Alumni Survey

“It is striking to see that almost a quarter of the students already has a job even before graduating” 

By: Sake Slootweg

How do alumni find their way to the labour market? In December 2014, we asked alumni to fill in a survey about their labour market experiences. In all, we received as many as 1100 responses. In this edition of Vuurwerk, we give an impression of the FEWEB alumni right after they graduated. 

Who filled in these questions?
Half of the respondents graduated after 2008. These alumni received additional questions about their experiences on the labour market, immediately after graduation. Two-thirds of the respondents were male, one-third female, which is a fairly accurate reflection of the division at the faculty. Most of the respondents had been full-time students.

Finding a job
For most of the alumni, finding a job was relatively easy: six months after graduation, 89% of them had managed to find employment, which is a little higher than the recently measured national average (WO-monitor, 2013). It is striking to see that almost a quarter of the students already has a job even before graduating. That is even more striking considering the fact that only half of the respondents is actively applying for jobs prior to graduating. 

Grafiek: hoe snel vindt u een baan?

Search channels
As was to be expected, in recent years, the job application process has moved rapidly from newspaper and magazine towards the Internet: to the question as to how people found their first job, 26% responded they found it via an online job ad. For many readers, it may come as an even bigger surprise that many of the respondents found their first job via their personal network. Lonneke Korenromp, head of Career Services & Alumni Relations at FEWEB, responds to these results: “It has been said that over 80% of vacant jobs are filled via networks. We point out to students that it is important to build relationships, and train their networking skills. It is interesting to have the statistics to support that networking is also effective for people setting out on the labour market, and not just for experienced managers with a proven track record.” The fact that 10% of the respondents find work through internships underlines the importance of establishing contact with the labour market even more.

Where do alumni work?
FEWEB alumni work in a broad variety of companies and sectors. The most common employers are large financial institutions, the government, consultancies and municipalities. About 10% of the respondents are independent entrepreneurs.

 Top 5 employers
4Vrije Universiteit

 Top 5 common sectors
1Construction & Real Estate
2Facility Services
3Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG)
5Financial Services

Transition university to labour market
We asked which skills were important to succeed in taking the step from university to the labour market: “what did you need in your first job and how were you prepared for that during your studies?” These are the top 5 skills mentioned in the survey:

 Top 5 necessary skills
1Oral communication
2Ability to solve problems
3Analytical skills
4Working in a team
5Ability to give presentations

Alumni were able to develop all these skills during their studies. Oral communication skills could receive a little more attention. Prof. Dr. Jaap Boter, course director of the Marketing Master: “Oral communication skills, like meetings, consultation or contacting people, are indeed one of the most important skills in your career. At the same time, it is difficult to test people individually, with 125 students. The other skills mentioned in the top 5 are already included in the thesis or in the many team assignments. In our renewed Marketing MSc, we try to pay even more attention to it, for instance with workshops by Career Services, training days of student associations or in course assignment. We consider having students evaluate each other or contribute to the team anonymously, or have them video-record themselves in (team) meetings and reflect on that. Finally, since this year, students working on their thesis also hand in a 120 second video pitch, in which they talk about who they are, what they stand for and what they have researched. Independently and together with others, we look for new forms to pay as much attention to that as possible.”

How do alumni want to stay involved?
In addition to sharing experiences on the labour market, we also asked the alumni in what way they want to stay involved with VU University as alumni. They are especially interested in newsletters and seminars and workshops. In addition, a smaller number of them is interested in career-related and social activities, and we are impressed with their eagerness to give guest lectures. This information inspires us to organise more and new activities for alumni and to continue to improve our services, things you will hear about in the time to come.

Thank you very much!
We once again want to thank the alumni for taking part in Career Aspirations Trendwatch (CAT). This study is a collaboration between the CAT team and FEWEB Career Services and Alumni Relation. The CAT study has been taking place at the faculty since 2010 and involves labour market-related experiences and attitudes. In addition to the further analysis of these data, with the help of the alumni contribution, there will be scientific research in the near future into subjects like proactivity among tenured and temporary staff, and the influence an organisation has on that, and the relationship between following a calling and employability at work. In future editions of Vuurwerk, we will pay more attention to that.