Maarten Asscher as mentor: ‘It's at the periphery of your own discipline that things happen'
Alumnus Maarten Asscher (60) is mentor of the month. He studied Law in Leiden and has worked as a literary publisher, senior official at the Ministry of Education and director of Athenaeum Booksellers. Will he be your mentor?
Why did you become a mentor?
‘I know how testing it can be taking your first steps on the job market. Every academic has in principle been educated to be a specialist. That's something I realised during the time I was studying Assyriology, before I chose to finish my degree in Law. The reason you choose a particular degree is because you love that subject, but at some point in time the question is no longer, 'Why do I like this subject so much?', but 'What do I want to achieve when I am out in the world?' That's the point in time when you need to have access to someone from outside your discipline who can give you some sense of direction, who can show you just what you can achieve with your particular degree.'
And you are that person?
‘Maybe. I am in any event an example of someone who is always looking for connections between different disciplines. After two years of Assyriology I opted for Law, specifically copyright law, and I eventually became a literary publisher, an arts officer, director of an academic-cultural booksellers and a writer. One of the most important things I learned when I was writing my dissertation as an external PhD candidate in Leiden from 2011 to 2015 was that it's on the periphery of your own discipline that the most interesting things happen. I believe I can help Humanities students by letting them know about interesting connections for their future. Looking back on my own career, just a handful of people have had a huge influence on how my career has progressed; they may have given me a book, some advice or a particular opportunity at just the right time. I'll be really happy if I can do the same for someone else.’
What kinds of things can you help with?
‘Given my background, I can look more broadly at the possibilities offered by a particular study programme. Take, for example, someone who is doing Literature Studies. What master's should he or she take to create specific opportunities on the job market? Business Administration maybe? Or another language? What IT skills will be most useful in your career? What opportunities are there in publishing or in government or in the museum world? Those are the kinds of things we can talk about. So, my message is: send me a mail, then we can see if I can help you in some way. If you don't try it, you won't know!'