Blog and opinion
9 July 2019 • Dave van Ginhoven
Facing the future
There are no original ideas. At least, I’m pretty sure I read that on the Internet. It’s a cliché to write blogs and columns offering unsolicited advice to young people during graduation season, but I want to do it anyway, because like many here at THUAS, I’ve got a lot invested in our students and their futures, so if you’re picking up a diploma this week, here’s my top 5 tips for your next steps.
1. Cast a wide net when applying for jobs
I often speak to students and alumni who find it difficult to get started on the labour market for two reasons: they’re a little too specific in their focus or they’re scared off by the expectations in the vacancies they come across. Both are a bad idea.
There isn’t a single, perfect job out there, so don’t rule out opportunities too quickly. Apply for a wide range of jobs in your fields of interest. It’s a competitive market and you’re going to face some rejection anyway, so why narrow down your options in advance?
When chasing those opportunities, don’t let job ads scare you off. I know of many students who gave up on vacancies because the ads said you have to have a university degree and, as we all know, universities of applied sciences don’t always get the respect they deserve, even though our students do very well on the labour market because they know how to do things that often evade theoretically educated students from research universities. But you have to remember that job ads usually describe an ideal candidate that probably doesn’t exist, so what have you got to lose by taking a shot at it anyway? After all, if every ad that said candidates needed 5 years of experience was telling the truth, no one would ever get hired for anything.
2. Don’t focus on money, but be careful with the little bit you’ve got
You need money to eat, but don’t let it be too important when choosing a job – not yet, anyway. While you’re young, you have the freedom to pursue activities that matter to you, regardless of what they pay, so if there’s a job or an internship that really speaks to you but it doesn’t pay well (or at all), you can still do it, even if that means flipping some burgers on the weekend to pay the bills. Make the most of that freedom while you can.
Also make the most of what little money have. Be realistic with your lifestyle expectations and do yourself a favour: try not to buy coffee. It seems like a cheap purchase, but it adds up when you’re working full time and you’ll probably get free coffee at work anyway. It won’t be as yummy, but it tastes better than being broke.
3. Ask all of the questions
When you start a new job, you’ll want to make a good impression and look like you know what they’re doing, so your instincts might tell you not to ask questions when you don’t understand something because you don’t want to look stupid. This usually leads to you doing something way stupider, trust me. When you need help, ask for it. It doesn’t make you look dumb, it makes you look interested and it can help you build relationships too.
4. But also make sure you actually know some stuff
The diploma that you’ve earned here is a big achievement, but always try to remember that it’s more than just a piece of paper, and while it can open doors for you, you’re really going to need the knowledge and skills it represents in order to make your way through them. Don’t see the diploma as a prize, but as a reminder of what you’re capable of. Hold on to that knowledge – maybe don’t sell ALL of the books – and get ready to build on it.
5. Stop mentioning Microsoft Office on your CV
I’m serious. Every year, I help people with their CVs and see Microsoft Office listed under special skills. It’s 2019 and you’re supposed to be ‘digital natives’ (even if some natives are more primitive than others). Employers already think everyone under 30 knows everything about computers, so bragging that you know how to use Microsoft Word is like trying to impress people with your ability to walk and chew gum at the same time.
That’s my advice, and I hope it’s helpful, but be careful. You’re going to be getting a lot of advice in the near future and you might not want to listen to all of it, because you’ve got to figure out your own path to the future and that will also mean finding and listening to your own voice. In the end, I think that’s the most important thing.
But that’s just one guy talking.
Dave van Ginhoven is a senior lecturer at European Studies, which he’s happy to promote to anyone who will listen. Before that he used to be a journalist and a Canadian. He loves to talk, but don’t take him too seriously. He’s only one guy.