My story of finding a job in Tartu

Sooner or later, we as students face a new, challenging task in our lives – finding a job. Some get lucky and have success during the first years of university, some need to fail 1000 interviews to succeed in one, while others do not care about finding a job until they graduate. 

I am not a career expert, but I am a student of Tartu University (Innovation and Technology Management Program) who works at the Estonian company Fortumo as a Product Owner. In this article, I will share my story of finding a job in Tartu, as well as some advice from other international students. 

For your convenience, I structured my story into two parts: learning about work opportunities and getting hired. Enjoy the read!

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Me at the office. Photo credit: Private collection

Learning about work opportunities

I will share the truth. I did not want to look for jobs at all when I was starting to study Innovation and Technology Management for three specific reasons: 

  1. I had a part-time job at NMS as a project management assistant. 
  2. After 2.5 years of working full time and studying full time in Kyiv, I wanted to have a proper student life. 
  3. I was afraid that the study workload would be too high to combine it with full-time work.

But, as in every movie, everything went differently. After one month of enjoying student life to the fullest, which included studying at the library, trips, different hobby clubs, and parties (it was pre-Covid times), I got tired of all of this and started to miss professional networking, as well as events with professional value. I have a strong interest in project management in IT and wanted to switch to product management at that time. Hence, I decided to investigate what the situation with that in Estonia. After Googling, I found out about the MeetUp at Tartu and learned that Fortumo (an Estonian software product company) was going to host an event about the product management practices at the company in a month. I registered for it. 

Meanwhile, my life in Tartu continued, I was meeting different people from different backgrounds, and through social media, I met a friend who appeared to work at Fortumo. 

When the day of the event came, it was beautiful golden autumn in Tartu,  Fortumo was offering coffee and kringles, and as a hungry student I had a bit and small-talked with one of the employees (who appeared to be a frontend engineer) who also helped me to get out of the elevator. Honestly, I was shocked about the knowledge that the speaker shared, because it was completely different from what I read in books about product management. During the Q&A session, I participated actively and had a feeling that I irritated the speaker a bit, but I got a gift for the question – a sticker. I didn’t have much time for networking after the event because I was late for the lecture at the university. However, I bumped into a friend from social media who worked there, we talked, and I ran to a lecture.

A couple of hours later the same friend texted me and asked if I wanted to apply for a job at Fortumo. I was slightly confused, since there were no open positions, but he said that it was still possible to send a CV to HR and ask if I could contribute. I went to Säde (a local coffee shop), checked my CV, and sent it to HR with a cover letter (see below).

Screenshot credit: Private collection

Boom! In 5 minutes I received an answer that they would gladly contact me soon. This story would be a fairy tale if “soon” happened in a week; my “soon” happened in almost a month, and I will talk about this in the second part of the article. 

So, my main takeaways from the study of job opportunities are:

  • Network a lot, find connections from whom you can find job opportunities, get to know companies. By the way, you can find some great examples and strategies for finding connections in another UT blog article by Kateryna. 
  • If you do not like to network, then use Google to understand which companies you are interested in. 
  • Even if you think that getting a job is impossible, you can still try to get one by sending emails, connecting to HR, going to events. 

Remember that your experience of finding a company that will respond to you is different and you have to search in all possible ways. Vsevolod from Ukraine who is a graduate student in quantitative economics shared such an opinion on searching for a job in Tartu: “For expats, Estonia is quite a competitive and relatively small labour market when it comes to the IT sphere. It’s hard to find a place here, and even more difficult to find the “right place”. Notwithstanding, Estonian IT firms offer a friendly atmosphere, which is especially vital for beginning a career, and a feeling of progress and adventure. That combination is unique and enhances professional growth”. 

Getting hired

It was that dark period in Tartu when you did not see the light, and I was sick, but Fortumo invited me for the first 30-min interview where we got to know each other. I could not lose the opportunity and joined the interview. It felt like a click for me. I liked the questions they asked, and I liked the people I talked to. Fortumo openly said that they did not have an open position at the moment, but they wanted to have a pool of candidates in case there were an opening. After the first interview, I received a home task and then had a second one. My future manager and HR of the company asked me about every single line in my CV, previous experience, strengths and failures. We discussed the homework that I did. It was a long, 1.5-hour interview, but I enjoyed it a lot and I was passionate about the company and position. After receiving another homework task and its successful execution, I was invited to another interview with my future team. I was so excited; there were supposed to be very important people at the company with diverse backgrounds (I found that out from Linkedin), HR, and myself. 

Work event. Photo credit: Fortumo

All previous interviews were during the winter break which I spent in Ukraine, but the last one was in person. I remember that I put on my best sweater and skirt, learned everything about the people who would be present at the interview on Linkedin, recapped the last assignments, and read about Fortumo on the web. It was an interview with a lot of case-based questions (there were cases presented and I needed to explain what I would do in those situations). I got a job offer a week after the interview.

My main takeaway from getting through the interview process would be to do your homework. International student of the Computer Science Program Ivan from Ukraine says, “The statement about 90% of hard work and 10% of luck is true. You just have to be lucky enough for somebody to notice your hard work”. Innovation and Technology Management Program student Maria from Russia thinks, “When looking for a job, the main thing is to look for something that you want to do, that position for which your eyes sparkle. Managers will always pay attention to your passion for the job and, even if the experience is not enough, your desire can override it”. 

Ukrainian culture evening at Fortumo. Photo credit: Fortumo

All in all, I would say that it is possible to find a job in Estonia. It is challenging, you have to be diligent, but it pays off. I would like to finish my blog with the opinion of Gultan, who is a graduate master student of the Innovation and Technology Management Program from Azerbaijan: ”Finding a job in Tartu is a bit harder than in Tallinn, because there are not many options, unfortunately. I would say go and apply for the jobs that you are interested in and be sure that you want to develop a career in that direction. Some companies have Tartu offices as well, but you need to keep an eye on all the open positions, because a lot of students are looking for a job here in Tartu. So, be quick, confident, and of course apply for the jobs that you enjoy!”

Good luck!

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