What does it mean to make it in the north? This is the one in a series of portraits of local people, organisations, and companies working to further internationalise Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. In this instalment, Morten Pedersen meets Yvonne Jordens, the Head of Career Services at the University of Groningen and a leading member of the Make it in the North project team. She knows better than most how to bridge the gap between education and careers.
By Morten Pedersen
Yvonne Jordens’ office is nicely tucked away behind the old university building in the Uurwerkersgang (the watchmaker’s alley). With the same concentration and consideration as the old watchmakers who once worked here, the University of Groningen’s Career Services Center is dedicated to getting more and more students connected with their future careers.
MP: Thank you for having me, what a lovely place to work! What do you do here?
For the last 5 years, we have tried to be the bridge between the university and the labour market. Before that, it was a topic the university didn’t really approach. Now, we have built a team centered around getting the proper help and resources to the students asking for it. This team consists both of professionals and student assistants, as well.
MP: Who can approach you? Is it just people right at the jumping-off point of their career?
Well, anyone at the university can approach us, from first year bachelor students all the way through to PhDs. It is most common that people contact us at the end of their degree, for example at the end of their bachelor’s degree and with the opportunity of finding a graduate role, or choosing a master’s, though naturally we provide advice and coaching to all those who need it.
MP: Are you originally from the Northern Netherlands?
No, perhaps surprisingly not! My family and I moved here because we fell in love with the region. We lived in the southwest and needed a change of scenery. Whilst we weren’t brave enough to move country, we want to change the region and explore the possibilities that lay further away from our comfort zone. It helped that the north was an easy choice: it’s beautiful, open, spacious, and quiet – but at the same time, the cities are fun, vibrant, and young.
MP: Could you explain your involvement in the Make it in the North platform?
So, amongst other things, we provide information on who might be open to new talent and innovation: thanks to our huge employers network across Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe, we have a unique window into what students, both internationals and those who think internationally, would like from any project such as Make it in the North. We also look for partners that might be open to collaborating in new ways. This project is so important in making sure that these highly talented students realise that the north can be a place to have a career after their studies. In a way, there’s a war for talent going on and Make it in the North is our way of making sure that we are a part of that battle. As the university, we see and educate thousands of really talented people, and would very much like the region to benefit from their skills.
MP: The platform not only focuses on the matchmaking between talent and companies. It’s also about a general internalization of the region – how do you see your role in this?
We mainly focus on the students and all things in regards to them. The young talent, if you like. If you are taught to think more internationally from a younger age, and if you’re given the tools to look further afield than you may have considered originally, then you’re likely to be more open to international people and opportunities in the work place.
MP: Do you have any internationals at Career Services?
Yes, we do! In our team, we have a large group of students working with us parttime, and that group is 50/50 internationals. We do this to be as representative of the university as we can be, to expand upon the range of views in our team, and to maximise the experience available to us. We work in an international community, and of course we have to be international as well so that no one’s support suffers due to us not having something or someone. I remember 5 years ago, all of our student assistants were Dutch, and even they as young people were worried about going out of their comfort zone and working with and for international people. It all turned out very well, of course, and after two months they were very enthusiastic about the idea of helping people find their future careers. Many of them from the north were also really happy to be showing off their region and helping people stay here! It makes me really proud to have a big group of internationals in my team.
MP: How would you like our readers to think of the University of Groningen Career Center and Make it in the North?
I would like to reach out to all readers, and especially the companies that are in doubt about how to reach the university or how to go about finding proper talent, to get in contact with us. We are the front desk for them, to get involved in the university at any level. We’re really looking forward to working with and through Make it in the North to get more people on the first step of their career!
Morten Pedersen is a facilitator working on Make it in the North with the International Welcome Center North (IWCN). The IWCN is one of The Northern Times’ founding partners.