Q&A: What do the clients think? DAMCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Q&A with PRINS case representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DAMCO on the added value of working with International Studies Students; what are the distinctive qualities of humanities’ students? What are their tips for a successful career


CLIENT PROFILE: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

CASE Fennigje Hinse
PRESENTERS: Senior Policy Officer at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Western Hemisphere Department
Niels van Wageningen
Policy Officer at Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Western Hemisphere Department

Fennigje: “Why do we need your International Studies students’ expertise?  We need their diverse and dissenting opinions, helping us go against the danger of ‘group-think’ with fresh ideas that sharpen our minds.”

Fennigje Hinse

Fennigje Hinse

Q: Why is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs interested in working with Leiden University BA International Studies students?

Niels: Part of that answer lies in the research itself. At the MFA we are really looking into the phenomenon of a valued community and that is something Humanities students can answer – it’s broader than quantitative research. It goes into the history of ideas, culture, and history in general.

Q: What added value do International Studies students bring to your case?

Fennigje: These students know the history of specific regions, and there are also skills that include creativity and delving into research sources with an inquisitive nature. They are really encouraged to think about, and try to really understand, The Other - it’s cultural empathy. They not only look at a case or question in a narrow way, but try to understand the dialogue from the other side.


Niels van Wageningen

Niels van Wageningen

Q: Are there distinctive qualities that these Humanities students can bring to your case, and to future employers? Why not go to a business school or management programme to find student consultants?

Niels: One important quality is language sensitivity. In the Ministry we write a lot, our reality is contained in paper – and this is critically examined text, from resolutions about human rights to treaties. Critically reading those and understanding the fine print is one thing; the other side is actively crafting your own text, actively advising the Ministry.

And that relates to thinking – the way you analyse problems. There are no standard responses in the Ministry, so critical thinking is invaluable. With these complex realities, you constantly need a new creative framework to analyse problems, and this is something management students are not always equipped for.

Fennigje: And then the strategic thinking is important. You have so many players in the international field – you have to know your opponents and alliances, read between the lines, truly understand people to be effective in such a multi-polar world.  It’s about building bridges. As a diplomat you reach solutions together, instead of only looking at issues from your own perspective.

Q: Any career advice for these students?

Fennigje: From our organisational perspective, international experience is important. And you need to show in some way you are willing to continue developing yourself and your ideas and increasing your skill sets. Try many things. Think outside of your comfort zone. Go find the ‘unknown unknown.’ Figure out what you’re actually passionate about – that will make you more effective in your career and life.

Niels: When you’re young, experiment – finding a job is one thing, but again, find out what you’re passionate about. You will easily convince a future employer if you show them where your passion is and you make that passion tangible. Extra-curricular activities on your CV can make your passion concrete for potential employers.


CLIENT PROFILE: DAMCO

CASE PRESENTER: Anita de Werd
Global Head of Strategic Marketing & Corporate Communications

Anita: “I like working with students. I am amazed with their thinking and I welcome their viewpoint – it’s important. As students you are in an environment where you can work with lots of information to create good solutions for us. And yes, you are also a talent pool: we want to know if Damco can get a new generation interested in supply chain management.”

Anita de Werd

Anita de Werd

Q: Why is Damco interested in working with Leiden University BA International Studies students?

Because we are a global organisation. Our modus operandi is to look at issues from different angles and diverse cultural perspectives, and it’s good to present a case to students who share that point of view.

Q: What added value do International Studies students bring to your case?

It happens on a couple of levels. First of all they are students, so they have young, fresh, open minds. And then there’s the fact that they are international students - that brings a multicultural perspective to their thinking. As they work together in teams they can get the most out of each case, and come up with solutions that can work for multiple audiences.

Q: Are there distinctive qualities that these Humanities students can bring to your case, and to future employers? Why not go to a business school or management programme to find student consultants?

That is why I think this group is very interesting. We’re living in an age where a lot of automation is happening – in 5 or 10 or even 2 years a lot of the work we do today will be automated. What we cannot automate is the human. Yes, from a technological point of view you can automate – but then how do you get people to interact with the new reality and understand that their role is changing? The human element – which Humanities students study from so many perspectives in International Studies – is becoming more and more important.

Q: Any career advice for these students?

First of all be authentic. Being who you are makes you unique, and it makes you beautiful as a human with all your imperfections and strengths. Second, if there is no match between you as an authentic person and an organisation, fine; if there’s no fit, it won’t do anything for your career. Keep your confidence strong.

When it comes to new skills, empathy is important. It’s the ability to understand from a global perspective how other people see things in the organisation. When you know what they do and how they see the world, you can get them engaged and active in doing what is best for the company.

And having skills in the new world of social media and digital reality is key – what does it mean to be human? Using these tools, how do we connect more and not less with others? The world of social media is where Damco and other organisations will need a lot of help in future, from people with a background like Leiden’s International Studies students.

 
Last Modified: 14-06-2017