Alumnus at work: Founder of an unconventional platform
Alumnus Yuri Villa Rikkers saw his friends struggle to find a job. He wanted to do something about that and founded a platform for academics and employers. Read on to find out what made this happen, what he is doing to turn his dream into reality and what tips he has for you.
I have always been a generalist, which is why it was so difficult for me to choose a master after my bachelor Liberal Arts & Sciences. I finally chose the master Linguistics in Leiden quite randomly. I also joined the Leiden Leadership Programme in order to keep broadening my horizon. Meanwhile, nearly all of my friends had graduated, only to find out that jobs were hard to find. To prevent the same happening to me, I asked the entrepreneur within me: how can I give myself and other starters a better chance on the labour market? My best friend came up with a great idea and we decided to work out a plan together. A year later we had a large investment, a beautiful website and an office.
Bizmasters.nl is a platform for master students and alumni (together: "bizmasters"), where they can help each other with labour market orientation, entrepreneurship and CV building. Employers are given the opportunity to ask bizmasters that catch their attention to join their organisation on a project basis. They are paid an hourly rate between the rates of an internship and a starter, in order to bridge the gap between academics and businesses.
My job at Bizmasters.nl is mainly to evaluate what talents we have available within our network for our clients. We all know master students are social, mature, and analytical thinkers, but what makes you you and how do you sell that?
That is how I interview the bizmasters. I am not so much interested in CVs; I would rather focus on questions like: "what makes you lay awake at night, and why do you get up in the morning nonetheless?" or "If you did not have to work anymore, how would you give your life meaning?". I prefer to break the ice fast and to start looking for the person behind the facade. Only then can I introduce someone to clients with full confidence. I also develop our positioning and proposition and translate them to marketing campaigns. Any production work that follows is also part of my job. I develop all processes within our company as well. How do we communicate? How do we organise data clearly? What protocols do we need to maintain the website and user management? How does a recruitment process work and what visual support can we use? My partner is responsible for the finances, business portfolio and administration.
I refused two interesting job offers, because I wanted to follow my dream. When we started, I had a part time job for two nights a week, so I could pay my rent. It did not make my life busier or less ambitious as opposed to my student life, but it probably did offer me more existential freedom than the average yup. This freedom is what I want to encourage in our members. I do not necessarily want to encourage them to start a company, but I do want them to put aside their timidity and do something authentic. As an academic you are used to looking at the world critically, but can you look at yourself critically as well? Are you looking at career possibilities that are already there, or do you want to get off the beaten track? Do you prefer wage labour, or freelancing? In short: Are you a bizmaster, or not?
Yuri Villa Rikkers, founder and partner Bizmasters.nl BA Liberal Arts & Sciences, MA Linguistics