Taco de Ruiter graduated in Political Science: International Relations in 2013
Interdisciplinary Social Sciences was a conscious choice for me. I wanted to keep my options open as much as possible and not be tied to a rigid curriculum or limited by boundaries around different disciplines within the social sciences. Having that freedom was important partly because I still had no idea what I wanted to do later on. Alongside building this interdisciplinary basis I specialised in fields such as Conflict Studies, International Relations and Governance & Public Policy. Going into my Master's, my interests were still broad, and I ended up doing final projects on ‘a safe school climate for homosexuals in Christian education’ and ‘the role of reputation in creating a more sustainable clothing industry’. When I began looking around for jobs, I was mainly attracted to the non-profit sector. I wanted a job with concrete responsibility and a certain amount of freedom to do things my own way.
It didn't take long before I was invited for an interview at my current employer, JOB, which is the ‘youth organisation for vocational education’. I had applied for a policy officer position at LAKS, their sister organisation, thinking the job would tie in well with the topic of my Master's research, which I did at a secondary school. In response to my letter I got a call from the director of the COMBO foundation, the umbrella organisation of JOB and LAKS, asking if I'd be interested in applying to JOB, which specifically promotes the interests of senior secondary vocational education (MBO) students. Because it's made up of MBO students, my role as a policy officer requires me to link theoretical, sometimes vague, official jargon to actual practice. The fact that our board members and constituents are very direct keeps me on my toes as the union's policy officer, and also means I can share my ideas about education and organisational governance with the people I represent without having to worry about breaking any taboos.
Without my academic background, I wouldn't be able to do this job. Being able to shift gears between different levels is a prerequisite. Not that you learn that in a degree programme, but the way I've become attuned to this and especially the way I can keep an overview of the playing field is very much down to the programme I did. The books and tutorials on research methods also helped to shape me and prepare me for this job. University taught me a fundamental academic attitude, and that attitude is now enabling me to develop professionally. As a student, I put together my own curriculum of courses that interested me, and I would recommend that to anyone. After all, when will you have another chance to learn so much?
LAKS and JOB have frequent job openings; check: www.jobmbo.nl
Stichting COMBO: www.stg-combo.nl