Samuel came to Finland for the most traditional of reasons, love. His Finnish girlfriend was heading home, and Samuel came along. The most crucial practical detail, getting a job, solved itself surprisingly effortlessly. “One of the owners of the Specsavers West Bridgford store I worked in, Simon Dunn, contacted Maarit Saarikoski who owns Specsavers Iso Omena in Espoo and asked if she had a job for an optical dispenser,” Samuel says. Maarit had visited Simon’s store when she became a Specsavers partner 15 years ago, and they had kept in contact over the years.
Maarit did have a job for Samuel, and he started working at Iso Omena, a shopping mall in Espoo, just west of Helsinki. He was a little unsure, at first, because of the new culture, and the language barrier was an obstacle. He had, however, been working with Specsavers for six years already, so he knew he had the expertise.
All went well, of course. There were many English-speaking customers in Espoo, as it turned out, and Finns usually speak sufficiently good English. He also learned a bit more Finnish every day and could soon use simple sentences that made the job easier. “I have gained lots of confidence. I have coped well and noticed I fit in. Challenges that felt big in the beginning are much smaller now, and I have come to enjoy them,” Samuel says.
Samuel is the only optical dispenser at Specsavers Iso Omena; all the other staff members are opticians. A career in optometry was not his first choice, however. He had studied media but worked as a chef in gastro pubs and the catering industry after graduation. The work was seasonal and stressful, so he wanted to change lanes at some point. His brother already worked at Specsavers and introduced Samuel to his business partner, Simon. “That’s how it started. I began my career as an optical assistant but got new responsibilities with training. First, I learned optics and customer service, then fast-tracked to learn management and problem-solving. After that, I could act as a duty manager and handle complaints and other more challenging customer service situations,” Samuel recalls.
Samuel studied further and got a hearing care assistant diploma which made his work even more varied. (In the UK, Specsavers also sells hearing aids.) The more versatile his job became, the more motivating it felt. “I’m proud and even surprised by my career path. The field that I chose quite randomly turned out to suit me perfectly. I feel I’ve found my way.”
Learning, developing, and advancing in your career is part of the Specsavers concept. In Britain, “promote from within” means that employees are trained well and encouraged to develop in their careers. So when there’s a job opening, it’s first open to staff members. Career development doesn’t always require a university degree, either. Instead, many jobs are accessible through internal training. “Opticians of course need an optometry degree, but many other positions have an internal career path.”
The biggest challenge was yet to come, however. Moving to Finland and adapting to a new culture and language has taken his career as an optical dispenser to a new level. The best thing about the move has been all the new friends and social circles. “I’m a very social person and talk a lot, so it suits me. Also, the positive feedback at work has felt rewarding,” he says. Customers are indeed often positive about Samuel in their feedback responses. “I find problem-solving motivating, whether it regards sight or social aspects,” he adds. He thinks the first and the last customer of the day should receive equally good service, even if you’re a little tired at the end of your workday. “Customer service should be personal, and there should be a genuine connection.”
Samuel hasn’t encountered prejudice as such, even if someone can be a little reserved when they realise the optical dispenser serving them isn’t fluent in Finnish. Such situations are often rewarding for Samuel. “It’s great when someone has a slightly negative attitude initially, and you manage to turn it around. Often, those are the customers who come back and view the outcome as particularly positive.” How many customers return is also directly connected to how successful a store is: “Even if we have the best prices, no one comes back if the quality is bad. It warms the heart to change lives for real.”
In Finland, Samuel feels he has found both his Finnish and international families, with whom he spends time bouldering, for example. To him, Specsavers is also a family of sorts: “You’re cared for, and you get opportunities and education. I’ve had incredible luck with my directors at all the Specsavers stores I’ve worked. Everyone has been just great and helped me with my career. I don’t think it can be a coincidence. I think they choose the right kind of people for the job.”
Samuel thinks his brother, Stephen Rogers, and Simon Dunn, who now both own several Specsavers stores in Nottingham, are the two people that made a crucial impact on his career by steering him into a Specsavers path. “I’ve understood my potential working at Specsavers. Getting a job here was the best thing I ever did.”
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