Find out what you want

Finding out what kind of job you would like to apply for is a process of figuring out who you are, what you want and what your strengths are. Researching the labour market and going through an application procedure will give you additional information. These combined factors - both rational and emotional - will influence your decision. As you progress in this job-searching cycle, you will notice that it becomes easier to express who you are and what you want.

Step 1: Self-analysis

The first step in looking for a career is doing a self-assessment in which you answer the following questions:

Who am I?

The question ‘Who am I' deals with your qualities, talents and personality traits. What are you naturally good at? What is ‘typically you'?
Methods for finding an answer include:

  • make a list of ten qualities and three areas that need developing. Use this list of qualities and pitfalls to help you. Ask some family members and close friends - or someone who knows you well - to fill in the list as well. This way you'll not only get insight into how you see yourself, but also how others see you.
  • think about three situations in which you were successful. Which qualities determined that success?
  • list your hobbies and see which skills are emphasised by your hobbies.
  • answer the questions ‘what excites me, when do I become enthusiastic, what gives me energy?' Also, make an inventory of which activities cost you energy.

What do I like?

Looking at your CV, you'll see a summary of all the choices you once made. Some of the choices were conscious and proactive, while others were probably just natural and ‘the way it goes'. Try to take a deeper look at these ‘normal' choices, such as attending primary school. Which subjects did you like? Did you prefer sports or art, history or math? And what did you do after school? The assignment ‘Basic CV' may give you insight into what you've loved over the years and what you haven't.

In answering the question ‘What do I like', you should consider the things you haven't done yet. Make a list of all the activities (like learning another language, doing a Photoshop course, etc.), that you would love to do at some point if all the options were open to you.

What do I want?

After figuring out what skills, strengths and competences you have and what it is that really interests you, it is time to make clear what you want. It's time to set career goals. But you can't decide which position to aim for, if you have no idea about jobs, and the labour market. So take a look at step two and get your information via our ‘Looking for work in the Netherlands' and ‘Looking for work abroad' pages.

With a clearer picture of which kind of jobs are within reach (at this moment), you can combine your findings about yourself with those of the labour market situation. Getting insight into your job preferences also helps you to define what you want.

If you have difficulty deciding what you want and in what kind of position you might achieve your best potential, then don't hesitate to contact the Student Careers Centre for an individual appointment. The Career Advisers will help you translate your wishes and ideas into labour market possibilities.

Step 2: Finding information

The second step in finding a job consists of finding out ‘what's out there'. What are the current conditions in the labour market? To which rules and regulations do you need to adhere? What is the ‘search year' option? What jobs are open to you with your educational background? And what do alumni from your field of study do in their daily working life?

It is very important to be thoroughly informed. Make sure you have an overview of the possibilities and impossibilities for your specific situation. Read websites about working in the Netherlands or abroad and talk to as many people as possible. One of the Career Tools to use is networking, an informal way of talking to people who may be able to help you, whether this means providing you with valuable information, introducing you to other people or putting in a good word for you.

You will find useful further reading at our ‘Looking for work in the Netherlands' and ‘Looking for work abroad' pages, as well as our ‘Career Tools' page.

Step 3: Making up your mind

With the information you have gathered, it's time to aim for one or more specific career goals. Define what industry you would like to work in, the kind of position you see yourself flourishing in, and the sort of business culture that makes you happy. And, of course, decide whether you'd like to work in the Netherlands or elsewhere.

Whatever career goal you set yourself, make sure you take into account what you concluded at step one: your unique strengths, competences and interests. You won't be successful at a job that sounds very appealing, but that doesn't suit your strengths and weaknesses.

Step 4: Applying for a job

Now it's time to put your words into practice and search for that job you want, whether a vacancy or a 'hidden' job found via networking or an internship. If you find an interesting position, the next step is to apply effectively and to convince the employer that you are a good match for the role and the organisation. Read about Career Tools to prepare yourself for a successful application.

If you'd like to be prepared, and to practice job-seeking skills such as personal presentation, writing cover letters and CVs and interviewing, consider attending one of the workshops or trainings offered by the Student Careers Centre.

Published by  University of Amsterdam

8 July 2014