Career - What does that really mean and how do I find the job that suits me?

The University of Bonn Career Service is the first place the University’s students and young graduates should go to address their many queries about anything to do with careers. Regardless of their faculty and degree program, however, one question stands out above all the others: How do I find the job that suits me? In her Offene Karriere-Sprechstunde, Dr. Anke Bohne helps students and graduates find their own individual answers as they search for the right job. In an interview with alumni coordinator Sabine Höhl, she explains what questions aid career-related decision-making and how the Career Service helps to guide people into the world of work. This interview was conducted in German and then translated.

Dr. Bohne, what does “career” really mean?

Dr. Anke Bohne: We often associate the term “career” with the idea of advancing through your chosen field—always going “onward and upward,” as it were. Essentially, though, the word “merely” means the individual professional trajectory that a person follows, i.e. the jobs that they have and the path that they take. There’s nothing there about promotions, salaries or job titles. At career guidance events, such as the Alumni Network’s Career Forum series, and in my consultations, I define “career” as the path leading to the profession that matches students’ individual desires, values and skills and gives them financial security.

Dame steigt die Karriereleiter hoch und hält an der Spitze mit einem Fernrohr Ausschau

So how do I go about finding out what exactly I want to do after my studies?

Dr. Anke Bohne: To find out what kind of job I’d like to do after graduating, I should ask myself early on in my studies what kinds of profession I’m interested in as a basic principle. It makes sense for me to consider three potential lines of work: my absolute dream job, a Plan B and a Plan C. It’s also important to think about what doesn’t appeal to me in the least, which would be Plans X, Y and Z, so to speak. To be in with a shout of landing my “dream job,” I’ll need to gain professional experience in my desired line of work. There are several ways to do this: One is by taking a part-time student job in my chosen field. If I’d like a job in a museum further down the line, for instance, it’s useful to have already gained some experience of working with museums and exhibitions as a student assistant or freelancer while I’m still studying. Another route is via internships, possibly also abroad. Internships and part-time student jobs will tell me what I enjoy and what I don’t. Voluntary work and taking part in practical seminars during my studies are other ways I can get a taster of interesting areas of work and what people do in them. If I’ve never even tried out my supposed dream job, I’ll never know whether it’s really as great as I imagined. Neither will I ever find out what skills I should possibly improve on in order to make it in my chosen profession. So it’s very important to start orienting myself toward a career in this way while I’m still at university—during my bachelor’s studies, in fact—instead of putting off asking myself what the right job for me is until the latter stages of my bachelor’s degree program, then the latter stages of my master’s degree program or even the latter stages of my doctoral studies. The sooner I settle on a career direction after some initial orientation during my degree program, the more targeted I can be in looking for internships and part-time student jobs and the better I can plan my potential transition from my bachelor’s to a master’s or from my master’s to a doctorate.

What questions do you ask students to help them find a suitable job?

Herr steht an einer Wegkreuzung und muss sich für eine Abzweigung entscheiden

Dr. Anke Bohne: The Offene Karriere-Sprechstunde only offers short 25-minute slots, as we know. The questions that will hopefully help someone find the right job for them vary significantly from one person to another. It’s important to make it clear to the students and graduates that it doesn’t all revolve around the question that so many people ask when they come to the Offene Karriere-Sprechstunde: What can I do with my degree, essentially? Instead, they should be asking this question, or rather these questions: What do I want to do with my degree? What do I fancy doing? What makes me happy? What am I good at? In which of my part-time student jobs, internships or voluntary roles have I really got stuck in, lost track of time and achieved really good things that may even have made me proud as well?

How does the Career Service help students find their way into the world of work?

Dr. Anke Bohne: The University of Bonn Career Service supports students on their journey from university to a job with workshops and advice on career guidance and the application process. One extremely accessible service is the Offene Karriere-Sprechstunde, which I run every Tuesday from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm. I give people 25-minute slots in which they can ask their own questions about getting into the job market and planning their career. The Offene Karriere-Sprechstunde is 100% confidential, impartial, unbiased and not tied to a particular subject or discipline. As well as the workshops and consultations that we hold ourselves in the Career Service from early April and early October onward each year, students can also go onto our website and find all the career guidance and planning services offered by the faculties, degree programs and departmental student bodies at the University of Bonn that we in the Career Service know about. The website also has an interdisciplinary list of relevant literature and details of times and dates.

What advice do you give alumni who have chosen a particular career path but are now keen to make a change?

Dr. Anke Bohne: Changes of career and periods of reorientation are the rule rather than the exception nowadays. There can be all manner of different reasons why I want a change of career: either I no longer like the things I’m doing, I haven’t got any opportunities to develop or a healthy work/life balance, the traffic jams on my daily commute stress me out, the pay isn’t what I’m looking for, or I need to make a change for the sake of my health... Whatever my personal reason for looking around for a new job, I should tackle this change head on. In other words, I should think about where I want to be and how I can get there. It’s always a good idea to find some good people to talk to who I know will give me honest feedback without pursuing their own agenda, meaning people who’ll be unbiased and impartial with me but will also appreciate where I’m coming from. Although members of my family will appreciate my feelings, they’ll often have a great many interests of their own, of course. They might not want me to make any changes whatsoever, because that could change a lot for them too, after all. Besides chatting to friends and colleagues who you trust, therefore, it’s often definitely worth getting support from a careers advisor or career coach when you’re considering a new professional direction.

Ein Mann mit Aktenkoffer läuft freudig eine Weg entlang, der zu einem neuen Beruf führt

Does the Career Service also offer services that Alumni Network members can use?

Eine Hand hält einen Schlüssel in der Hand.

Dr. Anke Bohne: Members of the Alumni Network who are also University of Bonn graduates can make use of various Career Service benefits: They can come to the Career Services Offene Karriere-Sprechstunde, which is currently being held over the phone and via Zoom due to the exceptional situation with the pandemic. As things stand, I’m planning to run the consultation hour once a week in person and once a week by phone or online in the future. This will mean that graduates who don’t live in Bonn will still be able to use the service. They are also very welcome to attend the Career Service's annual Careers Day, which forms part of the University of Bonn’s Dies Academicus. This year’s Careers Day is being held on December 1, 2021—online again, as in 2020. Besides a program of talks and “stalls” offering advice to anyone who’s interested, specific coaching for students and graduates will also be provided. Registration for the talks and the coaching is open from November 17 to 28, 2021 on our website, where you can also find links to the stalls, for which no registration is required. In addition, the “Career Service to Go” and “Event Calendar” sections of our website contain details of times and dates and other information that can also help Alumni Network members who have already gained professional experience but are now looking for a change of direction. You can find out all about the University of Bonn Career Service at

Portrait von Dr. Anke Bohn

Dr. Anke Bohne holds a doctorate in classical archaeology and is an alumna of the University of Bonn. She has headed the University’s Career Service since 2012. Prior to that, she worked as a marketing specialist in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Konstanz (2009–2012) and as a research volunteer in exhibitions management at a museum in Baden-Württemberg (2007–2009).

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