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International Relations’ alumni-student event: ‘Quality over quantity’ and other alumni advice for the job application process

Practical advice, a panel discussion, and an informal networking reception: students and alumni from the MA International Relations can look back on yet another successful event last April. The diverse backgrounds and careers of the alumni vividly illustrated the range of opportunities awaiting students after graduation.

During the event, students had the opportunity of asking alumni not only to share their experiences but to also explore in what exact ways the programme helped them to succeed in their careers. The main areas that most of the alumni highlighted were hard and soft skills, as well as general International Relations knowledge. Regarding the specific courses, alumnus Jake Fairbanks Kelley named the relevance of mandatory course the ‘Regionalism in World Politics’ . Jake pointed out that he thinks that ‘regionalism is a big part of the future’, particularly in the field of sustainability.

The alumni also highlighted the importance of being able to express in job interviews how the master’s prepares students. Several people emphasised the power of transferable and analytical skills. Sebastian Strohmayer, who works in public affairs in Berlin, stressed that ‘one keyword is perspective; being able to look at a situation and take all the different perspectives of the complex issue into account’.

Tips and tricks

In addition to advising on the process of preparing for interviews, the alumni also provided current students with other valuable and practical guidance for the application process. In particular, the value of a strategic and reflective pathway was repeatedly mentioned. For instance, Colm O’Flynn highlighted this: ‘Think about how to optimize your time. If you create a cover letter for a large organization, it’s probably going through an algorithm process. So, think about how you can adjust it and use your time usefully.’

‘Don’t be discouraged!’

Since the application process can be tiresome and you’ll most likely face some rejections, alumni also provided some advice on how to deal with these. Anastasia Lajri, who now works in Brussels, encouraged students currently, or shortly, going through the process: ‘You’ll be rejected a lot, it’s not nice, and you’ll start questioning yourself, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply for these jobs; it just takes one opportunity!’ Sebastian Strohmayer further discussed the positive gains and learnings you can take away from the rejections: ‘Feedback' is so important. If you get rejected after an interview, ask why and it’ll help you move forward’; he added: ‘Failure’s the best way to grow’.

The importance of communication skills and group work

While everyone might expect some challenges in the transition to the job market, students also asked the panel what they didn’t expect about. It became clear that skills such as communication and teamwork remain unexpectedly central throughout working life. For example, Colm said that he underestimated ‘the importance of how you’re situated in your team’. Anne Vos stressed the importance of being a helpful and friendly colleague who encourages others to further their personal career aspirations, therefore creating a positive everyday work environment. Similarly, Brussels-based Anouk van Oss encouraged students to ‘be communicative and proactive when necessary’.

Find your own approach to your career

As well as sharing their own tips and tricks and giving insights into what kind of skills the alumni gained during the their studies, they also gave valuable advice on how to find your own approach to your career and job hunting in general. Sebastian suggested that it’s extremely important to prioritize ‘quality over quantity’ while applying for jobs: ‘Define your passion, what motivates you and really try to reflect on that’. At the same time, however, Anasatasia stated it’s important to realize that the first job you find after graduation is not a ‘forever job’. She recommended specialising in a subject you really enjoy while realising this might not be the same for the rest of your life.

Keep an eye on the upcoming alumni and career events!

More MA International Relations events are coming up soon. Keep an eye on future career and alumni events.

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