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March Mentor Network month

Leiden University Mentor Network offers free advice and tips from a Leiden alumnus. Sign up now! Our Vice-Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl is a Leiden alumna and now mentor to Irene de Best, a master's student of English.

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The Mentor Network is an online portal where students can get in touch with alumni who work in interesting fields. Students can look for mentors via the digital environment of the Mentor Network, and ask them any questions they may have. It's also possible to meet up with your mentor face to face. Hester Bijl and Irene de Best, a master's student of English, have done just that. We listened in on their first meeting.

Hester: ‘You'll be graduating in about six months' time. Do you know what you want to do after that?' 

Irene: ‘I really enjoy translating and that's what I would like to focus on so I'm exploring the different options, from subtitling to legal translations. The legal work sounds interesting but I think it would be difficult to do without a legal background. While I was doing my internship at the Authority for Consumers and Markets, I practised with legal and economic texts, but I did need some help now and again.'   

Hester: ‘I'm not in the translation world myself, but I can give you some general tips. I studied English part-time here in Leiden, although my main subject was Maths in Delft. I finished my English programme while I was working for my PhD.' 

Irene: ‘Research isn't really my thing; I'm more into practice, and even more so now that I've finished my internship and I realise how much I like being in an office environment. What I'm wondering about most is how to make the transition from studying to working. What do I need to do first? And when should I start preparing?' 

Hester: ‘The earlier you start, the better, and preferably at least six months before you graduate. So now's just right. How to get started? Well, you can start by looking at job vacancies, but it's more important to talk to people who are already doing the work you want to do. My advice would be to make a list of the directions you might want to go in. Then look for names of people in that field and call them to make an appointment. People generally like talking about their work.'

‘You can ask them what it is exactly that they do and how they got there, which will help you find out whether it's something you want to do. The people you contact can almost certainly put you in touch with other people who can help you further; just ask them.'  

‘It's also important to work on developing your skills. It's worthwhile learning how to write a good application letter, for example, and you can also practise your interview techniques with friends. Or, if you want to work as a freelancer, you could start learning about acquisition and administration.'

Irene: ‘What did you do when you graduated?’

Hester: ‘I knew I wanted to do a PhD, so I went and talked to professors who had PhD places available. And once I had my PhD, I wanted to work for a while outside the university world, so I made a list of companies I found interesting and via my own network started talking to people who worked for those companies.'

‘What I didn't do was to apply for jobs at the company I was most interested in. Instead, I applied to other companies so I could first gain some experience with job applications and interviews. That's a skill in itself, so it's definitely a good idea to get some practice!' 

More than 650 alumni have registered for the Mentor Network. Students can use the Network to get in touch with mentors and ask them all their questions, or make an appointment to see them. You can register for the Mentor Network via the website.