Rinke Oostra, graduated in Sociology, Urban Sociology.
As a graduate in Urban Sociology with a passion for my own city, Amsterdam, I wanted to be active in the development of this city that I know so well and love so much. In order to achieve this, I applied for an internship at the municipality. For six months, I could join the team of ‘buurtcoordinatoren’ (‘neighbourhood coordinators’) in a neighbourhood in the West district of Amsterdam. These coordinators work together with the police, street corner work, and social service organizations and of course citizens, to create better circumstances for life in this neighbourhood. Within the municipality, they also work with people from the social department, projects, restructuring and public space. For the municipality close contact with citizens, and neighbourhood initiatives are becoming more and more important. Therefore an important part of the work was to build up networks and stimulate citizens to participate. At the end of the internship I applied for a temporary job at the Centrum district of the municipality at a similar department and luckily I got the job.
I now work as an assistant of the neighbourhood teams. Their job is similar to that of the neighborhood coordinators in the West, although the issues are very different. Illegal hotels, tourism and nuisance of bike parking for instance are the main issues in the center of the city. Also, everything that happens in the inner city is watched closely by the media so this gives an extra incentive for the civil servants to act quickly and transparently. In both the West part of Amsterdam and in the City Centre I have learned a lot about ‘how things work’ in dealing with the municipality: the (often long and difficult) procedures, communication, interaction with citizens, press, the mayor and aldermen. Whether it is about complaints about the noise from a café, garbage on the streets or a newly built hotel, there are always different stakeholders and you have to make sure to weigh every interest.
In my function, as an assistant of the head of the department, I do a lot of minuting meetings and write reports. Fortunately, I have been given the opportunity to support the neighbourhood teams more directly, and play a role in more than just meetings within the municipality. In my case, starting with an internship worked out well, because for my function a bit of experience within the municipality was required. I feel lucky that the job I’m doing is about the development of the city, and has a lot in common with my academic background. Having that said, in any working environment you will learn a lot of other (new) skills, like working with people, having to deal with difficult situations and meeting deadlines.
Personally, I try to work on my visibility, so that others in your working environment know what you’re doing. Right now, I would like to continue working for the municipality, although I realize that there are more organizations that play an important part in urban development that could also be interesting. Looking for a new job can be challenging, when you do not have a clear idea yet of where you would like to work and where to look for jobs. I think the best way is simply to get started and find out along the way.