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The world at your feet

The day on which you graduate should rightfully be proclaimed a public holiday. Overladen with flowers and with your university diploma in the bag, the world lies at your feet. You have gained valuable knowledge and skills and have learned how to analyse and how to think critically. Your academic development is an enrichment to your life. This is something that many alumni experience daily.

Cisca Wijmenga

Still, I hear from many students that they worry about their futures. Will they really find a job that connects to their degree programme? They experience stress and do their absolute best to put an interesting CV together. This is why I would like to bring our students into contact with our alumni, who know what it means to step into the labour market as an academic.

All of our alumni were themselves also first-year students once, who began their studies with big dreams. Some of them found jobs related to their degree programmes. But definitely not all of them. Research shows that around 30 to 40 percent of these graduates landed in a completely different career than they had expected. Philosophers became managers, chemists ended up in healthcare and a certain Leiden-based historian has been our Prime Minister for nine years already. The five Groningen-based alumni in his cabinet also did not study at the UG to become directors. And even as a biology student myself, I would never have expected that I would one day become the Rector Magnificus of this university.

Is it bad to do something other than what you studied for? Absolutely not. In many sectors, academics with less obvious degrees are actually in demand. Psychologists, for example, are highly desired in the world of big data and data science because they gained fantastic statistical skills during their degree programmes. What’s more, it has been scientifically proven that teams comprising individuals from various backgrounds perform better than homogeneous ones. Nowadays, the labour market is certainly much less easy to predict than it was in the past. Employees are more flexible, they don’t stay with the same employer until they retire and they continue to develop themselves throughout their lives. In the world of today, it can no longer be expected that your degree programme is decisive for your future. Your academic competences, however, are.

In my experience, most people do land on their feet after graduating – even if this is sometimes on a different foot than they had expected. For years, portraits of alumni have been included on the back cover of Broerstraat 5. These alumni talk about their careers, which more often than not developed in a different direction than they had expected. They are wonderful stories that are a source of inspiration for our students. I kindly invite our alumni to share their experiences with us, via alumni This will help to reassure our students of today and to show them that, soon, the world will also lie at their feet.

Cisca Wijmenga, Rector Magnificus

Source: Broerstraat 5, December 2019

Last modified:19 March 2020 11.19 a.m.
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