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Atse Fokkens: ‘I really enjoy the vibe of education’

Career preparation, whether or not present in the curriculum, is becoming increasingly prominent in many educational institutes. Atse Fokkens (39) notices this in his work as a career adviser and internship coordinator. He welcomes the fact that more attention is being paid to preparing students for the labour market.

Dutch class in the Schilderswijk

‘I started working at the Faculty of Humanities in 2015. It was a conscious choice for me to work in education. For a while I taught Dutch classes to migrants in the Schilderswijk, which I really enjoyed. Before that I worked as a recruiter for years, after graduating in European Studies at the Hague University of Applied Sciences. In the beginning I worked as a recruiter for mainly international candidates and later as a graduate recruiter where I guided recent graduates to their first job. I enjoyed coaching starters and helping them draw up their CVs and prepare for job interviews. I was responsible for both the recruitment of candidates and my own client portfolio and acquisition: a commercial job.’

‘In terms of culture, I had to get used to the University. In the business field, I walked into my manager's office when I had come up with an idea and he would say yes or no. Things are different here. I work in both The Hague and Leiden, which is also quite a difference in culture. The atmosphere at the Wijnhaven is more international and sometimes the lines of communication are shorter. At the same time, I find it very pleasant to work in Lipsius, where, when I walk in, it sometimes feels like time has stood still. What I really appreciate is that the motto “Libertatis Praesidium” is strongly propagated: we don't have to agree with each other, but all opinions can be expressed.’

A versatile job

‘I really enjoy the vibe of education. It is a little similar to the seasons. The new students who are nervously waiting in front of the train station when the EL CID starts, the opening of the Academic year and for example the graduation ceremony of International Studies, where the students in the Pieterskerk proudly receive their diplomas.’

‘My work is very varied. Students come to me for advice, and together we discuss their interests and skills and see where those match vacancies and work areas. I also check CVs and letters of application for them, or we practice job interviews, where my experience as a recruiter obviously comes in handy. In addition, we organise workshops with the Career Service and organise visits to employers such as the AIVD. We also regularly receive questions from study programmes about how they can better prepare students for the labour market. Issues that arise everywhere: that's why I am in regular contact with the Career Services of other universities, both in the Netherlands and internationally. You notice that even there students increasingly expect that their study programme will immediately prepare them for the labour market.’

‘I try to make it clear to students that it is very important that you are active in addition to your studies. Whether you are a member of a committee of your study association or that you’re a volleyball coach for children, every experience counts. Employers are mainly looking for candidates who have been able to develop skills in addition to their studies. Incidentally, labour market preparation is sometimes already included in the curriculum. At Urban Studies, as a co-lecturer, I teach the course Professional Orientation. This is about “Who am I and what are my skills?” but it also includes practical matters such as how to write a good CV, how to orientate yourself on the labour market and what employers consider to be important. I really like teaching and I would like to develop myself further in this field.’

TLV, running and travelling

‘In my spare time I like to read and I love to cook, Middle Eastern cuisine for example. I recently bought a fantastic cookbook: TLV (Tel Aviv), great to browse through. I'm also training for the Valencia marathon in December. Three years ago I ran the Athens marathon, and now I want to focus on a time under four hours. Another passion - which I think I share with many colleagues and students - is discovering new countries: during my studies I studied in Salamanca and did my internship in Burkina Faso. From my study programme, former classmates ended up all over the world: Argentina, Chile, Georgia, India, Indonesia and Laos, so I can combine travelling with visits. It's nice that the University, as an employer, gives you the option to convert part of your income into extra leave. In short, I am happy with my position here!’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.


Femke Wouters
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