Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
Report of career event Catch that Coach
Catch that Coach: working on your career while being droven on the motor way towards Brussels. Sounds nice, is it not? Last Friday some 100 students joined this event of UM Career Services. Before they jump on the bus, they check their name, cause they have been assigned to one of the three coaches.
More than a year ago, UM students had the chance to find career opportunities by taking a seat on a train to Brussels. During the trip they ‘speed dated’ with representatives from various companies and institutes. Last Friday UM Career Services repeated the event. One major change: the train was replaced by three touring buses. Observant went along for the ride, called Catch that Coach.
Before leaving, various representatives are quietly having breakfast at the Boulevard café on the Stationsstraat. Koannie Lauw of UM Career Services, in charge of the day’s proceedings, is making some last-minute arrangements. “I’m looking for synergies. I’d like students to have a wide scope for their career, and to have them look further than the disciplines associated with their studies. It’s not just organisations based in Brussels, we’ve tried to assemble a wide range.” That range includes Google, NATO, Henkel, the Municipality of Maastricht and the European Institute of Public Administration.
It’s past 11.00 and the buses are ready to take off. The total of 100 students have been assigned to one of the three coaches, and the organisations will switch around to be able to talk to everyone. The participants, from a variety of faculties – although Arts and Social Sciences, home of European Studies, seems to dominate – have their own reasons to join this event. Céline Vermeulen, a student of European Law School, wants to know “what companies are looking for an applicant”. Koen van Hoorn, having just completed his master’s degree in European Studies, thinks the setup of the event is more personal than a career day. Besides, he has an international outlook: “I’d like to work abroad. At any rate, I’m definitely leaving Limburg.” Rogier Honselaar (UCM) has a very clear goal for the day: he is trying to get organisations to offer their internships on the website of his study association, Universalis. Even some second-year students have taken a seat, like Caroline Maug: “You can never start early enough, the event seems quite informal, and the quality of people is supposed to be good. Besides, it’s €10 for a trip to Brussels and a meal.”
During the trip to Brussels, the representatives introduce themselves and the organisation they work for, and proceed to move around the bus to talk to smaller groups of people for short periods of time. Considering the international orientation of many of the students taking part, it seems odd that institutions such as Rabobank Maastricht and the Municipality of Maastricht that are along for the ride. Rabobank is only looking for Dutch-speaking students, and another company, Océ, a large firm dealing in printing and copying technologies, does not seem to offer jobs that one could apply for fresh out of university. During the speed dates, not everyone succeeds in making an impression. Michel Laven, with a background in real estate but not currently employed in-house, introduces himself in somewhat broken English. One of the students wonders out loud: “What is he doing here?” In contrast, Nicolas Borl, a recent UM graduate now working for Google, manages to tickle the fancy of those present. He is employed as an online media associate, primarily concerning himself with Adwords, Google’s advertising service. “How did you get there? Did you just google for a job?” someone jokes. Borl is particularly enthusiastic about the atmosphere of his workplace, but aims to give a fair assessment of his job: “It does get a bit repetitive at first, until you can prove yourself.” Frank Frijns of the European Institute of Public Administration explains how his institute is currently training civil servants in Hungary, in preparation for the Hungarian chairmanship of the EU, and might have interesting opportunities for Europe-minded students.
How to stand out
Upon arrival at the UM campus in Brussels, a large house in the city centre, the sunny garden quickly fills up with students enjoying their lunch. Koannie Lauw briefly addresses them: “In today’s job market, it’s important to have multiple skills, and to be able to work cross-functionally. You should work on developing your network, as most vacancies are never advertised.” Students can choose to attend presentations by the different organisations present, meet alumni from Maastricht University, get their CV checked by Google (“They weren’t wild about the picture I had on the front”, someone muses), or visit the career information market. The presentation on the NATO internship attracts a big crowd, as is to be expected for a position that receives 3,000 applicants.
Sacha is having a smoke in the garden. She works for the small lobbying agency ICODA, which assists in advocating for Dutch companies at the European Commission. She enjoys her work very much, but emphasizes that it is a temporary position. She is quite fond of the atmosphere in Brussels. Her colleague, Mark Thijssen, concurs: “The job is great, but I might have to work in a bar to make ends meet.” This comes as somewhat of a shock: their positions are unpaid. “It’s okay. I’m investing in my network.”
At the end of the day, one gets the impression that most people had quite a decent time, although there’s always room for improvement. European Studies student Amaya Diez-Canseco would like to do humanitarian work, and is not too satisfied with the lack of NGOs present at the event. She manages to elaborate this into a critique of career events in general: “Recruiters ask the wrong questions, and they don’t always give you the negatives of the job. People should pursue what they’re passionate about.”
“I’d like to work in the public or semipublic sector,” explains Marjolein de Kerf, student of European Public Affairs. “It was less useful than I expected; it was a lot of business, while I was hoping for more Brussels and Europe.” Another student has less serious concerns: “Last time they had beer and wine at the end of the day, so that’s a bit of a let down.”