You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
This passage comes from a speech by Steve Jobs at Stanford University in 2005. His words have always stayed with me. When asked how I got a job at the renowned Clingendael Institute and later European Parliament, people always expect me to come up with an extensive systematic strategy that I developed fresh out of high school. Actually, the opposite is true.
The choice for my study and my first career years as a political scientist and strategic advisor are the result of the accidental course of events, some luck and, mainly, hard work. I am a strong believer in serendipity. With an open mind-set and the enthusiasm to seize every opportunity, you can rise to great heights.
Coming from a family of anthropologists, I have always been interested in the world around me. To get a better understanding of this world, I decided to study Political Science. My passion for interpersonal relations and different cultures made me especially interested in international relations and diplomacy. My goal: make a modest contribution to our society.
While on exchange in Buenos Aires, I signed up for the MSc. Conflict Resolution and Governance on the recommendation of friends. A great year followed, in which I got the chance to study with bright students from over 10 countries and meet high-level scholars and experts. Especially the negotiation workshops were very valuable, as they provided me with a hands-on skill set. I still benefit from these network and negotiation skills on a daily basis. And I am still in touch with my fellow students, who are now dispatched throughout the world. The only criticism I could have was that it was too short. In my view, a two-year Master programme should be the standard.
In 2012, I graduated in the midst of the financial crisis. Jobs were scarce, so I decided to apply for an internship at the Clingendael Institute. As a recent graduate, they hired me immediately. Three months later, the person that had hired me, left. Thanks to my dedicated work, they offered me a job. What I learned from this experience is that you should never wait for the perfect position, but just start. An in-between job may prove to be the link to that perfect job.
In 2015, my contract ended. Aware of the importance of the European Union, I wanted to have a personal experience in the EU bubble. However, it is a challenge to get yourself a spot in the high-level environment of Brussels. Just like back in 2012, I decided not to wait for the perfect position, but to move to Brussels and find a temporary job at a start-up. Five months and many coffee dates later, I got a job as a political advisor in the political arena of Europe: the European Parliament. Here, I work and negotiate with people from all kinds of backgrounds. Together we work on solutions to the challenges of today. A complex task that I enjoy and learn from, every single day.
During my studies, I could have never imagined ending up at the European Parliament. Looking back, trying to connect the dots, it all seems to make perfect sense. So please trust your gut, it will also work out for you as long as you embrace the unexpected, seize every opportunity and drink lots of coffee with inspiring people who might be able to help you in your career.