Interview with Tamar Pagrach and Friederike Terwyen from Career Services SBE
We interviewed Tamar Pagrach and Friederike Terwyen from Career Services SBE to find out how you can find your ideal job! Most of you are covered with finding a job after graduation, but will you find a job that makes you happy? In this interview we find out what you can do now and after graduation.
Is this your ideal job?
Tamar & Friederike: It is!
Tamar: If you would have asked me when I started my Bachelor’s, I would not have had the answer. I tried a few studies before I found the right one, Social and Cultural Anthropology. This programme does not prepare you for a specific profession. So after graduation, I still did not really know what to do. But I got lucky and found a nice position through my network; Exchange officer at the School of Business and Economics. In this role I was responsible for the exchange of students and the international university partner network. There was a lot of travelling and contact with people involved. After that I had several other positions, not all working with people. I realized it was important for me to have this interaction and to help people grow. So when I heard about an opening at Career Services, I went for it. When I started I did not immediately know, but later on I realized it has all the components that I really like in a job. In retrospect, I would say this is the ideal job for me. In this position I can work with people, pass on knowledge and there is room for personal growth. For example, in 2017 I completed a professional coaching degree, which helps me a lot in my daily work.
Friederike: I recognize myself in Tamar’s answer. If you would have you asked me a few years ago, I did not even know that a department as Career Services existed. As a work and organizational psychologist, I always wanted to work on topics such as motivation, confidence and self-awareness in an organizational setting. But I did not have a clear goal in mind. After graduation, I started working at a temping agency for students. In my role I was responsible for the deployment of 170 students at different locations. I learned a lot about people and organizations, but my role was also quite operational. After 1.5 years, I decided that it was time for a next step. This experience taught me that I get motivated by variety and flexibility in tasks, but that I like to work with students.
After that I accepted a job as Research Consultant at an international staffing company and started studying again to become a certified a coach. When I received my coaching diploma I took another step and applied at the VU as Career Coach/Trainer.
The great thing of my career path is that everything I learned and experienced in previous jobs is useful to me now, even when I didn’t know it at that time. I am convinced that everybody eventually reaches a point where all your decisions make sense and for me this is now. So working with students, working in education and working as a coach/trainer.
How did you get into this job?
Tamar: I was already working here at the School of Business and Economics. I heard that a colleague at Career Services was going on sabbatical for three months and they were looking for a replacement for that period. I got permission to see if the position was something for me. After three months, the colleague returned. I was happy in the job and they were happy with me, so I could stay on.
Friederike: I found the vacancy online and applied the regular way. After everything I learned so far about the criteria of my “ideal job”, I have a checklist in mind. In the first interview, I am quite critical and I try to find out, if I want to work for a company or not. Beforehand I prepare questions about topics I really need to know about to decide if the job fits my criteria. My job at Career Services was a personal match. I love my team, my colleagues and my job. For me it is important to work in a nice environment as well.
How do you know what type of criteria you can have for a job interview?
Friederike: I think it is very important to know yourself. What do you like? What are your values? What is your personality? In what kind of situation do you want to work? For example: are colleagues very important to you? or a hip office? Everybody has their own wishes and standards for a job. It is really reassuring to know your own “must-have” criteria, because then you can create a checklist to guide you during the interview. However, let’s be honest, I do not believe that there is such a thing as THE perfect job. In every job – once in a while- you have to do a task or a project that you do not like so much. So the question is, can you stay motivated in this particular job and does it fit your criteria most of the time?
Tamar: I think it is also important to find out what your values are and make sure you find those in your job, because what Friederike said plus values will help you to find out if there is a culture match. You also need this culture match: if all the other conditions are not good, the job can be great, but you will not be happy. Also, I think the whole application process is important, not only the interview. Keep in mind it is not only about the company finding the right candidate, but also you finding the right job. If you feel it is not a fit you need to stop the process, wherever you are in that process,. When people go to a job interview they often think: "I want them to like me", but you should also like them. It is a two-way street.
Friederike: Sometimes, for me at least, it even works better if you think about what kind of organization you want to work for and check their website or try some other way to find some information. You might even have someone in your network who works there. Just looking for vacancies can be a very tiring process; scanning hundreds of vacancies and not finding a good fit can be frustrating. To avoid this, you could turn the process around: look for a nice company and then research if they have a position that fits your criteria.
Tamar: Every recruiter will tell you that they look for people who have intrinsic motivation to work for the company. Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within, it is something that is really important to you. It is not something you have with just any company. See if you can identify with something from a certain company: a product they have, a service they provide, their values or something else you can relate to. This is what recruiters really look for. It distinguishes you from the others that say: I like to work for Heineken, because my father used to drink this beer.
Friederike: I can give an example from a prior job. I had KPI’s on how to work with recruited candidates and I always had to wear formal clothes. In jobs where you have contact with clients this is quite common, because appearance is important. However, I value if I can be myself in a job and that I am able to decide myself how to interact with people. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a good fit between this job and my wishes. Hence, it cost me a lot of energy to stay motivated. Every day I went home tired, but I still wanted to see friends etc. So it is important finding balance and to find a job that actually gives you energy back.
What is the moment a student should realize it is important to look for what to do after their study?
Tamar: I would say as soon as possible, because it is a process. I think most of the students in your field will find a job pretty soon after graduation and the other ones do not, because they want to travel or do something else first. But will you find a job that makes you happy? Like Friederike said, of course your job costs energy, because you are working. However, you should also gain energy, because you are doing something you like. Like any process, this takes time. Finding positions is easy: you just sit behind a computer in the afternoon, you find some vacancies, you apply, done. Finding a job that fits your personality and values takes time. So give yourself time.
Friederike: The earlier you start, the more time you have to experience different things. After graduation you need to find a job at some point to pay the bills. When you start early on, you have some time to experiment with different kinds of work and figure out your preferences.
Tamar: There are also many ways to work during your study. We are now talking about a career after graduation, but during your studies you can also work. Many students are working next to their studies as a working student or as a part-timer. This way you can experience what it is like to work. It is part of the process of finding a relevant job after your studies. You can find out if you actually like a certain field. Based on this experience you can go for certain electives or specialization in your Master's.
Friederike: From my perspective, your first job is probably not going to be your ideal job. Very few have directly found their perfect job. So it is really a process of trying out different things and I think it is important to have a goal of where you want to go. So it is important that you know yourself and that you can use that as a guideline in your career.
Tamar: It might not be your ideal job as in “I want to grow old doing this job”, but it should make you happy and hopefully you find elements of which you think: “okay, this is the direction I want to grow in”. Even if this will be in a different field or at a different company.
What is the best way to start looking for your ideal job?
Tamar: I would say you start with yourself, start to look for “you”. That is number one.
Friederike: There are some tools that can be helpful. For example there is the HEXACO personality test. It is a validated test that can be taken for free on the internet. You can do the DISC test, to get a first impression of who you are. It is always good to keep in mind that it is just a test and not necessarily the reality. Think about: “Do I recognise myself in the results”. It is not a problem if you do not, because you still learn something about yourself. Think about why you don’t recognize yourself. That also gives you information. Furthermore, you have Ofman's core quadrants, which help to find out more about your competences. You can also ask your friends: what do you think my skills are? What should I do? Ask others for feedback. Also think about your hobbies, what do you like about it? And what does that say about you?
Tamar: And we can also help you with that. If you come to the workshop “Find a job that loves you back” or to an individual coaching session, we can discuss test results, your strengths, your competences, what you have already done, what is missing in the picture or what you can focus on. All this to really get to know yourself and your values. Try to think for yourself: what is really important to me, what makes me happy , what am I proud of and what gives me energy? Many people search vacancies on the internet to find a position and when they think “ah, I think I like this position” they apply for it. Our advice would be to turn it around. That is how you find your intrinsic motivation.
Friederike: Indeed, if you start searching without knowing what to search for, you can get lost in the thousands of jobs that there currently are. Therefore it is important to give your search a focus. Knowing what you want, makes it much easier to search, because then you can make use of the right searching tools. And if you already have work experience, you can also think about what gave you energy and what drained your energy in this position. Do it really structured and see if you can find a common thread.
Which searching websites can be useful?
Tamar: LinkedIn is a good one for sure and job boards, like on our platform, can be helpful. It is also helpful to have a network. The people you speak to, or alumni events can be useful to find a job. If you want to work in higher education, either research, teaching or supporting staff, I would say AcademicTransfer is a good one too.
Friederike: You can visit company websites, or use intermediary parties like recruitment agencies to look at. There are also websites for traineeships and there are a lot of vacancy boards like Indeed. Google “vacancy” and they pop up. I think it is really great to have a LinkedIn profile, that works for sure.
How can LinkedIn be of help?
Tamar: For networking, so finding people who have a position that might be of interest to you. You can get in contact with them and see what they actually do. A vacancy description does not usually give you too much of an answer.
Friederike: You also have a job board there and they provide you, according to your profile, with jobs that might fit you. That could be a starting point. If you want to know more about how you can create a good LinkedIn profile, then it is useful to read the previous article about LinkedIn.
Tamar: The better the information on your profile, the better the job links you will get. This is because LinkedIn matches words in the vacancy to keywords in your profile.
Friederike: You can also use LinkedIn to search for alumni from your programme. On the VU LinkedIn page you have this option. If the alumni have updated their profile, you can see where they are currently working, which positions they have and what their responsibilities are. So you actually can do research: how is it to be in that job? And you could even connect to them and ask them a little bit more.
Tamar: In your case Kraket has Extrie for the alumni. So you might not actually need the alumni settings on LinkedIn, because you have a better link yourself. Sometimes the alumni settings will give you alumni that haven’t done EOR, but have one of these words in their profile. You know that the people at Extrie have studied the same. You can talk to them, see what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. Do you see yourself doing that based on what is important to you and who you are?
Friederike: And connecting the topic LinkedIn to your prior question “When should I start?”. You cannot start early enough with building a network. You have your friends from high school and university. Eventually they will have a job too, so it is good to already start with your network now. On LinkedIn it is really easy to connect. And probably, in a few years’ time, you have 1 person in every company in Amsterdam. It is good to have a network if you are looking for another job.
How useful is it to do an internship?
Friederike: You learn a lot about yourself, especially about what you like or don’t like. During your internship you will be at the company, so you can get an excellent first impression. Moreover, it is a bit more relaxed working as an intern. They probably don’t expect you to be perfect and do everything right from the start. You can see it as a try-out phase to find out more about yourself and how it is to work 9 to 5 at a company.
Tamar: An internship usually comes on top of your program, so it is an extra. If you have already been a working student, an internship is not necessary. I would advise to do something during your studies that gives you relevant work experience.
Friederike: I don’t think it is necessary to do an internship, but getting some experience is helpful.
Tamar: Additionally, it is going to make you more confident when you start the process. Many students don’t feel confident the first time they get acquainted with the whole application process. Relevant experience will help you with that. The university primarily gives you theoretical knowledge and I often see that students don’t consider this sufficient to feel comfortable starting their career. Alternatively, for example a committee or a board year at a study association can also build your confidence. So it is not only an internship or work experience that could help, but also other opportunities where you can develop yourself on a professional level. In the ideal world you want to do everything, but in real life you have to find a balance.
Kraket organizes events where students can get to know companies. Do you think such days represent a company well, or do they only show the positive things?
Tamar: At an Inhouse Day, there is the additional value of being at the office. So you can feel what it is like to walk around there. Next to listening to what they tell you about the company, you can also experience the company culture. Is it a match? For example, how do people work? Do they have their own office an open office plan? And would you like working that way. Is there a weekly Friday night drink and a skiing trip with colleagues? And would you like this? Next to experiencing the atmosphere, sometimes you can also ask questions directly to the employees. If you think about an Inhouse Day as a theatre where they present how fantastic their company is, you can try to be critical yourself: ask questions and search for the things you want to know. Afterwards you can ask yourself, did I like what I saw and heard. So it is definitely of value to visit a company. Moreover, they present what they feel is important to them. If you have done the “get to know yourself research”, you know whether the company fits you.
Friederike: Inhouse Days are also good to attend, because you might get the opportunity to talk to the recruiter. The recruiter is the very first person that reads your cv and motivational letter. It helps if you already had a conversation with him or her, because it is a good start for your letter. It is always a plus if you can make it personal.
Tamar: I once was at a workshop where the recruiter walked in and recognised two people, because they had already been in touch with her. If you go to an Inhouse Day and speak to the recruiter, they will probably recognise your name when your CV and letter come in. I would also advise to write in your letter that you visited the Inhouse Day and on top of that share with them what you liked about it, and why that is important to you.
What are the differences of working at a major company (big four) compared to a smaller company?
Tamar: This is a really difficult question to answer, because it depends on the company and the position. And on your list of needs and wants. It is about the match. So my advice would be to do your research, visit Inhouse Days, talk to recruiters at Kraket events and contact people who work there. Be critical and try to always answer why something appeals to you.
If this article is not enough for you, SBE Career Services offers two workshops that can help you in your job search. The first one is called “Job search introduction”, where they take you through the whole process of finding a job. The other option is “Find a job that loves you back”, which is more focussed on you as a person.