Frequently asked questions… about job opportunities

Leiden University’s Master’s Information Day was held on 10 October. Throughout the day, students from Leiden and elsewhere were able to attend information seminars about various master’s programmes. Prospective students could also talk to alumni and the career adviser in the Job Market Café. By writing down important questions for the career advisers on a ‘question card’, participants could not only have their questions answered, but they could even win a laptop. Elise was the competition’s lucky winner, but everyone can benefit from the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions. All of them have been answered by career adviser Loes Nordlohne.

1. What can students do to influence their chances of finding a job after graduating?

“It’s especially important to do things you enjoy, as you tend to be good at them as well. Various studies of career opportunities have shown that it’s also important to get relevant work experience through an internship or a part-time job. Many former students have argued that this is just as crucial for your career as any academic skills you might obtain.

What is or isn’t relevant all depends on your personal ambitions. Do you intend to pursue an academic career and a PhD? If so, your grades, research skills, teaching enthusiasm and writing abilities are all very important. Is it your ambition to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Then gaining experience abroad is a must. An internship at an embassy in another country or an exchange programme with a foreign university can help you to obtain that experience.”

2. Is it a good idea to do an internship abroad during your master’s programme?

“It’s definitely an option, depending on the master’s programme you’re following. Spending time abroad is especially relevant if you have international ambitions. It will also help you develop intercultural and personal abilities that will be useful in the future. Learning to take the initiative, adapting to another society and being flexible and enterprising are all valued skills in any professional environment.”

3. I will be starting my master’s soon. What are my options after that, and how do I find out what I can and want to do?

“If you don’t exactly know what you’d like to do, then it might be a good idea to visit the Student Career Services and take a career test. This is a starting point that will give you some clarity about yourself and your ambitions. Or take a look at your CV, and check if any activities or experiences really appealed to you. Is there a common denominator among them? It’s also possible to follow various workshops or make an appointment with me as a career adviser.”

4. In what way does a master’s programme prepare you for your career?

“That depends on your ambitions. Most positions at an academic level require applicants to have a master’s degree. The main purpose of a master’s programme is to immerse yourself in a specific subject, specialise in that area, and to write a thesis on it. For some positions, that specific knowledge is very important. For others, it’s not the knowledge that is specifically relevant, but the skills you’ve gained in acquiring that knowledge. These could include researching, analysing, presenting, or making complex information understandable. Abilities like these will be especially useful for anyone aiming to become a journalist, editor, policy maker or communications specialist.”

5. When looking at career opportunities, does a master’s degree give you a greater chance of success than a bachelor’s degree does?

“The added value of a master’s can mostly be found in improving your skills and enhancing your knowledge. Our faculty regularly carries out job market surveys, that show that alumni with a master’s degree are far more likely to find job at a high level than those with only a bachelor’s degree. In 2013, for instance, 80% of graduates with a master’s degree found a job at academic or professional level, while only 62% of alumni with a bachelor’s did as well. That difference persists for years to come, even after people have gained more work experience.”

6. What are the chances of finding a PhD position after obtaining a (research) master’s degree?

“A study of the labour market in 2013 found that 10% of these alumni were able to find a PhD position. Obviously, good grades for classes, papers and your thesis play an important role, but it’s also true that it’s easier to find a PhD position in some fields than in others. This makes it difficult to give an exact estimate. It’s therefore very important to discuss this with lecturers and professors. Explain your ambitions and find out what you need to do to achieve them.”

7. How important are work experience and extracurricular activities when looking for a job after graduating?

“Very important. 76% of alumni with relevant work experience were able to find a paid job within two months after graduating. Only 67% of alumni lacking that experience succeeded within that same timeframe. Having relevant experience definitely increases your chances of finding a job. Internships and doing committee work for your study association can give you that experience, though writing pieces for newsletters or university papers also helps. It’s all about showing your first employer what your passions are before you’ve even been interviewed. It’s possible to work on your CV while studying. If you’re not sure what field you’d like to pursue, then be sure to visit the Student Career Services.”

Last Modified: 14-11-2014