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Ready for a future as climate changemaker, thanks to Designing Your Life

Getting motivation, courage and tools to find a job that will help you tackle the climate crisis: it is at the heart of the course ‘Designing Your Career as a Climate Changemaker’. With their final presentations, the students conclude this climate-specific skills module within the Designing Your Life project. 'I now look at my own future with more optimism and peace of mind.'

In the Designing Your Life courses, organised by the Honours Academy of Leiden University since last academic year, students apply design thinking to their lives and careers. The aim is to become more confident about the future, start networking and get more direction in life.

Dealing with change

The subject Designing Your Career as a Climate Changemaker is a new variant specifically aimed at students who want to do something climate-related in their career. This module contains two new elements compared to the regular Designing Your Life courses: learning about the 'green job market' and learning about social transitions.

In the final session, students share their 'transition analysis' with each other. The students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and all have - often from an early age - a clear drive to contribute to a sustainable future. For the transition analysis, they all analysed the extent to which a transition to a sustainable future is already under way for the sector of their interest, what is still needed to achieve this, and what role they themselves can play in this.

Rick Buijk, master's student in Industrial Ecology, says he gained new insights on transitions: 'For example, that uncertainty, chaos and resistance are characteristics of a shift to a new reality - and a confirmation that the world is changing. This allows me to put the everyday events that sometimes trigger those emotions into perspective.'

Next Steps Poster

The students also present their Next Steps Poster, in which they share their plans for the next five years and report on the networking conversations they had to conduct. Who the students spoke to varied widely: from researchers working on the protein transition to an organic sheep farmer. This allowed the students to discover what a particular sector is like.

The students succeeded in getting a taste of the working field, thinks Bram Hoonhout, lecturer of the course and initiator of Designing Your Life at Leiden University. He hopes that in five years' time, the students will be 'professionals who work on a sustainable society with guts and self-confidence, in a role that suits them'.

Designing Your Life

The methodology of Designing Your Life is based on that of design thinking, which designers use to develop a product, app or service. In these modules, students scrutinise their lives and careers. They ask themselves questions about their motives and qualities and map out several possible life paths. Gradually, they discover which path suits them. Creativity and flexibility are important here; they do not have to know where they are going right now.  This introduces students to a new way of thinking about their future. 

Personal growth

By presenting their insights to each other, the students also learn from each other. Tamara Végh, master's student in Constitutional and Administrative Law, has now 'gained more courage and motivation to tackle the climate crisis’, replacing the ‘fear of climate change, that can sometimes be so demotivating and paralysing.'

"Normally at university you learn to apply theories to projects. Now you approached yourself as a project" 

Lyanne Wagemans, master's student in Industrial Ecology, did not expect this course to be so personal. 'Normally at university you learn to apply theories to projects. Now you approached yourself as a project and, as the course name tells you, applied them to design your own life.'

Here, student Rick notes that life design is dynamic: 'You take small steps, reflect, adjust your design and move on. Before, I had the idea that you work towards a big step. Asking yourself whether that is the right step can be paralysing. Now I look at my own future with more optimism and peace of mind, because I am more aware of the possibilities I have and the space there is to take different paths.'

Text: Femke van de Griendt
Photos: Buro JP

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