Mika Launikari


Symphonic selves and self-leadership

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This year I have been working as a Career Guidance and International Mobility Expert on the European Commission’s new Europass platform on lifelong learning and career development. It is an online service that will be launched in 2020 and offered to European citizens for planning their learning and career paths. Learners, workers, volunteers and jobseekers will be able to use Europass, for example, for

  • presenting their skills and achievements,
  • reflecting on their skills and capabilities,
  • identifying their interests and aspirations in life, and
  • looking for jobs, study programmes, and volunteering opportunities across Europe.

Guidance practitioners and other professionals, such as youth workers, human resource experts, and recruiters may benefit from the new Europass in their daily work with individuals seeking for advice on studying, training, volunteering or working. An essential part of their professional work is to support skills development of people of all ages, and to provide them with tools for demonstrating their capacities.

A more holistic approach

Our self-representation is usually multi-vocal, multilinear, and often episodic. In other words, it is not necessarily easy to bring all our different voices and experiences together so that they would be completely in unison. Therefore, a personal (digital) portfolio can be a useful tool for an adolescent or adult to narrate their life story as well as to reinforce professional self-esteem and integrity. It helps to sort out your learning and working experiences and to have them translated into knowledge, skills and competences. All this can result in a more symphonic self-representation where a person’s all notes and instruments are played in full harmony.

That is exactly what the new Europass platform aims at doing. It will give users an opportunity to better grasp who they are and what they stand for, and where they want to be going with their lives in the future. It is only good, if people – by means of their personal portfolio – will be able to have a more holistic overview of themselves. It contributes to strengthening their self-leadership, i.e. agentic functioning, self-efficacy and resilience.

Exercising self-leadership is about intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and behaviour to achieve your learning and career goals – and dreams. Self-leaders are driven by purpose and proactivity, they have a desire for autonomy, make well-considerate decisions, are more creative and they persist in the face of adversity. On top of that, they have a highly evolved self-awareness that is helpful in today’s world with many disruptions and uncertainties.

Self-awareness relies on the ability to be objective. By critically assessing your own performance and progress will make you see yourself more realistically. This again will make it easier for you to tap on your talents and potential, and to harness your self-discipline for reaching your personal and professional goals. To play life by heart and rational mind gives you a clearer idea of where to go in your learning path and which career move/transition to make.

Homo interculturalis - Identity, interculturality and career learning within European Union institutions

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A month ago I submitted my doctoral dissertation to international pre-examination. Ever since then I have not really been willing to take a look at the manuscript. Out of sight, out of mind … at least for a while. Now in October-November, the reviewers – one professor in Singapore and another in the Netherlands – are reading my doctoral thesis. By December I should receive their comments and suggestions on how I still should revise and improve the original manuscript before I can defend it in public in early 2019.

The concepts of identity, interculturality and international careers are at the heart of my doctoral dissertation entitled ‘Homo interculturalis – Identity, interculturality and career learning within European Union institutions’. The main motivation for conducting this research was that currently the intercultural dimension among staff at European Union institutions is academically a relatively unexplored terrain.

Thus, this research aims at creating more clarity on how staff members working at decentralized European Union agencies located in Greece (Cedefop), Ireland (Eurofound) and Italy (ETF) relate to identity and interculturality in their daily working environment, and what are the meanings they give to these notions from the perspective of their professional careers in the EU public administration.

Essentially my research looks into the dynamics of the specific elements that constitute identity and interculturality capitals. Altogether 20 interviewees from the above EU agencies shared their views on identity construction and related personal, professional and territorial identifications as well as on development of interculturality along their careers at an international workplace and outside of work in the destination countries.

In the research, the theoretical model of intellectual capital that consists of human, social and organisational capitals has been applied to framing and discussing identity, interculturality and career capitals. These three are important types of capitals for capturing the phenomena of self-initiated expatriation and professional careers within the European Union public administration. On top of that, human agency, self-efficacy and resilience are an integral dimension in the study.  

My doctoral dissertation will be published both in print and online editions in February-March 2019. Then all the findings, conclusions and recommendations will be publicly available for free. In the coming months I will be talking about my doctoral dissertation at international conferences and provide the audience with some highlights of the results already.   

Life is not a multiple-choice test, but a do-it-yourself project

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Do you sometimes find yourself struggling to make a decision or to create the life you want? Are you always looking for an easy way out? Maybe you do not consider yourself as indecisive, yet you understand that making well-grounded decisions is a critical skill for moving forward in life. As we all well know, life does not come with a book of instructions, neither with straight-forward guidelines. No, life is a do-it-yourself project!   

Life can be confusing as long as we do not know what we are meant to be learning or where we are supposed to be heading. Too often we put the focus on trying to find the one and only correct answer, although we should be looking for a solution that works well for us. In life ambiguities need to be addressed and different options need to be considered. Choosing is not necessarily about true or false, yes or no, but about being courageous to experiment, take random steps and see what comes from there. Taking decisions is not about ticking the right box or circling the right answer. Sometimes it may even mean choosing simply the one that is the least bad option and eliminating all the rest.

More often than we would like to admit, we are not absolutely sure why we do the things we do. Some may call it intuition or their inner voice guiding them, some may say it was their rational mind or logical thinking that led them to take the action they did. Even when we do not know, if we have made the best choices, we can always argue that we gained something valuable from the experience. But if the experience was not fully satisfactory, people may start speculating about what could have happened had they only taken a different direction. This they will never get to know. Uncertainty belongs to life and more often than not things are beyond our control.

We are all unique individuals with a special purpose in life. The true mission for each one of us is to find out who we are in relation to the social environment in which we live, study, work and spend our free time. Life is not about staying self-focused or becoming self-centered, but rather it is about engaging oneself in a meaningful and mutually beneficial manner with other people. Through interaction with others we can learn, grow, thrive and flourish. Other people act as a mirror to us. This allows us to gain better insight into what we stand for and to develop further as a human being than we could by being on our own only.

Life is an essay to be written. How do you want your life story to look like? Interesting and intriguing? Or do you rather go for something more average and ordinary? If you intend to make your life more exciting, stimulating and adventurous, some imagination needs to be called on. A creative mind can see the potential of almost any situation and work out multiple solutions to a problem or a challenge. Finding fresh approaches, innovative methods and new ideas is necessary for getting rewarding results. In one’s life, though, nothing good comes without hard work and sacrifice. Hence, it is vital that you know how to prioritize correctly.     

Life is not a multiple-choice test. Life is a roller-coaster. Life can sometimes appear as a fight against all odds – and still be worth it. Life is about creating yourself!

Text: Mika Launikari

Photo: trendfrenzy.net