“We try to help students embark on their careers. I guess our main message is: start thinking about your career now, get into the right mindset, because now is not too early,” says Meike Kiestra. Lisanne Keir and Kiestra are Career Development Managers at the RSM Career Centre. They actively help and guide students by offering workshops on networking, LinkedIn, interviewing, writing CVs and cover letters.
Who am I?
“The three biggest questions you need to answer are: Who am I? What do I want? And how do I get there?”, explains Keir. “These questions are directly related to personal branding and personal development, two topics that we actually built an entire course around.” Associate professor of Marketing Maciej Szymanowski and the RSM Career Centre created a practical course: Your Future Career. The course is offered to RSM students as part of the curriculum,” says Keir.
It is important to start early, says Kiestra. “One of the workshops we give in the first year is the LinkedIn workshop. We encourage students to start building their profile immediately. If you keep working on your network, you’ll have a strong network in a few years. LinkedIn is a powerful tool: I actually got this job thanks to LinkedIn.”
Supporting students at the start of their career is worthwhile, Keir believes. “We recently had a meeting with a student, who was applying for an internship. We helped her tailor her CV, cover letter, and briefly coached her on interviewing skills. We were delighted because the results were immediate: she got the internship and called us to share the good news.”
“Many people working at Sendcloud are young professionals, who started their careers here,” says Catia Fernandes. As a ‘Talent Success Hero’ at Sendcloud, an e-commerce shipping platform, she is responsible for talent management, learning and development within the company.
Remember that internships are all about exploration, is her most important tip for students looking for an internship. “We had cases when students started their internship in one department and later moved to an entirely different one. We don’t like to dictate where you should go, but rather give you freedom to explore and experiment.”
Jevgenia Mishkins agrees. She is a human resources lead at TomTom, a Dutch multinational organisation founded in Amsterdam back in 1991. “We don’t give boring assignments, but also aim to add value and help students acquire skills they can use in their future careers. Internships are meant to be an opportunity to deep dive into an area of your interest. With these positions, we are therefore looking for the cultural fit, your personality, eagerness, and hunger to learn and develop yourself,” says Mishkins.
The perfect application
There is no such thing as a perfect CV. “It really differs according to the company and industry,” Kiestra says. “Writing a great cover letter can be a struggle as well. Try to think about what’s in it for the employer, this will really increase your chances.”
When it comes to landing a job at a company like Sendcloud, Fernandes thinks it’s very important to stay proactive. “Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen to you. Why don’t you send an open application? Send a message to recruiters? If they see the potential, they’ll contact you.” Along with a proactive attitude, she values honesty. “Your application should demonstrate your values openly; we don’t want you to fake it. However, we do devote a lot of attention to the right culture fit, the shared beliefs, behaviour and values, and solution-focused mindset.”
Having outstanding achievements or even work experience is not the most important thing on your resume, Fernandes explains. It’s rather your willingness and curiosity that the recruiters are looking for. “Apply even if you don’t meet all the requirements, just go for it. You could try contacting some of the current employees. Just ask them to tell you a bit about the company and then use this information to write a great cover letter.”
One thing international students are sometimes worried about is a language barrier. “Dutch is not a mandatory requirement at TomTom. We’re open to hiring people with different backgrounds,” says Mishkins. “Your motivation is way more important. If you get asked about your motivation during the interview and you answer that it’s a mandatory requirement at the university, that might not get you to the next stage. Our expectations are a little higher.”
Another question that you should be prepared for is: what do you know about the company? “We’d like you to be very well prepared and up to date with the latest company news,” says Mishkins. “Excellent knowledge about the company is important because this shows your motivation and why you are choosing this organisation. Was it a considered choice or was it a random selection?”
Finally, Mishkins touched upon one of the biggest fears students face, not only before but also after they get an internship – the fear of being bold and proactive. “Speak up! Don’t wait till the very last minute. Processes and approvals take time, especially in larger organisations. So, it’s crucial that you express your interest as soon as possible if you’d like to continue your career path at the same company.”
Important tips in a nutshell
- Start building your network now!
- Apply anyway – even if your application doesn’t look perfect and you don’t meet all the mandatory requirements.
- Be proactive – reach out to alumni, recruiters, employees of the company you’re interested in.
- Be open to exploring your interests through internships.
- Do your homework – research the company history, news, culture.
- Google yourself.
- Don’t fake it.