Including interviews with NOS Nieuwsuur presenter Jeroen Wollaars & European Central Bank advisor Arne Gieseck
The annual Career Dinner took place on the 23rd of January. It was a beautiful but frosty night, which was very much felt through the tights, thin button-downs and silk blouses which were interpreted to meet the requirement for semi-formal attire. The restaurant, Westergasterras, is situated in Westerpark right next to a small lake. The entire park was covered in snow, which every visitor had the chance to marvel at, given the restaurant’s plentiful windows. The career committee had managed to gather representatives from six different fields, some of which as high-ranking as Ukranian ambassador H.E. Vsevolod Chensov or Supreme Court Judge Edgar du Perron. Other impressive job descriptions read ‘Executive Director of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee’, Pepijn Gerrits or ‘supervisory officer of various institutions which is the fairly unspecific yet lofty title of economist Rob Becker. I do not think I was the only one who felt a little bit intimidated upon arrival, given that most of us students gathered around the bar while the majority of suit-wearing professionals had grouped together in the elevated dining area.
Thanks to the career committee, however, there wasn’t much room to feel overly nervous. Timely at 19:00, we were asked to take our assigned seats. Each of the professionals sat with three students. Given that there were two representatives for each category, they had been instructed to switch tables after the main course in order to spend the desert with another table. Let us pause for a minute to appreciate the efforts of the Career Committee. What turned out to be a wonderfully relaxed evening caused the poor committee members a lot of stress behind the scenes. On the day of the dinner not one, but two representatives cancelled last minute and both of them were successfully replaced. Furthermore, the three-course dinner was generally approved by all, with emphasis on the desert: something I would describe as a honey-yoghurt-parfait with speculoos crumbs. Even the vegetarians amongst us were taken care of and on top of that there were two free drinks included in the price.
I wonder what Jeroen Wollaars and Peter Kloosterhuis thought of the dinner, given they barely got to eat any of it. Wollaars, anchorman of the NOS Nieuwsuur and Kloosterhuis, head of the NOS event department, found them- selves bombarded with a never-ending stream of questions. All concerns for awkward silences and staged conversations were evidently unjustified. When Jeroen Wollaars struggled to attach his name tag after he joined us at our table, he quickly decided to ‘skip the formalities’ and got rid of both the name tag and his blazer altogether. The conversation swiftly moved from the time Wollaars was sent to Oslo in order to report on the Utøya Island Shooting to a catastrophic interview with Hollywood diva Sophia Loren, leaving most of his entrée and main course untouched but us hanging onto his every word. In order to apply what I had just learned about what not to do during an interview from the Sophia-Loren-Story, Wollaars willingly offered to be the victim of the very first interview I ever conducted.
5 or more questions for Jeroen Wollaars
Okay, would you please tell me your name and your profession?
Yes, my name is Jeroen Wollars and I am the presenter of Nieuwsuur i.e. ‘news-hour’- a Dutch, journalistic television programme.
What and where did you study?
I studied what’s called ‘the academic for digital communication’ in Utrecht at the Faculty of Communication and Journalism.
What’s one thing every aspiring journalist should know?
Okay, let’s see…I’ll just start talking and see where it goes. So we’ve talked earlier about how there are no bad questions. And if you have a feeling that there is a question that is difficult, that you’re ashamed of, that you don’t really dare to ask…it’s probably a good question. And attached to this: Don’t be shy, don’t be ashamed, be creative…just don’t be afraid. Yes, to not be afraid, that is my main answer.
What’s the best job you’ve ever had to do?
(laughs) Well, the best job is the one I have right now, I guess.
So you prefer ‘Nieuwsuur’ over being a journalist in Germany, where your worked for the WDR?
Good question! Well, at this point in my life I do. But when I was back in Germany and worked as a correspondent at the height of the refugee crisis, I really wanted to be there. Be- cause at that time, that was the most relevant place you could be, I think, in all of Europe.
And the worst job?
Having to replace tube lights in a hospital in Rotterdam when I dropped out of high school. I really hated it. Oh, and I also worked at McDo- nalds once.
And the worst job you had related to journalism?
Getting up at 3 o’ clock in the morning to drive to Hilversum in order to read the morning newspaper and write a summary for a morning radio show. That was pretty bad at the time. However, not to sound holy or anything, but I also learned a lot. Journalistic skills from the bottom-up so to say. So it wasn’t super bad. At least it wasn’t McDonalds (laughs).
If you could change your career-path, what would you change?
It took me quite some time to get into internationalisation. You guys must know how rewarding and giving it is to get an international perspective by getting out of your country. So if there was something I had to change, I would have done my first international exchange earlier.
Well, thank you so much for the interview.
What, these were already five questions?!
I think more actually. But I have another one- What’s your favourite book?
Oh, puh, my favorite book…oh god.
You got yourself into this
Yes, uhm, that would be…what I am reading at the moment at least is by Timothy Snyder, a professor, and it’s called ‘The Road to Unfreedom’. I haven’t finished it yet but it is really my favourite book (laughs).
The dinner closed with a small borrel. Inspired by my first ever interview I was eager to get to know professionals from other fields outside of the journalism category. I was lucky enough to speak to Arne Gieseck, representative of the economy category, who came all the way from Frankfurt to attend the dinner.
5 or more questions for Arne Gieseck
Could you please tell me your name and profession?
My name is Arne Gieseck, I am an advisor at the European Central Bank and I have been in business-cycle analysis for the past 29 years.
What and where did you study?
I studied Economics at the Ruhr University in Bochum between 1979 and 1986. And I did my PhD in economics at the University of Essen from 1986 to 1991.
What’s one thing every aspiring economist should know?
Economics is not a kind of…straight science. Each economist can have a different opinion. It is not how it is in math where 2 + 2 is 4. Interest rates can be argued to be too low or too high and there can be good arguments for both sides. So the answer is always: it de- pends. That’s important to know. Keeps my job interesting.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self when you look back at your career?
When I look back I think that my career actually resulted from a series of coincidences. I didn’t plan anything. I had no clue what economics was about whatsoever when I embarked
into economics. I’d say that everything sort of built on very small decisions that turned out to be very important later on, so I can’t really give any advice.
That’s actually a very nice thing as well. Sometimes you can’t control everything.
Exactly. It just happened.
But if you could go back in time, would you change anything about your career?
I think I would change my kind of working style. So, instead of working as a lonely wolf all the time, which I have done for a long time, I would work more in a team. I only learned to appreciate the advantages of collaboration a couple of years ago. Doing most of my work in small teams, the way I do it now, has enhanced my productivity a lot.
Thank you. And one last question: What’s your top ’recommended read’ for aspiring economists?
I would recommend ‘The Little Book of Economic: How the Economy Works in the Real World’ because it covers all the big questions of economics. It’s written by a journalist, Greg Ip, in a very accessible and vivid way.
I, for my part, left the dinner at around 23:00 to carefully skitter my way back to the bus through Westerpark’s icy grounds. The evening was overall very successful and left a friend of mine and I, in loss for better words, ‘feeling just kind of content’. Thanks Career Committee!