reborn with vitality and new energy, the horrible winter is a distant memory only and we are alive and live as fully as possible in order not to lose a moment of the fabulous summer with daylight, sunshine and outdoor activities (e.g. going to the beach, giving a barbecue party, going to the sauna and bathing in the lake).

During the past decade the summers in Finland have become warmer than they used to be before. Whether this is a consequence from global warming or not, is not really proven yet. At the same time, though, new species of animals (e.g. wild boar) and insects that normally live on more southern latitudes have settled in Finland on a permanent basis. Also the plant life (i.e. flora) of the country is getting more diverse thanks to new arrivals. At least to me it appears that the Finnish climate is gradually changing, but not so fast that during my life time we would become a country of producing wine, though :-)!

What's the point of ageing?

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What’s the point of ageing, if you cannot tell a good story? How to give meaning to your life experience, how to put the essence of your private and/or professional life into words? To capture the thread of our lives from birth until today – either in writing or speaking – is probably something we all humans do at a certain point on our life paths. Usually this happens when we are at a crossroads in life or when an important milestone is approaching us.

My family and friends have started teasing me by asking how I am going to celebrate my 50th birthday in a couple of years. To some of them I have responded that maybe there is no point of celebrating the actual ageing as these days most people in the world reach the age of 50 anyway and I cannot see anything special in that. Maybe I am in denial and I have difficulties in accepting my own ageing, and thus, I do not want to throw an age-is-only-numbers party. To some others I have vaguely hinted that there might be a slight possibility of having “The Round Years Birthday Party”, but that it in that case will be something unique and not solely focusing on the “age factor”.

Isn’t it so that we traditionally associate turning 50 years old with maturity and stability, and we wish to think that we have discovered and fulfilled our life mission to a great extent by then? Internally we wish to be convinced of having attained true serenity and achieved something great in life and the world around us should acknowledge this. At the same time, though, we in many cases try to escape from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of ageing by combatting the signs of life in our physical appearance. In our desperate attempt to look forever young, we hysterically even at the age of 50, wish to give a youthful, dynamic and energetic impression.

Nevertheless, in my opinion mature age is underrated in Western societies. The quality that can manifest in adult and senior age is often ignored or disregarded. This is very much the situation in working life that does not sufficiently take advantage of intergenerational learning or of using the real potential of the more mature and older staff members. The big question to me is, how we could overcome age barriers and build cross-generational relationships in the workplace. Perhaps using more storytelling at work could be the key to this as across cultures and throughout generations narratives have been shared for entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values.

We all have a role in developing the employability skills of our young

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The annual conference of the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG) was organized in Quebec, Canada, on 4-6 June 2014. The overall conference theme At the intersection of personal, community and work life realities invited scholars and experts to explore guidance and career development from the perspectives of individual, collective and working life as well as to examine the needs, insights and aspirations that may arise and find their source at this crossroads. All in all, some 1200 participants from 33 countries attended this well-organised and professionally enriching event.

I myself was involved in a Finnish team of five presenters at the conference. Jointly we hosted a 90-minute symposium on Career management and employability skills in higher education, where the aim was to showcase the work carried out in Finland on developing career counselling to increase students’ employability during their studies. A lively discussion followed the five presentations, and the audience with experts from Canada, Saudi Arabia, France, Norway, etc., was keen on knowing, among other things, more about the situation of the youth in the Finnish labour market, methods applied to support students’ working life familiarization in Finland, national curricula and how career management skills are embedded in them. The synthesizing conclusion of the symposium could be phrased as “We all have a role in developing the skills and employability of our young”.

My contribution to the above symposium was to briefly present the theoretical framework of my doctoral research on International mobility capital that I have initiated earlier this year. The objective of the research is to explore how working abroad contributes to an individual’s professional development, career management and future employability. The intention is to explore these dimensions from the perspectives of life design (a new career construction theory), identity formation (theories of psychology and sociology) as well as intellectual capital (economic and organizational theories).

The conference served my information needs well as the plenary sessions and workshops explicitly addressed several themes closely linked to my own doctoral research. But as always, the most rewarding thing at the conference was to make new contacts with experts from different countries and hopefully find a way to cooperate with them in the coming months and years.

For those interested: The next IAEVG conference will be held in Japan on 18-21 September 2015.