Self-Hack TAMK, towards comprehensive career planning for students

Self-Hack TAMK, towards comprehensive career planning for students

At TAMK, Self-Hack has been organized since 2020 in several sessions in autumn and winter. The interviewees Nelli Pahkamäki, Minna Arkko and Elli Korhonen have all been involved in developing and implementing Self-Hack at TAMK. They would also like to thank Clémentine Arpilaineni, who brought Self-Hack to TAMK for a trial through a Continuous Learning Project. Since then, more than 1,000 students have completed the Self-Hack and dozens of facilitators have been facilitating at TAMK.

Nelli had already heard about Self-Hack while working in the employment services of the City of Tampere. She facilitated job-search groups where job-seekers toured together in relevant places in Tampere, learning job-search skills at the same time. One of these places was the Tribe Tampere association’s co-working space P47, where the community manager of the space and one of the founders of Self-Hack, Vesa-Matti Ruottinen, introduced the space and his own career to the group. The presentation was very inspiring and instructive on the career. After it, Nelli [EK1] and her colleagues asked more questions about Self-Hack, which had been one of the elements of the presentation. The conversation led them to ask their supervisor if the Self-Hack as a group coaching method could be piloted in the city of Tampere and she said yes. Nelli gives a lot of credit to her supervisor Annika Peltomaa, whose developmental spirit made a quick pilot possible.

After Nelli was moved to a new job in career guidance at TAMK, Self-Hack was already in the organisation’s pipeline and she joined the executive team with Minna and Elli. Minna had the project in hand from the TAMK side and Elli, who is finishing her Master’s degree in Education and had started working as an expert in the student union Tamko, supported the project. They describe the project as challenging but also inspiring. Organisational advice came from Oulu, where Niina Marostenmäki and Nina Jackson had already organised one Self-Hack for over a thousand students a year earlier. The Self-Hack received support from a funded project Continuous Learning, which helped enhance the experience of the event for the students and facilitators. For example, the team organised an after-party for all the organisers and facilitators.

Minna describes her work at TAMK as a career services planner. In her work, it is important to understand the whole arc of student career guidance, where employment is at the tip of the iceberg. For them, Self-Hack is a good nudge towards the world of career planning so that one’s own career is already on one’s mind in one way or another at the beginning of studies, not only after they have finished. Self-Hack also increases students’ self-esteem, which is a strong foundation for motivating their studies and for maintaining their own well-being. Higher education requires self-initiative in building one’s own future, and TAMK in particular wants to develop this culture.

Elli sees two specific strengths in Self-Hack: peer guidance and attachment to the university community, which she wants to develop further by bringing the tutors into the programme. The idea is that being a tutor will include facilitating Self-Hack for new students and especially for their own tutoring groups[EK3], students can practice life planning together. This would solve the problem of recruiting facilitators for a life planning day for over a thousand students. Peer support comes naturally from tutors, they know how to tell about the university world as they have just experienced it themselves and guide new people into it. Self-Hack serves as a tool for attachment to higher education in a human way by providing an opportunity to get to know your peer group and share deep views on life, studies, and career.

Tips for organising a Self-Hack at TAMK:

Self-Hack is an organic process in our university, developing constantly. The first implementation was the most spectacular of all with the physical implementation, student badges, balloons, after party, and the initial learning. In the winter of 2021, the team organised Self-Hacks for over 100 students remotely with six instructors. Overall, the Self-Hack days have been very rewarding, both for participants and facilitators. The new facilitators tend to be nervous about their own skills at the beginning of the day, but are excited about their own performance at the end of the day. Students already know to “trust the process” of facilitation instructions.

Communication has been the main tool for success in the organisation of Self-Hacks. Both  with the colleagues in university who may wonder about the new programme and with the new students who are in the middle of a busy orientation week. Self-Hack, while often inspiring, is not always suitable for everybody in all situations, which is why at TAMK it is okay if a student wants to leave the exercise unfinished. TAMK also has university social workers on standby in case an exercise stirs up strong emotions, which is not often the case. Self-Hack is therefore experienced individually by each person. The feedback has also shown that the participants experience the workshop in different ways. One participant wants more time for discussion, while another would like to reflect more and squeeze that time from the discussions.

The experience gained after the first implementation has helped the team to learn how to apply and further develop Self-Hack. So far, it has already been implemented three times in the autumn and spring semesters. The future of life planning is therefore a daily reality at TAMK, where its advantages in terms of career and study guidance are recognised. Now Self-Hack addresses the growing concern about Covid-pandemics’ impact on students’ well-being. Elli, Minna and Neli hope that life planning will be a regular feature for students as their studies progress. For example, Self-Hack Career Playbook exercises could be used with students in the final stages of their studies.

Your favourite Self-Hack exercise

Nelli – alternative lives

Elli – Alternative Lives, but if you have to choose another one, My Values, I have also used it to support my team in board work

Minna – Wheel of Life, even if I would do it multiple times there is always a new angle to my life