Recommendations and tips for making your education choices

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Four tips to help a young person cope with the stress of school leaving

Janely Elias, grade 9 student at Püünsi School


The past few years have been stressful and challenging for all of us. But how do young people, who are about to graduate, feel? How do they cope with it all?  Janely picked up some ideas from the career day roundtable at the Tallinn Career Centre, which she began using herself and also recommends to other young people.

If you feel like things are difficult or stressful:

Look at the situation from a distance. If things are difficult or stressful, take some time off, step out of the situation for a moment and look at it from the outside.

Sit back and do nothing. Take half an hour for yourself to just be, and put your smart gadgets away. It helps clear your mind and allows you to continue in a more rested state.

Say it out loud and you will feel better. Talk about your feelings and thoughts with your parents and/or friends. Sometimes, when you feel it’s hard or emotions boil over, it helps to just talk about what’s going on inside you.

Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is important. Studying at the expense of sleep is not productive, because when you study or work with a tired head, results suffer.

Six recommendations from young people for school leavers on how to make the right choices

Janely Elias, grade 9 student at Püünsi School

The Tallinn Career Centre organised career days for basic school leavers, where they were able to listen to exciting presentations and inspiring stories, as well as put into practice what they had heard and seen in discussion simulations and workshops.

Also, young people – whose memories of enrolment in an upper secondary school or vocational educational institution are only a year or two old – shared their thoughts and feelings about school leaving. And who could be a better critic and also sympathetic than a young person who is facing the same journey this year.  What suggestions and ideas should grade 9 students keep in mind before taking entrance exams and tests? Janely Elias, grade 9 graduate of Püünsi School, notes the following.

What touched me most about the panels and presentations at the various Career Days were the thoughts and experiences of the young people themselves. It was good to hear how others have had exactly the same questions, fears and doubts as me or my friends do right now. I’ve written down a few thoughts for myself, which might also be helpful for other graduates.

1. Try to enrol in several schools; don’t limit yourself to just one or two choices. It’s worth researching different schools and applying to the ones that appeal most to you.

2. It is not wise to begin studying on the last night. It’s more effective to remain on track by learning on a consistent basis and staying on top of topics. The tests cover topics you have already learned at school. If there are topics where you feel you need support or tutoring, you can take part in a course or ask a teacher for help.

3. Don’t compare yourself or your preparation with others. You don’t have to learn as much or as little as others. You don’t have to take the same preparatory courses; you don’t have to take them at all, if you don’t need it. Base it on yourself and on how confident you feel. If you are in doubt about whether or not you need extra support, feel free to ask your teachers. They will see your readiness and be able to tell you what else you should be doing, if anything.

4. Before the interview, familiarise yourself with the specifics of the school. What are the strengths of this particular school? What is the history of the school and the key facts about it? What is the insignia of the school and where does it come from? What are the most important traditions and events at the school? 

5. Be yourself at the interview! Don’t try to be somebody else or answer the way you think is right. Doing so will be obvious and not yield the desired result. For the school representatives, you are a clean slate – they have no prejudices or perceptions about you. Your chance is to create that perception! Don’t underestimate yourself. Highlight your strengths, interests, skills and experiences. Tell them what you have done, which competitions or Olympiads you have attended, how you have contributed to school activities, what extracurricular activities you have participated in, etc. The school you wish to attend wants to see your activity and what you have to offer them. Speak about yourself in the best possible way and be the best version of yourself.

6. When making your final school choice, follow your heart and not your friends. It’s important to start with what interests you most at the moment. Friends stay friends, even if they attend different schools.

Thinking of going back to school? Career counsellor's 8 recommendations for re-schoolers

As an adult, going back to school is sometimes difficult - there are always reasons, not to say excuses. I don't have time, work is busy, the kids are demanding their share, I'll go next year, etc.

Lemme-Getter Bogatkin, a career counsellor at the Unemployment Insurance Fund (Unempkassa), says that changes in the labour market show quite clearly that some jobs are disappearing, while people with different skills are needed. Acquiring and upgrading new skills will ensure that at some point you don't find yourself in a situation where you don't have much of a job choice.

The Careers Adviser encourages people to try. But to make sure that trying is not just trying, she has eight recommendations to help make going back to learning as an adult more likely to be successful and enjoyable.

Be brave and think big
Picture yourself at the graduation ceremony of the subject you want to study and analyse what jobs studying will open up for you in the future.

Ask all your questions before you start studying

Speak to people you know who have studied a subject you are interested in and work in the same field, and talk to the school's study department to get answers to your questions. Take part in an open day.

Plan your study workload to fit in with your work and family life

Try to find specific times in each week when you can study. Is such a schedule realistic? What does your spouse think? Also look into the possibility of a distributed study load.

Talk to your employer about learning, discuss your employer's expectations and needs

Is your job replaceable and to what extent? Does the company support you in taking up your studies? What workload is actually expected of you?

Believe in small beginnings

Don't be too critical of yourself. It takes time to develop a new learning habit and to become immersed in the profession.

Don't compare yourself with others
You are you! There is always someone better and always someone worse, in terms of ability and achievement, but in reality it's how YOU move and develop that counts.

Make mistakes fast!

It's not a question of if, but when mistakes will come when you start learning, for children and adults alike. The real question is whether we can draw the right conclusions from our mistakes and our needs.

Meet with a career counsellor

You can go to a counsellor even if all you have in your head is the idea of going to university. The Unemployment Insurance Fund (Unempkassa) supports both jobseekers and employed people in vocational and higher education, and in many cases pays a grant for attending higher education," added Bogatkin.

Read more Work and Learn

Career choice - hotel management. A career path with many opportunities.

"I'm lucky - I've found a job I really enjoy. And I get paid for it!"

Triin, you're 29 years old and you run the most hipster 84-room design hotel in Tallinn. How so?

There are a few coincidences that play a role in my story, and I've also had the odd bit of good luck. I got my "hotel bug" as a teenager when I was helping out at a hotel in the Old Town during the summer. I realised that I liked being around people, interacting with them. I got to practise foreign languages(Triin speaks both English and French) and by interacting with tourists I felt my world expanding. I felt very important - I was able to tell the story of our country and our city to the guests and to help shape their experience of Tallinn and Estonia with my knowledge and skills. I already thought that this job could be for me!

You graduated from the French Lyceum but didn't go to hotel school?

Let's just say that social and family pressures didn't allow me to look at anything below university. The logical thing to do was to go on to Tallinn University to study French philology. I resisted for two years. In a hotel I am as in my natural environment. Service work is very 'charged' in nature - there are different people, situations, minor and major challenges during the day. You learn to prioritise and often re-prioritise. As guests change daily, no day is quite the same as the last. For a certain type of person, it's fun, challenging and eye-catching. For others, it's probably exhausting and difficult. For me, I was lucky enough to get a taste of the job at a very young age and to actually realise that I found it enjoyable and exciting at the same time.

There are difficult moments in the job of a waitress. Can you talk about them?

I myself have only worked in the hotel and restaurant sector in the service industry and I sometimes feel like we have our own club here, people with a little quirk. We like to look after others. It's a bit like wanting to do good for people and study to be a doctor, but you realise you can't really become a doctor. We don't save lives, but we often save days! A customer in a bad mood, or a quarreling customer, is like one of the most difficult crossword puzzles in the average service. Solving it requires concentration, but once you have the solution, the emotion is high. Sure, there will be more difficult moments and there won't always be a good solution, but the lessons that are more critical are the most powerful, aren't they? However, I can promise you that a good waiter may have tired legs at the end of a shift, but the energy is high and there is no emotional fatigue.

Give me three reasons why you think a good young person should work in a hotel in the first place? Especially in this day and age?

To be honest, I can't think of any other alternative where young people with no experience and no training are employed and learn so much through work experience! In a short period of time, we often see huge improvements - courage, communication skills, politeness, teamwork, problem-solving skills and also foreign language practice.

This kind of experience gives young people a huge amount of confidence and is actually a very good basis for moving on in any area of life. When you ask senior managers where their first work experience was and what they learned from it, very often it is in our field. We are like a breeding ground for top managers!

Thirdly, exciting times are ahead for hotels. During the pandemic, we lost thousands of employees. We are now recruiting hard, but that means we also have fast career paths for the more ambitious. In the coming years, a new generation will emerge to lead a new kind of hospitality service. I dread to stand by and watch!

Last but not least, what would be your advice to your 20-year-old self?

Don't be discouraged or influenced by other people's opinions, let alone emotions. It's not your degree or your job that makes you happy or unhappy, it's what you actually do with your days. Find what you enjoy and like! And sleep more! Then you will be happier and more balanced.

Chef as a profession - not just a job but a lifestyle

Top chef Dmitry Fedorov (29): 'Being a chef is not a job. It's a lifestyle."

Dmitri, you're from Sillamäki, where you came to Tallinn to train as a chef. Today, you are one of the top names in Estonian gastronomy. Why cooking school?

That's a question you should ask my mother and my aunt, who one day, behind the kitchen table, came up with the plan. My mum explains it as a rational choice - no matter what the weather, people have to eat! When I was thinking about my options for the future, I couldn't think of anything rational either. My grades were fine, the logical thing would have been to go to secondary school or university. But I was in a hurry to start my own life and I wasn't interested in construction or engineering, so cookery school seemed perfectly OK.

We don't really know a lot of the top chefs by name and face. We know Gordon Ramsay from TV, who shouts at chefs in the kitchen and has had huge success. What's really going on in the world of chefs?

Yes, Ramsay seems to have deliberately made a name for himself. In reality, it's more of a very fun atmosphere in the kitchen and a supportive collaboration that occasionally offers more difficult challenges - such as catering for major events. If you work side by side with people towards a common goal, you'll one day find that your colleagues have become good friends. In tense situations, respect for each other is essential and, well, adventures do happen in the kitchen. Adventures with friends are different from adventures with people who are afraid of you.

What does a chef's success depend on, his development?

The world of chefs can be very interesting if you set yourself challenges and goals. I was probably one of the best at school and that's how I got an apprenticeship at a top restaurant, Egoist. That's where it all started. My greatest teacher and partner has been Andrei Shmakov (Andrei is currently the head chef of Savva restaurant in Moscow, Savva has just been awarded the Michelin star and is therefore the second Estonian chef to have received this high accolade). Andrei is like a book, which I immediately started reading with great excitement, but which he is constantly improving. A never-ending learning process and never a dull moment. He makes you want to be better yourself. I guess in any field of life, a lot depends on who your teachers are, who you start your career with. I also want to be one that makes you want to do more and learn more. I don't want to waste my time if a chef comes to me and the first question is: what time do I have to be there? My answer is unequivocal: you don't have to be here. You can stay if you want to be here.

Tell me about the chefs' world championships?

Like in sport, there is proper preparation, coaches, a team. The competition itself is very big - you're competing alongside the world's top chefs, legends. It develops you enormously and gives you a powerful emotion. I highly recommend this experience, it broadens your horizons and your circle of acquaintances (Dmitri represented Estonia at the Bocuse d'Or World Championship 2015).

Long days in the kitchen at a hot stove, is it really a good job?

Well, if that's the way someone takes it, maybe they're not in the right job. If the work is a pain, the days are long and you don't like it at all - stop! Try something else! I think everyone deserves a job that gives them pleasure. Otherwise, the job will cause stress, which you can't pay for with a salary. If you're going to do something, do it well, and do it in a way that you enjoy the process. I don't even say I'm going to work in the morning. Being a chef is not a job, it's more a lifestyle and you don't just change it.

If you could give your 20-year-old self any advice, what would it be?

Advice wouldn't really make any sense, at 20 I wouldn't listen to my own lectures and I'd still want to try everything out for myself.

Dmitri's competitions:

2013 - 3rd place in the CUP OF THE YEAR

2014 - BOCUSE DOR EUROPE Sweden - 8th place (commis chef)

2014 - COOK OF THE YEAR I place

2014 - Baltic Culinary Star Cup (Saint Petersburg, Russia)- I place and Grand Prix

2015 - BOCUSE Dór WORLD France - 14 place (commis chef)

2015 - BOCUSE Dór ESTONIA preliminary round - II place (candidate)

Worked as sous chef in restaurants Ribe, Cru, and as head chef in restaurants Savva (Moscow), Tar-Tar, Love Mussels. Currently starting as head chef in Ruhe restaurant.

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