Sanne de Jong obtained a Master’s degree from the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) in 2007. For the last three years she has worked as a financial and economic affairs officer with the The Hague municipal government. “I’m no longer obsessed with my career.”

Name: Sanne de Jong

Age: 32

Study & year of graduation: Bachelor’s degree in International Business from Tilburg University in 2006; Master’s degree in Urban, Port and Transport Economics from ESE in 2007.

Current position: Financial and economic affairs officer, tasked with planning and control, with the The Hague Municipal Government’s Central Real Estate Organisation, a position she has held for nearly three years. “The estate agency lets out, purchases and sells all kinds of properties which play a part in municipal policy. It’s a small but independent service which has its own HR department, its own budget and its own financial statement. I’m responsible for planning and control.”

Golden tip: “Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, particularly when you make a mistake. It helps you put things into perspective, and if you go on to rectify your mistake, you’ll actually learn from the experience.”

Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

What I learned during my student days

“How to manage my time cleverly. I was a reasonably good student, and after a while I had a pretty good feel for how much studying time was required for me to pass all my exams. I used the rest of my time for my various ‘extracurricular activities’ at various study societies, which I felt were just as important. To this day, I don’t tick off the items on my to-do list from top to bottom, but rather figure out which item needs to be prioritised.”

Not obsessed with career

“It’s not right that becoming a manager is people’s ultimate goal, but I didn’t realise this until quite recently. After I graduated, I attended a management course, like so many other people. It sounds flash, but now that I’ve seen with my own eyes what managers actually do, I’m no longer interested in being one. They mainly solve problems, have little time to spend on substantive work, and they’re constantly under pressure, from their own team as well as from above. And people are always complaining about them.

“Moreover, I’m nowhere near as obsessed with having a career as I thought I’d be ten years ago. My friends are working ten hours a day, but I’m not willing to do that, just to be able to move up the ladder. I think finding a proper work-life balance is every bit as important as having an interesting job. Sure, I want my career to go somewhere, but I no longer aspire to having a higher-level management position.”

Ally McBeal

“When I was at secondary school, the TV show Ally McBeal made me want to study law at Leiden University so as to become a lawyer. I could picture myself wearing a nice suit, running all over the place and winning major cases. I was romanticising the law, but the show was such fun that I couldn’t help dreaming of being a lawyer. In the end, studying law struck me as boring, but legal work still appeals to me. It’s such a many-sided field that it would be far from boring.”

Be a rat

“I’m generally quite quick to say ‘yes’ to the requests I receive. A little too quick, actually. ‘Be a bit more of a rat,’ my manager advised me five years ago. I’ve been doing just that quite successfully, in my own way. I’ve got better at indicating what I can do and what I can’t do, and I’ll think twice before telling someone I’ll do something for him. However, I’ll always get back to the person and explain why I sometimes have to say ‘no’. I’ve also learned to be more tactful in communicating with others. You can’t talk to a member of the municipal executive the same way as you would to your managing director.”