Career Advice

Career Advice

    • The first step in planning your career is to find a fit between who you are and an the environment that suits you. Assess your motivations, interests, and talents – and you will find that you repeat this process throughout your career. It is a dynamic, on-going process as you learn and respond to change, within yourself and in the organisations with which you work.

      If you have a clear idea what you’re looking for, it will be easier to prepare for the application process.

    • Who are you? And what do you want? Make a SWOT analysis of yourself. What are your strengths?

      Start by looking at your past experiences and  ask yourself these questions:

      • What makes you happy and what did you enjoy less?
      • Which dificulties have you faced and how did dela with these struggles?
      • How do you work in a team? What role do you take? What do you appreciate in others? What irritates you?
      • What kind of circumstances make you perform well?
      • What do you find important in life?
      • Who is inspiring you? Who influences the choices you make?
      • What did you learn from your past experiences?

      You can also ask your friends and family what they think of you as a person or a worker (not as a sister, brother or friend!). 

    • Knowing what kind of person you are, will help you to understand yourself. Your personality is an important predictor of the kind of jobs you will like and how you interact with other people. There is no right or wrong personality, it just gives an idea of what suits you. Many companies make their decision to hire someone by looking at personality, since it is a stable factor in time. You can develop skills, gain experience, adjust your behaviour, but you cannot change your personality.

      You can find out more about your personality by doing these tests:
      Big five traits – how do you score on the five most commonly used personality traits
      Typology test – what kind of personality do you have
      16personalities – personality test in 12 minutes
      PersonalityLab - for all kinds of personality tests
      Career quizzes - test your career personality
      Test toolkit - career values and team roles
      123test - overview of personality tests (in Dutch) 

    • A skill is the capacity or knowlegde to deliver a task, for example speaking a language, knowing an IT programme or knowing how to give a presentation. Skills can be developed in different levels and can be applied in every circumstance.

      Competencies are the ability to act successfully in a situation. A competency is a set of behaviour and are sometimes also called soft skills. Examples of competencies are creativity, cross-cultural understanding, and leadership. Competencies cannot be learned out of a book, you have to develop them by practising. You learn them in one situation and with little effort you can also transfer them to another situation. You are often not aware that you are using or learning a competency. You can find a list of the most common competencies here.

      Make an overview for yourself of the skills and competencies that you already developed during side jobs, extra-curricular activities, in your study, in contact with friends and family, while travelling etc. How well are they developed in comparison to other people around you.

      RSM-MentorMe - free skill webinars 
      Identify your strengths – Test with 15 questions
      University of Kent – strengths test
      Find your strenghts – get an insight in your strengths and weaknesses
      Skills you need - develop the skills you need in life
      Competency test – what are your strengths (in Dutch)
      Strengths test – find out what your strengths and pitfalls are (in Dutch)

  • “Your first job will not determine the rest of your life. This viewpoint will create paralysis and undue stress on your decisions. Rest assured that your first job has little likelihood of determining the rest of your life. In fact, your first job will often have little to do with your last job.”


    • Firstly it is good to get an idea of the work environment that suits you as a person. Write down the general advantages and disadvantages of working at:

      • a multinational
      • a small or medium sized company
      • a NGO
      • a governmental institution
      • a start-up
      • self employment (in your own start-up or as freelancer)
      • a PhD or academic career

      Which options can you already remove from your list? For the remaining options, research some example organisations to get a clearer idea.         

    • The next step is to find out what kind of industry you like to start your career in. The type of industry could have an influence on your choice for a master, what you need to develop next to your studies and how/when you apply for a job. Please have a look at the RSM career map to see the most popular industries per MSc programme.

      Sector differences – what you need to know about different sectors
      Career sectors – do’s and don’ts per industry
      Vault - Sector information

      Within an industry there can be large differences between countries and companies. It is therefore also important to find out what kind of culture suits you.

      For information about company cultures and differences between countries, please check:
      Glassdoor – inside company information from employees and job applicants
      10 minutes with – information about companies and video interviews with today's leaders 
      MagnetMe – Discover your career opportunities
      Inside Buzz – recent graduates share their experience at top employers
      Guide to work – overview of relevant information per country
      GoinGlobal - employment trends and tips per country
      Career Guides - what do you need to know when looking for a job in ....
      Top Employers NL
      Top Employers UK
      Top Employers Germany
      Top Employers France
      Candid company reviews

    • Next to finding out what kind of job you like, there are also some more general career aspects you should think about.

      • Do you want to become a specialist or a generalist?
      • Do you want to work in an international environment, travel a lot for work and/or be positioned abroad for a longer period?
      • Do you want to do a traineeship (graduate programme)?
      • Do you like working on new ideas or do you want to finish what you have started?
      • Do you like to have a lot of responsibilities or do you prefer guidance? 

      Read more about making career choices:
      Career development website - thinking about your career
      Prospects – a careers website for graduates 
      Career Test – what suits you best
      Open Colleges - career advice, options and career change ideas
      Compas CarrièreStart – advise for starting your career (in Dutch)
      Career tests - find out which job suits you (in Dutch)
      Intermediair – how to make career choices (in Dutch)

    •  When you know who you are and what interests you, what values you have in regard to a job or company, and what jobs might suit you, it’s time to question yourself. Do you truly know everything about a job or company? Or are these ideas stuck in your head and you onlythink that you know?

      Turn assumptions into clear answers that will help you in your career! You can use the following sources to check if your ideas are correct:
      ·         RSM Career Services
      ·         RSM’s alumni network
      ·         Alumni mentor
      ·         Family and friends
      ·         Networking
      ·         LinkedIn
      ·         Google
      ·         Company website
      ·         Recruitment events (fairs, company presentations, in-house days)
      ·         Job interviews
      ·         Internships and work-shadowing

      Use these sources to get an idea about the company culture, the tasks part of the job, the possible career steps and the application process. You can ask questions such as:
      ·         What do you like/dislike about your job and company?
      ·         How does a regular day look like for you?
      ·         How would you describe the culture within your company?
      ·         What makes your company different from its competitors?
      ·         What are the requirements for the job?
      ·         What kind of environment would suit me?
      ·         What should my first job be if I want to become a “marketing” manager?
      ·        I want to work in finance, is it true that grades matter?

  • Once you have an understanding of who you are and what your career ambitions are, it is time to analyse the gap between your current status and the requirements for your future career. For example your chances of a career in Investment Banking will be largely increased by already doing an internship at a bank in your bachelor; high grades and board/committee experience are required for many traineeships; having international experience will help you qualify for an international career. By gaining experience and developing yourself, you can bridge the gap and become a strong candidate.

    • Many students think that they don’t have any relevant experience to convince an employer that they should get the job. This is not true. During your study you for example already gain experience in working in teams, meeting deadlines, analysing information, and planning your activities. In your social activities with friends, you learn how to interact with others, and how to deal with different opinions and conflicts. You can transfer these experiences to the working field and use examples of these experiences to show your strengths during an interview.

      For many graduate positions, it is necessary that you have gained some more experience next to your studies. The more competitive the selection process, the more experiences of the below list you should have in your pocket in order to have a chance. You can gain experience and develop yourself in the following ways:

      •  Internship: the opportunity to experience a company from the inside, find out more about the job and organisational culture, and apply the theory you learned. Read more about the different options here
      • Side job: you can choose between a study-related job or non-related job. Even in a non-related job you develop skills and competencies that will be relevant for the future. For example working in a restaurant or call-centre you develop customer service skills, which will be helpful for every client oriented job. Search for side jobs via the RSM Job Board.
      • Extracurricular activities: examples are being active in a board or committee of your study/student association, organising a study trip or student event, being the treasurer at your football club. These activities are a great way to develop competencies and employers really value this type of experience.
      • Voluntary work: demonstrates your commitment to society, your sense of responsibility and that you dare to take action. Companies, like strategy consultancy firms, are starting to request these kind of experience more and more.
      • Exchange: will develop you in your multicultural communication and ability to adapt to new/different situations.
      • Study projects: you can take more out of your study projects or assignments than just a high grade. By taking the lead, you develop your leadership skills. By presenting the results, you develop your presentation skills. By working with different people for every assignment, you develop your teamwork skills. University can be seen as a safe environment to practice different skills.
    • Skills, like a language or IT tool, can be developed by taking a training or course. This is quite straight forward: at the end of the course you master the skills on a certain level, and often you can take a next course to move a level up.
      Competencies can be developed by learning from a best practice or inspiring example, and by practicing in real-life.

      Relevant skills and competencies:
      Skills you need - develop the skills you need in life
      Achieved – webinars to develop competencies.
      TED talks – as a source of insipration
      Coursera – free online university courses
      Language courses – language centre of Erasmus University
      Bloomberg – system with accurate financial and business information
      CFA – get a certificate from the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute
      Lean Six Sigma – standardised way to improve processes within companies
      Prince2 – standardised way of managing projects
      Photoshop – relevant for marketing positions
      Programming languages – like C#, C++, Python, HTML to build websites, apps and analysing data
      CRM systems – Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics

  • The vacancies that are posted online, are only the top of the iceberg. There are many invisible vacancies, which you can only find via networking, recruitment agencies, job fairs, direct contact with a company.

    Tell the whole world that you’re looking for a job!

    Ask the people around you to keep you in mind if they see or hear anything interesting. The more specific your request, the more easy it is for them to help you in your search. Ask friends, family or RSM alumni how they found their first job, and how they moved to subsequent jobs. You can also use LinkedIn to check out people in your “dream” company.   

    For the vacancies that are posted online, you need to make use of the right key words in order to find them. You can also use LinkedIn for that, Search for people with the same specialisation and check their job title. Using a job title as key word for your search works effectively. You can of course also use your specialisation in combination with some other search filters, like level of experience, location, industry).  

  • Make a good first impression with your CV and cover letter by customising them to the vacancy and the company you’re applying to. Show that you did your homework the company and vacancy by studying the website, their LinkedIn page and in some cases also their annual report. You could also contact the HR department, the person mentioned in the advertisement – or someone you know at the company to talk about the role. Make sure you have some good questions ready.

    University of Kent – tips for the application process

    • In a Curriculum Vitae you give an anti-chronological overview of what you have been doing so far in relation to education, work experience and extra-curricular activities. There are differences in lay-out, presentation, and required information depending on the industry and country you are applying for. Check in advance what is common for your application.
      A recruiter will screen your CV in 20-30 seconds before they decide to have a more detailed look. Therefore it is important that the most relevant information is easy to find in your CV and that you use a structured way of presenting your background.

      For more tips and tricks, you can join one of the many workshops we offer throughout the year. You can also come by the open consultation on Tuesday or Thursday for personal advice. Check the calendar for the exact time slots and location.

      Relevant article - how to make an impression with your application Tips for your CV What to mention in a CVGrade converter guideConvert your grades to GPAOnline grade converter

    • A cover letter is also called motivation letter. With a cover letter you can show that you put in effort for getting the job, and you can specify your motivation. Next to that you can use it to show how your experience on your CV relates to the job and makes you a strong candidate.
      If a recruiter decides, based on your CV, to read your cover letter, it can make you stand out from other applicants as well as take away possible doubts.  A standardised cover letter won’t make an impression. Make sure that you personalise your letter and tailor it to the vacancy as much as possible.

      31 tips for your cover letter

      For more tips and tricks, you can join one of the many workshops we offer throughout the year. You can also come by the open consultation every Tuesday or Thursday for personal advice. Check the calendar for the exact time slots and location.

  • The interview process looks different for every company, and within a company there could be differences per position, level of the position, and per interviewer.
    For internships and side jobs you will often only have one interview. Two or three rounds of interviews are more likely for a job. Most interviewers will try to make you feel comfortable and relaxed, though there are some interviewers that will test your response by making you feel uncomfortable.

      • Face-to-face interviews: you on one side and 1-3 interviewers on the other side at the company. It could be a formal conversation or a more informal setting. The most common type is the formal face-to-face interview which lasts for an hour.
      • Telephone interviews: you and 1-2 interviewers over the phone. This type of interview challenges your communication and listening skills more. Important is to have a good connection and call from a location where you cannot be disturbed during the call.Usually you see that a phone interview lasts for 20 – 30 minutes.
      • Skype interview: you  in front of the computer and 1-3 interviewers on the other side. Easier than a phone interview since you can see each other and have more interaction. The difficulty is that there is often some delay in the connection. Think about the background, which will be visible during the interview, and dress up like you would do for a face-to-face interview.
      • Video interview: You in front of a camera answering some questions you received from the company. There will be no interviewer on the other side. The company can allow you to re-tape the video as much as you want or can put a limit of for example three times.
      • Case interview: a face-to-face interview during which the interviewers will ask you questions to test your analytical and numerical skills. It could be that you receive a business case in advance and you should present your solutions during the interview. It could also be that you get a questions to which you cannot know the answer, like for example the amount of cars on the parking lot of the company. In both situations the process of coming to the answer is more important than the answer itself. The interviewers want to see if you are a logic reasoned, and how creative you are. Take them through the process and show them how your brain works.
      • Interview at a recruitment event: already in a short ten minute talk with a company representative at a recruitment event, you make an impression. This talk could be registered in the recruitment system and could have an influence on your application.
    • For more tips and tricks, you can join one of the many workshops we offer throughout the year. You can also come by the open consultation every Tuesday or Thursday for personal advice. Check the calendar for the exact time slots and location.

      Test your interview skills
      Vault interviewing tips - examples from banking, consulting and other industries

  • Many companies make, next to interviews, use of assessments to better predict your potential. The company can ask you to do the assessment from home, at the company or go to an assessment centre. The costs are covered by the company.

      • Capacity tests are a sort of intelligence tests, consisting of numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, figures and mathematics. You should be allowed to do these tests in your native language, since it should test your brain capacity and not your language abilities. You can prepare for these tests by practicing.
      • Case presentations will challenge you to solve a case in a limited amount of time and present your findings. Assessors will pay attention to your presentation skills, your analytical skills and your problem solving skills.
      • Background screening of your involvement in political organisations, in criminal activities and of your social contacts. Used for jobs in the UN as well as for banks and schools.
      • Group exercises are a common element of an assessment to measure if you are a team player, if you take the lead in a group, if you add value in a group by taking a clear role. The assessors are measuring your performance against predetermined standards and sometimes as compared to your fellow group members.
      • Medical examination is used for jobs with a high failure risk, like a pilot or a surgeon.
      • Personality test to see if you fit the company culture and/or team. You should be allowed to do this test in your native language. You can find examples of these tests here
      • Physical exercises are usually only used for jobs that require a physically strong candidate, like the army and the police.
      • Role play where you will have to show how you respond in a certain situation, like a call or meeting with a customer. The other people in the role play will be assessors or actors.
      • Simulations to see how you make a decisions and handle stress. The most used is a mailbox exercise where you to process incoming emails.
      1. Prepare by thinking what kind of candidate the company is looking for and what kind of skills the different exercises will measure. This could help you to define your strategy.
      2. Wear a watch to keep track of the time during an exercise. Most assessment exercises will be given under time pressure.
      3. Keep in mind that you won’t be allowed to use your phone during the assessment and that you are sometimes not allowed to take your notes with you to the presentation of a case for example.
      4. If you are not feeling well, try to make a new appointment. Assessments require a lot of energy and in order to perform optimally, you need to be fit.7
      5. Read the instructions very carefully. If they are unclear, ask for explanations.
      6. Bring some food that could boost your energy if needed
      7. Take your time in between for a toilet/cigarette break.              

      Relevant books:
      How to pass professional level psychometric tests – Sam Al-Jajjoka
      Assessment doen – Bas Kok & Ferry de Jongh
      Alles over assessment centers - Drs. Jack. J. R. van Minden
      Personality tests – Richard McMunn

      Relevant links
      Job test preparation - how to prepare for an assessment
      Aptitude Test - free reasoning tests
      Test Toolkit - test for assessment and development
      Practice Tests - practice to prepare for an assessment
      Skillswise - Practice Math tests
      Assessment training – Practice all assessment tests (in Dutch)
      Wikijob Aptitude Test - Test practice


  • Be prepared that you will be asked for your salary expectations during an interview.

    Negotiate or not: First of all it is good to know if the company works with fixed salary scales. Many large organisations place fresh graduates in a scale to pay them equally and you can only receive a higher salary if you already have some relevant work experience (not via an internship), though that is also defined in the salary scales. In this situation you cannot negotiate.
    Some conditions are written down in a Collective Labour Agreement (CAO), which means that the conditions are the same for all employees in a specific industry and you cannot negotiate about it.

    What to expect: There is a difference between gross and net salaries. Gross pay is the amount paid to an employee before tax and benefits are deducted. Net pay is the total amount an employee actually receives after deductions.
    Salaries differ between industries, countries and even regions within a country. Remember that salaries are related to the standard of living in a country. The MSc Employment Report gives you an overview of what RSM graduates earn on average, including the differences per country, industry and MSc programme. You can also make use of Google and country statistic websites (e.g. CBS for Netherlands) for salary indications and average living costs.
    In order to make a solid estimation, you should also take into account the additional benefits the company offers. Think about bonuses, profit sharing, amount of holidays, holiday payment, company car and pension schemes.

    • Usually salary negotiation start when you finished the steps in the selection process (interviews and assessments) and the company decided to offer you a job. If you are being asked for your salary expectations during an interview, an interviewer just wants to know if your expectations are in line with what they want to offer and if they will not be wasting their time. At this stage you don't start negotiating yet, because the company is still comparing you with other candidates.

      1. Is there an opportunity to negotiate with the company or do they offer fixed salary scales to their employees?

      2. Find out what's common for the industry, country and job level.
      Salaries differ between industries, countries and even regions within a country. Remember that salaries are related to the standard of living in a country and to the tax system of a country. The MSc Employment Report gives you an overview of what RSM graduates earn on average, including the differences per country, industry and MSc programme. You can also make use of Google and country statistic websites (e.g. CBS for Netherlands) for salary indications and average living costs.
      Compare the job to similar jobs in other companies.
      In order to make a solid estimation, you should also take into account the additional benefits the company offers. Think about bonuses, profit sharing, amount of holidays, holiday payment, company car and pension schemes.

      3. Do you have specific qualities other candidates haven't? Or will the company easily find someone else who is willing to work for a lower salary? What is your space for negotiation? How far can you go? How badly do you want this job? What are your chances to find a job in

      4. What is the minimal salary to accept the job? Can you comprimise on anything, for example additional benefits? Can the company offer you some other benefits, development opportunities or promises for the future to compensate the lower salary? What will you do if the company will stop the negotiations?

      5. Have your arguments prepared to convince the company. Think about education, experience, qualities and skills. 

      6. Don't start the negotiation with your expected salary. Always start with a higher salary, but don't start too high. Be prepared to negotiate about year salaries and monthly salaries, so that you can respond to the offer of the company.

      7. Take time to think about the offer and make calculations. You can always stop the negotiations and restart at a later moment.

      8. Be aware of the fact that you have to work together after your negotiations; it’s not a war

      9. Once you have agreed on a offer, get it confirmed in writing.

      If you want to practise or receive personal advice for your situation, you can come to the open consultation slots.

    • Employment survey - salary information of previous RSM graduates

      Robert Half - salary overview gives information about salaries and trends

      Intermediair - salary information for the Netherlands specified to level of education and company charateristics. – see what employees are saying about companies, jobs and salaries

      Expat tax - tax regulations in the Netherlands

      Centraal Bureau Statistiek: statistics about salaries and living costs in the Netherlands

      Negotiation styles around the world

      Negotiation tactics

      Book by Molly Fletcher - A winner's guide to negotiating: how conversation gets deals done.

      Book by Josh Doody - Fearless salary negotiation: a step-by-step guide