In The Spotlight: Micha Klaarenbeek
In this blog Micha will tell you about his experience as young professional. He graduated in 2019 and is currently Consultant Circular Economy at KNN Advies. You might also know him as co-founder of Atmos!
From master student to young professional
So you’ve gotten your shiny masters degree and you are about to enter the world of consultancy. A pretty exciting time is up ahead, but there will be many bumps in the road of becoming a good consultant. Let me tell you a few things I have learned from my experience so far.
First of all, throw it all in the trash.
The theory and tools you learned are nice and all, but you wont need it right now, neither is it valued (work experience > MSc diploma at all times). And oh yeah, remember those courses you did not really like? They are about to become a core part of your work. Once you think you have found the perfect solution, politics, economics and social interest will start playing their role (S&S *wink*). This will be very frustrating at times, but once you learn how these systems work and interact, you will start coming up with better solutions. But be warned: don’t try to find solutions that fit everybody's demands - because that's most likely not even possible.
You will discover the real problem at the end of the project
We are all just figuring it out. Nobody actually knows how we can ‘’save the world’’ but we are all trying. What am I trying to say with this? Well, in your consultancy life you will often find the actual (hidden) problem(s) at the end of a project because the systems we work on are complex and there is always a conflict of interest. Which is the complete opposite to the approach we learn during our master, in which we state the problem (research question) at the start of a project and then figure out a solution.
To give you an example. Let's say you are asked to find out whether decentralized solar parks are a good idea for the province of Groningen. At the end of the project you present the idea to the problem owner, and even though the economic implications of your results are fine, you will find out that the priorities of the problem owner are very different (their priorities can also evolve during the project). Or you will find out that the problem owner is not the actual problem owner - they just wanted a few new insights. Maybe this sounds vague, but you will understand it once you experience it ;)
This activity is probably one of the hardest things in consultancy. At a certain point you will have to sell an idea, consultancy service or product to an external party. And because we EES students are not trained in marketing/communication/sales this will be difficult. The person/party you will be contacting might not understand your solutions or even know his/her own problems. So again, throw it all in the trash. Nobody knows what you know or do, therefore you will need to scale back your explanations to a basic level so that people will actually understand what you are saying. No one actually likes technical jargon, and if you notice someone using it a lot, it is probably because they are trying to sound smart. Or as I always say: being able to explain your idea/service to a normal citizen means you have mastered (communicating about) your field of work. Therefore I strongly recommend practising this, try it during a family birthday party!
Also, don't forget the power of explaining complex systems or products through physical objects or illustrations/drawings. In our field of work we communicate with businesses, scientists, governments and citizens. And three of those will like & understand your idea way better if you have visualized it.
Don't underestimate the job market
Do you want to start working after the summer? Well, you should have started applying for jobs 2 months ago. I don’t want to pressurize you, but you have to know that job competition is pretty fierce in the world of consultancy, unless you have found a niche - or want to work in the field of energy transition. Also, the ‘’best’’ jobs you won't find on an online platform, instead just reach out to a company where you would like to work :)
I would like to end this blog with a quote I made up this morning during my bike ride to work. It is something I have noticed during the last few years:
‘Nobody likes idealists until they start providing worthwhile solutions - so walk the talk - and if you can't walk, ask someone for a ride’