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Graduation in sight? Get some career tips from the Mentor Network

As you near the end of your student time, it can be daunting thinking about what you want to do after graduating. Am I ready for the job market? What are my options? Just about every student wrestles with these questions, and Lisanne and Wilbert are no exception. They called on the help of the University's Mentor Network.

Why did you register with the Mentor Network?

Wilbert: ‘I'm now in the final stage of my bachelor's and I was trying to decide about a master's. That made me realise how close I am to graduating. My Political Science and Law degrees give me a lot of options, but I didn't have any real idea of what I wanted to do. I needed some advice, preferably from people who had been in the same position relatively recently. I can get in touch with alumni via the Mentor Network  who have just started to work  and so can give me some good advice.' 

Lisanne: ‘I'm close to finishing my master's programme and then there'll be the question of what I'm going to do after that. I have some ideas, but I thought it would be good to ask someone else about their experience and to get some tips.' 

How did you decide on a mentor?

Wilbert: ‘I chose my mentor for two reasons: he was young and had just graduated. He also worked for the government, which is where I'd like to work in the future.' 

Lisanne: ‘I wanted to do an internship after my thesis to get some experience before entering the job market. I looked for mentors in the field of work I'm interested in too, which is how I came in touch with Robin Nieuwenkamp, who is currently a government trainee at the Ministry of  Education, Culture and Science. What attracted me about his profile was that he studied archaeology, so his study programme doesn't necessarily match the trainee place that he's currently doing.'

What did you gain from your mentor?

Wilbert: ‘My mentor gave me some useful tips, including about how I can distinguish myself more while I'm still studying. He gave me advice about looking for an internship, how I can best raise my profile and about how to decide what career I want. They were pleasant and useful discussions that helped me a lot.' 

Lisanne: ‘When I asked Robin for help, I was looking for an internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but I discovered that my lack of experience was often cited as the reason for not offering me a position. I asked Robin if he had any tips for this and how he managed to get a trainee position. One of his tips was to think about where I could imagine myself working as a trainee, then look at those companies' websites to find out what the issues are there and who are the right people to contact. He offered to help me with that. His advice was not to pay attention to any doubts I might have, but to keep on looking. In the end, partly thanks to his advice, I found a great internship abroad!' 

Why would you advise other people to use the Mentor Network?

Wilbert: ‘The Mentor Netwerk is a great system because it can put you in contact with people who have been in the same situation as you, which means they can give you useful tips and tricks. Not only that, they can also give you access to their own network, so you can use that too.' 

Lisanne: ‘When you're studying, if you don't have any experience on the job market, it can seem overwhelming. It's great to have someone who has been in the same position and who knows the ropes. It can be very reassuring to learn that your mentor found it a daunting prospect too; you're not the only one.' 

Online tool

You will find hundreds of Leiden alumni in the University's Mentor Network, all of whom are working in different jobs and have different backgrounds. If you have a question about preparing for the job market, your first job, applying for a job or your master's choice, you can choose a mentor and how you want to have contact with them: by mail or phone, or face to face. Discover the Mentor Network.

Are you an alumnus and would you like to act as a mentor for students and young alumni?  Visit the alumni website for more information.

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