Where do Erasmus University students end up? In this section, EUR graduates tell us about their careers and about their lives, explaining to us what they have learned. Along the way they will provide some tips as to how to go about building a career, and how not to go about it.

Ilse Stolwijk-Starrenburg (32)

Degrees: BA in Arts and Culture Studies (2006) and MA in Media Studies (2008)

Current job: Works 2.5 days a week as an organiser and communicator with Power4People and Pluswerk, two career-coaching agencies.

Career so far: Briefly worked as a project manager at Mediaplanet. Then became a communications manager and one of the founders of Business Club Leidsche Rijn, and brushed up FC Utrecht’s Business Club.
Due to a cycling accident, she was unsure she would ever be able to work full days again, but for the last year she has been able to do just that. Ilse has her own business, called Bright Stars, which can be hired to organise, present and communicate things, but that is on the back burner for now.

Additional information: Served as a project manager at the 2006 Eureka Week, only to realise that her dream job was to organise an ‘Advanced Eureka Week’. She also met her current husband at the closing party.

“The noise was incredible. I was in the cyclists’ underpass at the Rijksmuseum, where DJ Maceo Plex was playing his music. That was the moment I realised: I have made a full recovery.
I was ill for over four years, meaning I was unable to tolerate sounds, music or noise. It meant I had to skip parties, lacked the focus required to read, and was exhausted after buying just a few groceries.”

My head on the pavement
“It was all because of a stupid cycling accident. I was cycling in Amsterdam when a driver opened the door of his car just as I was passing by. I fell, hitting my head on the pavement as I did. At first I appeared to be OK, but in the weeks following the accident I noticed I was unable to stay focused. I suffered headaches and felt absolutely exhausted all the time.”

Ilse Stolwijk-Starrenburg (2)

Listen to your body
“At the time it never occurred to me that my rehab would take years. During that period there were three times when I seemed to be on the mend, but each time I had a relapse. Clearly I had to take things even more easily. I wanted to get back to normal too quickly. That is when I learned how important it is to listen to your body. If you don’t, you will definitely pay the price at some point.”

Cheering at the office
“While I was ill, I was uncertain for a long time as to whether I’d ever be able to work full days again. Last spring I literally cheered after completing my first eight-hour shift. I was exhausted, but so incredibly happy! It felt like a miracle when I started working full time last October, just after having become a mother.

“I did not realise until I was staying at home what work means to me. It provides you with structure, satisfaction, social interaction, personal development. In short, work helps you feel better in several ways. This is exactly the philosophy of the company at which I’m currently working. We help people find a job, or another job, that makes them feel good. Thanks to my own personal experience, I am in a good position to put myself in the shoes of people who are looking for another job after a period of illness or an accident.”

I did not like hard sell tactics
“Listening to your body also means listening to your intuition. Oftentimes your own feelings are the best indicator. This is true for finding a job, too. After graduating I started working at Mediaplanet, a content marketing agency. I felt the tension grow in my stomach. At first I thought it was a fun kind of tension, but gradually I realised the job was not for me. One of my duties was to try and sell people things on the phone. I didn’t like the hard sell tactics, so I quit after a few months.
“In hindsight I was too eager to find a job. I misinterpreted what I was feeling. I would advise students in such situations to look elsewhere for a job. Recent graduates tend to quickly accept interesting-sounding jobs, even though these jobs may not entirely suit their skills and interests. It is fine to discover after a little while that you did not make the right decision, but you will develop faster in a position that actually means something to you.”

Advanced Eureka Week
“I did discover in that first job that I am good at kindling enthusiasm in others, which is also what I did in my capacity as a project manager organising the Eureka Week. It was cool. If someone had asked me at the time what my dream job was like, I would have answered: organising an ‘Advanced Eureka Week’. I’m doing just that, a few hours a week, at Business Club Leidsche Rijn. In my capacity as an organiser and presenter, I kindle enthusiasm in entrepreneurs and connect them. I can loosen up even the most businesslike men in suits!”