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22 July 2024

Science
& Education

University student council wants better career services

VU Amsterdam should involve study associations more in career guidance, the university student council states. But what do the university's Career Services think about that?

Career guidance at VU Amsterdam needs to improve. At least, that’s what the university student council (USR) thinks. According to council member Vincent Mesrine, VU does not always think of the career part that comes after the educational part. “One thing that really distinguishes top universities throughout the world from other universities is the level of career services and connections that they offer. And when I look around at our university, it just isn’t enough. It’s very inconsistent.”

For example, faculties such as Law and the School of Business & Economics (SBE) have strong Career Services. These departments prepare students for their working lives. At the same time, there is no such department at the Faculty of Science – VU’s largest faculty – where career counseling lies instead with the programs. The USR wants to equalize career counseling across VU Amsterdam and has a secret weapon to do so: the study associations.

Vincent Mesrine

Better job fairs

This seems logical, since the study associations are in close contact with the students those Career Services are trying to reach at VU. According to Mesrine, therefore, the study associations should receive more funding to expand their work in career services. “With more funds, they can organize more career events, such as job fairs.”

Mesrine stresses the importance of collaborating with the existing Career Services of the programs and faculties. “So making sure that study associations work with the career services, but also with each other across faculties so that we can get more of these interdisciplinary job opportunities.”

Crash course for working life

Interviews with the Career Services of Law and SBE show that these departments do a lot of career counseling, such as resume checks, practice job applications, coaching interviews, job fairs and field trips. A lot of time and energy has gone into that, says Lonneke Korenromp, department head of Career Services and alumni relations at SBE. “We’ve been talking to students and programs to know what’s needed so we can offer that.” At the Law faculty, Kickstart Your Career is a popular track, says project director Ellen Hiemstra. “We organize that twice a year, in which participants gain insight into themselves, the application process and the job market. It’s a crash course for working life.”

Reaching students

What all Career Services struggle with is reaching students. For the Career Services of the Law faculty, this was especially difficult because the department is not part of the curriculum of the programs. “So we do college talks, we have a LinkedIn page and we advertise on the news tickers scattered around the university. This is how our awareness has increased over the years. Our students know how to find our Career Portal better and better; that’s where we offer all our services.”

Even at SBE, reaching students is difficult, although the major advantage at this faculty is that career counseling is part of the curriculum. “For example, Finance students have to follow two modules with us for their degree. We see that many of those students come back to us for other services after that”, Korenromp says.

Court of Appeal

In terms of collaboration with student associations, Career Services of the Law faculty makes a lot of effort. “We meet with the new boards every year and organize Meet the Court together with student association QBDBD”, says career officer Mireille Schouten. “For Meet the Court, about 80 students visit the Court of Appeal. We deliberately seek cooperation and promote each other’s events and workshops. I do think it’s important to coordinate that well and keep communicating.”

Best practices

All faculties at VU Amsterdam are affiliated with the interfaculty consultation on career counseling. Here, faculties can learn from each other's best practices. For example, the science faculty now use an AI tool purchased by SBE that provides feedback on one's resume. The Career Portal, once set up by SBE and Law, is now used universitywide. And last February 6th, the VU Career Skills Day, an event where every VU student can prepare for their career, was organized for the second time.

At SBE there is little cooperation with the student associations, but there is also a lot of coordination between them. “For example, in the period leading up to the Amsterdam Career Days, which study association Aureus organizes, we give an extra resume workshop. That way we connect with what they do”, Korenromp says. “We shouldn’t compete with each other and instead figure out where we can cooperate. That gets better every year.”

‘Awful lot of money’

And more funds to the study associations for career activities, what do the Career Services of Law and SBE think about that? Korenromp: “The university couldn’t pay Aureus what Aureus earns with the Career Days, that’s an awful lot of money. So I don’t quite see why VU should give extra money to the student associations for something they are already making money from.” Korenromp further stressed that while she strongly supports the activities organized by the SBE student associations, the associations offer something different than the Career Services. “We have professional people working for us who can give career advice, something the study associations cannot do. But then again, they are outstanding in organizing career fairs.” Schouten adds: “At the Faculty of Law, career guidance lies with our department, so it is important to coordinate what the study associations will do with that money and whether we can work together.”

The conversations with the two Career Services showed that the situation differs greatly from one faculty to another, and thus different solutions seem to be needed per faculty to improve career guidance. Schouten: “It might make more sense that at faculties where less career counseling is done, the study associations step in.”

‘Instead of competing, we should figure out where we can cooperate with study associations’

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