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'It is good to broaden your horizon and see for yourself how you will give direction to the theory you acquire during your studies.'

Gijs Könings (27) has a bachelor's degree in Geography, Planning and Environment from Radboud University and a master's degree in Human Geography from the University of Amsterdam. He now works at the Dutch Embassy in Berlin as senior policy advisor. In his position, he deals with sustainable mobility and environment.

What does your work look like?
I play a key role between the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) in The Hague and the corresponding German ministries in Berlin. The Ministry of I&W in The Hague is curious to know what the German federal ministries in the field of transport and environment are planning with its various bills and policy initiatives. The Netherlands has several goals, such as making traffic in the Netherlands more sustainable. Think about getting more people on bicycles or ensuring that electric cars are driven more often. Another important theme is circular economy; the Netherlands is very progressive in this area. Therefore, Germany would like to learn from the Netherlands in this area. I am like a broker between the two parties: Germany and the Netherlands. In my work, I try daily to connect the right stakeholders to serve the Dutch interest.

What is the role of your studies in your current work?
I use many skills I gained during my studies. Especially the way of thinking: looking at things analytically, connecting factors, distinguishing main and secondary issues, doing research and getting in touch with people.
Nowadays, doing only a bachelor's or master's degree is almost not enough. It is therefore also good to broaden your horizon and see for yourself how you will give direction to the theory you acquire during your studies. During my bachelor's I therefore did an honors program at the Radboud Honors Academy. That's how I came into contact with Prof. Jan Jonker, who sparked my interest in the circular economy. So that eventually got me my current job!

What do you like most and least about your job?
The least fun part of my job is writing news releases. I like the process of bringing all kinds of impressions and information together, but I prefer to do it verbally. That's why I prefer to schedule a meeting to discuss issues with each other. What I like most about my work is organizing things: bringing people together and reconciling needs. Suppose our minister (Mark Harbers) is coming, I have to find out what he wants, who he wants to talk to and what the policy goals are. I like to make that into an event and bring out the cultural differences between the two countries in a positive way. After all, in Germany they are precise and knowledgeable, but at times also a bit cautious. In the Netherlands, they are innovative and want everything, but the Dutch can also pat themselves on the back too much. Often the Dutch think: we will do this for a while.

What other things did you do during your studies?
After the honors program, I helped Prof. Jan Jonker with research on circular business models. I also did the Erasmus program here in Berlin during my bachelor's. I liked it so much here that I didn't want to leave. So after my bachelor, I took a gap year and stayed here for another year and a half. Then I went back to the Netherlands to do a master's degree in Human Geography at the University of Amsterdam. Nevertheless, I missed Berlin immensely. An internship position became available at the Dutch Embassy in Berlin in the economic department. I applied for the internship and was hired. At some point a position became available in the field of sustainable mobility and circular economy and now I'm in the right place!

How do you view career orientation?
It is important to have direction on what you want to do. Doing a bachelor's and/or master's degree is incredibly handsome and a lot of work. Geography, Planning and Environment is a broad education and in that case it is good to consider what direction you want to go. I think it is important to be involved in career orientation and that people are motivated in it. It helped me a lot to see which way I wanted to go.

Would you do things differently?
No, I don't think so. I always say: if you are satisfied now, then everything you have done in the past has been good. All the choices I made in the past got me where I am today. One choice that has served me very well is taking a gap year. During the gap year, I worked in a call center in Berlin. This work was not challenging at all, but I wanted to take a year away from studying: I wanted to get to know myself better, discover the city and experience new things in life. I can recommend it to everyone: after getting your bachelor's degree, do something else for a year or go traveling! Do what suits you. I was 21 when I finished my bachelor's and at that point I thought: what do I really know about the world? In this day and age, it is very encouraged to finish your studies at a young age: the longer you study, the more expensive it gets. Nevertheless, it is incredibly valuable to know certain things about yourself, to have done a course or an internship.

Do you have any tips for current students?
Remember that personal development is a big part of your studies and your career! Good grades and extra programs are very helpful, but ultimately you will also be hired based on your personality and whether you know yourself well. What drives you? What gives you energy? What are you good at or not good at? If you have answers to those questions, for example, for a job in the central government, it really doesn't matter very much whether you did GPM, Business Administration or Public Administration. Sure, if you want to be a doctor you should do Medicine, but if you do a gamma study, you have a nice broad career path to follow afterwards. The important thing is that you have your own idea of what you want, then it will probably work out.