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Thinking about yourself and your ideal job

How do you tell your professional story? This formed the basis of the Personal Branding workshop for young alumni at PLNT, the Leiden Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on 22 July. Forty-five alumni came along.

Sjoerd and Maaike Personal Branding
The workshop facilitators: Sjoerd Louwaars and Maaike Spuij

This wasn’t the kind of workshop in which you can sit back and let it wash over you. In the under two hours allocated, the facilitators – Sjoerd Louwaars, Director of Innovation at PLNT, and trainee Maaike Spuij – had the participants thinking hard about who they were and what they wanted. This was one step at a time, in exercises that there was no getting out of.

The focus of the workshop was: YOU PLC. This involves answering question such as: What’s your track record? What’s your unique selling point? Which corner of the market appeals most? Where do your chances lie? And what’s your dream job?

The ideal job

Through the exercises, the participants were able to sketch out their ideal job or freelance work, regardless of whether these actually do or ever will exist. Although many of those present found this difficult, it was an eye-opener too. ‘It’s a completely different thought process from trying to force yourself to fit the mould of a job vacancy,’ one participant said.

Personal Branding Alumni
Half of the group

The action plan

Then it was on to the action plan: where do you want to be in three years’ time and which steps do you want to have taken by this time next year to achieve this? What action do you need to have taken in three months’ time, and what can you do in the next 24 hours? Because – and this brings us back to the beginning of the workshop – if your track record doesn’t align with your dream job, you’d better make sure that it does. And that requires action.

The participants were spurred on to maintain the flow of the workshop by taking immediate action. What could they do that evening already, for instance? Send a mail to someone who knows someone who works at an embassy in Greece. Look in Coursera for a suitable MOOC. Find out more about the company where you want to work.

But before any of that, it was time for drinks on the roof of PLNT, one of the most unique watering holes in town. Networking is essential after all.

Britt Personal Branding alumni

Three participants

Britt studied linguistics. She has only had temporary jobs since she graduated three years ago. ‘The workshop helped me gain a clear idea of myself without having a job vacancy in front of me. I now know that I have to think more from my own perspective and less from that of the job vacancy. What do I have to offer instead of what do they want?’

Jasper Personal Branding Alumni

Jasper felt that he needed a better, more coherent story about himself, about who he is. He develops business software and studied technical medicine, a Delft-Leiden programme. ‘Then I did my PhD, which I completed in 2018. I’m now thinking about what I really want.’ The medical sector still appeals. ‘Philips? That’s a really big company. My preference is for a small one…’

Kiara Personal Branding Alumni

Kiara studied notarial law and found a job within a month of graduating two years ago. ‘It all went really quickly.’ The job gives her a lot of security, financial security too. ‘That makes it difficult to decide whether this really is the right job for me, to decide what I really want. That’s why I registered for the workshop; it’s forcing me to think.’ Not that it made things instantly clear. ‘I’m definitely on the right path with law, but apart from that I don’t know.’

Insight and action

The Personal Branding workshop doesn’t guarantee the ideal job, but it does help you gain insight and take action.

Core quadrant
An important tool in the workshop was Daniel Ofman’s Core Quadrant. This involves the following: 1) Take one of your core qualities: something that you are good at, for instance being efficient, thinking ahead or setting yourself high standards. 2) How does your core quality cause you to become irritated by the behaviour of others? This is your allergy. 3) What happens if you go too far in your core quality. This is your pitfall. 4) And what is the opposite of this? This is the challenge, and what you are aiming to achieve.

One of the participants had a particularly good example: ‘I’m creative and innovative. My pitfall is that I always want to reinvent the wheel. I should make more use of what others have already come up with, without becoming conservative and only looking at existing ideas.’ The last bit was the challenge. Everything in the quadrant is interlinked, and you soon learn to list your strengths and weaknesses.

The Leiden University Young Alumni Network organises an activity each month in the areas of information provision, development or networking for alumni up to the age of 35. It also has a mentoring programme.

Text: Corine Hendriks
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