The Net Impact Amsterdam Mentorship Programme connects senior and mid-career impact leaders with professionals actively charting their sustainability career paths.

Camilla de Nardis, PhD, speaks with Mentorship Programme participants to learn what it is like to be a mentor or mentee, and how the programme has impacted them.

Camilla connected with Johan Vanderlugt (JV), twice a mentor, and Viktoria Halasi (VH), a mentee in the current cohort, about their experience. Johan and Viktoria participated in the programme with different mentees / mentors matches, so we get views into two perspectives. 

Why did you decide to join the mentorship program?

Viktoria Halasi – My main goal was to get guidance about the professional opportunities that are available, and how I can best combine my experience with my academic knowledge and skills to pursue a career in the field of sustainability. I’ve recently graduated from a sustainability leadership master programme, but I felt lost about how to approach the job search and how to build-up an impact career path.

 Johan Vanderlugt – I like connecting with people. I also like to see things from a broader perspective than just the organization I’m working for. I find it rewarding to talk about sustainability with people from different walks of life, different ages. And it’s also an opportunity for me to help people in their journey, to use my skills to have an impact outside of my job.

What was the biggest learning?

VH – I was very lucky to learn from a mentor who is also a career coach. Through our sessions I realized that you need to approach the job search in a strategic way. You need to set clear but realistic goals and actions, reflect on what is important to you in terms of values, and, most importantly, network. One of the exercises I have been working on is to make a list of 50 companies I would like to work for and categorize them based on sectors, countries, etc. This helped me to see a pattern which I didn’t realize before.

JV – That it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the beginning of your career, halfway or even further. You still want to find the right balance in terms of where your skills are and to what extent the company you work for helps you further develop those skills. It’s about crafting your job and I think we all have the impression that the ideal job does exist. That’s a commonality that I saw between me and my mentees.

And the biggest surprise?

VH – A big surprise was how important it is to reach out to people who work at the companies I am interested in. It also surprised me how open and kind people are to planning short video calls. Through these conversations I have been able to gain insight into professionals’ daily activities, company culture, and what they enjoy the most about working for a certain organization, as well as the challenges. This gives me an idea about what it is like to work there, and tells much more than a vacancy or the information I can find on the companies’ website.

JV – Something that surprised me was the drive I have seen in the people I mentored. Sometimes there is the perception that young people aren’t really driven and that they don’t want to commit themselves, but I have experienced the exact opposite. I do see a really deep-rooted wish to be impactful, sometimes even to the extent that it can detriment their own energy levels.

Would you recommend being a mentee to someone else?

VH – Yes, I would definitely recommend it! The mentorship programme broadens your horizons by helping you to learn more about yourself, think about career options, and connect with people within your network. By joining online and in-person events organized by Net Impact Amsterdam I had the opportunity to connect with like-minded people and get more understanding of what I am looking for and where my true passion lies. I love the openness and welcoming attitude of the community!

Would you like to be a mentor again?

JV – If time permits, yes. Because I think it works both ways. As a mentor I hope to help the mentees to find their way within the Dutch sustainability scene. But on the other hand, the mentee provides me with a different perspective on the choices I make, in the way I chose to be impactful, at work as well as outside my work.

What is your advice for young people who are looking for a job in sustainability or professionals who want to transition towards that?

JV – My advice would be to try to network with people that already work for certain companies and reach out through LinkedIn. For example, have a coffee with them and try to find out what suits you and what doesn’t. There are two angles to consider: the topics that you might find interesting, and the type of organization you’d like to work for. For example, do you want to work for a start-up? Or do you want to work for a mature company with lots of international activities and a certain hierarchy? Or is there something in-between? To what extent do you want to surround yourself with international people? Or do you want to learn more from Netherlands-focused companies?

It can be useful to shift perspective. To not to see yourself as an employee, but as a professional that spends certain hours a week working for a certain organization, like a freelancer. Would you like to do that job for 40 hours a week? Or is there another way to craft your path? Maybe there’s a way to try a different job within your own firm by, for example, becoming part of an innovation lab. It can be an excellent opportunity to develop yourself outside the sometimes strict boundaries of your job. Another angle is that of learning opportunities, think about different courses, conferences, people that are knowledgeable and sharing within the Net Impact Amsterdam network. There’s a wealth of experience and viewpoints out there that we can tap into to create meaningful impact!

What kind of people participate in the programme?

Mentors and mentees come from all walks of life. Our mentors typically have anywhere between 10-30 years of experience in sustainability. Mentees can be recent graduates all the way through experienced professionals who want to transition to a career with positive impact. Through the programme, Net Impact Amsterdam made more than 100 mentor/mentee matches, and hope to facilitate many more!

How to join the next round?

More information about the next Mentorship Programme cohort will be available early this summer. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, we invite you to take a look at the programme overview and guidebook here. We suggest participating in Net Impact Amsterdam events to network and learn from past participants ahead of the application process. Check out our events page for upcoming opportunities.