Empathy, Peer Support and Exchange of Ideas

I shuffle a deck of cards and put it on the table. Maija takes the topmost card and reads aloud the text written on it: “What have you accomplished this year?”.

Enthusiastically, she starts listing the projects she has been working on as an entrepreneur. “Phew, you have done a lot this year”, I note and continue: “So have you now been able to pay more salary to yourself?”. Maija tells, nevertheless with all the efforts, bread is getting thinner. We are at the core, as something has obviously gone slanted.

We start pondering together how to tackle the situation. Where could she find peer support and financial help for her business and marketing? How could she price her design services better? Should she change the business form? Change the name of the brand? How to raise the awareness of her personal brand and business? And from where to find collaborators and stop doing everything by herself?

Maija is a designer who came to EEVI‘s training program to find new direction and connections to her professional work during the insecure times caused by the pandemic. I’m a mentor for 20 designers in EEVI Ohjaamo.  Mentoring happens face to face and the main principle is confidentiality. That opens a chance to talk about difficult things such as lack of income and injustice at work life.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I started my mentoring sessions with the designers by using the Tngl card game. It functions as a playful conversation opener between people. It’s designed by service designer Mustafa Alshihani who created the game during the pandemic, when we were forcibly taken away from one another directly. He wanted to create an easy way to connect, even with a stranger, and to get to know the person through questions that touch your personal life.

Using Tngl as a tool in mentoring turned out to be an easy way to get to the core of communication. I had picked up 20 cards with Mustafa, the ones that were somehow related to work life. The cards lead the conversation also to unexpected directions and curiosities.

“Where do you see yourself in ten years?” That touches me more than Maija who is younger. I will be 67 in ten years.  Suffering the fear of death and hyperactivity, I had never put a thought in thinking what will I do when I’m so-called old or retired. Half forced, it’s suddenly became interesting to talk about with a younger colleague. After all, I’m not uncomfortable to jump out of my comfort zone!

Mentoring is not only giving expertise, it’s more like exchanging thoughts and sharing of ideas for a mutually beneficial outcome. Empathy is the motor for mentoring.

I ended up buying a service from one of the designers and in the future, I might collaborate with some.  At its best, mentoring can create lifelong supporting networks of people and new friendships.

EEVI – Recovery, Vitality, and Networking

Metropolia, Raitala Music Oy and Ornamo are leading the EEVI training program until the end of 2022. Trainings and networking sessions (note: in Finnish) are coming up at fall. EEVI program is created with the funding by Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. EEVI homepage is www.luovatverkostot.fi

Changes in professional life caused by pandemic left a mark on many instances including myself. I’m going to find new paths by taking a year off from work. The Finnish Cultural Foundation is supporting my writing project in the search for “new normal” commercial yet sustainable design in Finland.

Emmi Putkonen will continue in EEVI training program and stand in as a design expert at Ornamo. Good luck to Emmi! You can follow my new path in LinkedIn. Let’s get in contact!

P.S. Maija in the story is a fictional person or a combination of 20 designers.