After four or five years of studying – and then graduating – sometimes there’s still something missing by way of selfreflection and social literacy. That’s why the Erasmus School of Law faculty offers its students the chance to participate in the ‘MyFuture’ programme.
TEXT: Dennis Mijnheer
PHOTO: © Claudia Broekhoff
It doesn’t happen every day: Pieter Cloo – former Secretary-General of the ministry of Justice, Security and Defence – visiting on campus to give Erasmus School of Law (ESL) students a glimpse into professional life. Alumnus Cloor freed up a few hours of his schedule this past May in order to help fifty students figure out their future. A conversation with someone that experienced is very valuable for students. Suddenly things start making sense, or they have a better understanding of where they want to go after university,’ says Hanz Zwart, Manager Development at the ESL faculty. Two years ago Zwart – together with Martijn Roos, until this summer Manager External Relations – started the MyFuture pilot. The programme is aimed at preparing students for the future. One of its goals is to put the students in touch with alumni. The archive of available names is extensive: ESL boasts a grand total of about five-thousand alumni.
Zwart emphasises the necessity of MyFuture in particular because of the shorter educational trajectory of students nowadays. ‘Back in the day you could easily study for nine years, but these days you’re expected to graduate quickly: four years, give or take. From the work-field the feedback we got was that students who left university were still a bit too young, and seemed to miss that ‘social touch’ that would allow them to prove themselves at the office.
We need to give students the extra skills they need in order to prepare for that.’ Roos got the same feedback. ‘What we heard a lot of is that it’s not just about content but also about being curious, having a passion and being able to present. They want to be able to confidently send a recently-graduated employee to a client.’
That’s why students get trained in different ways. Before the Eureka week they can participate in a Pre-Academic Programme. Roos: ‘They come to campus for four days, meet about a hundred prospective students and then have to get working on personal leadership. The goal is that they learn to reflect on why they chose ESL from the very beginning, and for them to reflect on their own personal goals. This means asking questions like: who am I and what does my environment look like? What skills must I develop? The point of it all is that once they have graduated, they will have a toolkit that will prepare them for the future.’
Not Just Content
MyFuture makes sure that thinking about who you are and setting goals for yourself remain recurring themes throughout the curriculum. In the first year personal leadership is a central theme. ‘Students can develop themselves by taking workshops like time management, stress management how to pitch or present,’ says Roos. ‘During the MA, more field-oriented elements are added, like applying for jobs, networking, but also advice on how to dress. It’s all aimed at ensuring that they are able to maintain a long-term position at the workplace.’
Getting a clear picture of what’s coming is essential according to Zwart. ‘You’d think that they’d all want to be lawyers or judges but that’s not the case. Not everyone is cut out for a Zuidas office, or a big Rotterdam firm. There’s a broad spectrum of possibilities for our students. Which is why it’s important that they figure out what their skills are over the course of their studies, where they want to go and what they need to learn in order to achieve that. That’s what we offer.’
MyFuture also has something else going for it. ‘We’re focused on the alumni of the future, because if we make sure that today’s student has a good experience that influences how involved they’ll be in the future. And once they’ve made a career for themselves, that’s when they can – in turn – help the new students.’
Who: Hanz Zwart
Study: Masscommunication & Public Relations at Amsterdam University
Carreer: Manager Development at the ESL faculty
Who: Martijn Roos
Study: Law, Erasmus School of Law
Carreer: Was Project leader Career Services Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, is Project Manager Goldschmeding Foundation