Universiteit Leiden

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More self-confidence thanks to mentor

‘Don’t worry and be open,’ is what Lisa Quants’ mentor told her before her job interview. And it helped. Lisa found her mentor through the Leiden University Mentor Network, an online platform where students can contact Leiden alumni for support and advice.

Law perfect fit from the start

In fact, Lisa found not one but two mentors. ‘Although the contact with one is more intensive and frequent than with the other.’ Lisa is in the second year of a Law degree. She loved the programme and found it interesting right from the start, and consequently did well in her studies. Her fellow students said: ‘You have to get through the first year. That’s when Law starts to be fun.’ But Lisa knew from the very first day that she had chosen a programme that was a perfect fit for her.

Two responses

This would explain why she began to get itchy feet before she had even earned her propaedeuse. She wanted to find paid or unpaid work in the field that she could do alongside her studies and develop her skills. However, everywhere she looked said she would first need her propaedeuse. Wondering how she was going to find a way round this, she chanced upon a screen in the Kamerlingh Onnes Building with information about the Mentor Network. Perhaps the answer lay there? She selected three potential mentors, and two responded, both about 30, she would guess: a lawyer from a Rotterdam criminal law firm and a lawyer from the London Court of Arbitration, a commercial mediation and arbitration firm.

Lisa Quant

Good advice

The Rotterdam lawyer mainly gave Lisa tips, for instance on her CV. She had more regular and personal contact with the lawyer from London. He had only done his Master’s degree in Leiden, having studied in Oxford and Ottawa beforehand. They communicated in English, therefore, often by phone. He advised Lisa to apply for jobs anyway, even if the advert said that she had to have her propaedeuse. And to not let herself be discouraged, even if she was turned down a number of times. ‘You never know, they might just appreciate you being so enthusiastic at such an early stage of your degree.’ And he was right: she was invited to interviews. ‘Don’t worry and be open,’ was the other piece of advice from the Londoner.

A job and voluntary work

As a result, Lisa now works as an intern at a law firm in Amsterdam and as a volunteer at the Rechtswinkel, a bureau that offers free legal advice that is based in The Hague, where she lives. Both hired her despite not ­yet, but almost, having her propaedeuse. She does not deal with law itself at the firm in Amsterdam, but it is a fantastic opportunity to get a taste of the atmosphere and learn the ins and outs of a law firm. Lisa works there one fixed day and one flexible day. She does administrative work, sits at the reception, answers the phone, books meeting rooms and archives documents. She does get a chance to deal with the law at the Rechtswinkel in The Hague. The good thing is that she started together with six other newbies, so they were all in the same boat. ‘I’ve learned that they look to see if you’ve got it in you. Whether you have your propaedeuse is less important.’

Meeting her mentor

Lisa’s contact with her mentor in London was such that she immediately told him she’d been hired. He was proud of her. She will probably meet him: parents of friends live in London and she will visit them at some point in the near future. It will be a good opportunity to meet her mentor. She thinks that she will keep in touch with him, and with the other mentor too.

A lot on her plate

Before her second year, Lisa had an important decision to make. She had also been invited to an interview at a small firm in The Hague. But the Faculty of Law Honours Class appealed to her too. She had registered but had to wait to see if she would get a place. ‘What helped me decide was to think which would be best for my personal development.’ She finally decided that, together with her job in Amsterdam and voluntary work in The Hague, she would benefit most from the Honours Class. So she cancelled the interview with the firm in The Hague. Given that Lisa is also a member of Quintus, it would be fair to say that she has a lot on her plate this year. But it doesn’t feel like that to her. ‘If I look at the first year, I think I can expect to continue to do well in my studies, and the extra things that I do are all things I want to be doing. And I also have my mentors to thank for this.’

Online tool

On the Leiden University Mentor Network, you will find hundreds of Leiden alumni in various jobs and from various backgrounds. They can answer your questions about career preparation, your first job, applying for jobs or choosing a Master’s degree and so on. You choose a mentor and the type of contact: email, telephone or face to face. Discover the Mentor Network.

If you are an alumnus and would like to offer your services as mentor for students and young alumni, see the alumni website for more information.

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