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The Networker

Petra Droste established the Career Center at the University of Bremen. She emphasizes that she obviously didn’t do it alone but rather with her team. The center has provided support to many people embarking on their career journey and will turn 20 on October 1.

When Petra Droste looks out of her office at the University of Bremen, she has a direct view of the Mensa cafeteria lake. “It’s really nice. Especially in the summer when the colorful flowers blossom.” The 60-year-old loves gardening. “As the daughter of a forester, I grew up in an area of flat countryside surrounded by nature.” That was in the south of the Münster region. “That’s where I get the stubbornness, which is typical for the region, from,” laughs the bright woman with the pageboy haircut. “It’s definitely something that I hear quite often. Colleagues have also confirmed that I am very assertive. It’s not always a compliment. We do sometimes clash but we’ve always managed to get back on track quickly so far.”

Getting her point across, that is part of her profile as head of the Career Center. The Career Center team permanently has to ask companies whether they have any internship places available and this is one of the most important tasks of the job. “We want to enable people to start their career journey” is what Petra Droste says when explaining the purpose of the Career Center.

She studied sociology and social sciences, initially stayed in academia, and focused on research into women, the job market, and biographies. She worked as a trainer for academic writing among other things for the Hans Böckler Foundation and the Studierwerkstatt at the University of Bremen. “When I was asked if I wanted to establish a Career Center at the University of Bremen, everything that I needed for the task popped into my head straight away.”

Everyone Should Try Different Things

“Do internships! Try different thing out!” That’s an important tip for all graduates from Petra Droste and the advisors. “It’s only possible to ascertain whether the field that you’re interested is actually the right thing for you by doing internships.” Another thing that she wants to tell the students is: “It is good to build a network and maintain contacts over a long period of time.” Many students initially hardly think about how useful early contacts could be at a later point in time.

The Career Center is not only an advisory service for students and graduates, but also a point of contact for academics with work experience. Researchers who have unsure perspectives due to temporary contracts also go there for advice. As do international persons, some of whom are refugees.

The courses are often very varied thanks to the breadth of experience, which is certainly an advantage as it enables two-way learning - the young students can learn from the older researchers and vice versa. “The younger people have different ideas,” explains Petra Droste. “Such an exchange enriches our workshops.”

Workshops, Consultation, and Self-Help

Petra Droste and her team permanently observe the job market dynamics. “We always need to stay up-to-date, as the working world changes very quickly nowadays,” states Petra Droste. “We need to know which technologies are particularly in demand at the moment and which skills our graduates should have in order to manage well as employees.” The Career Center offers courses in rhetoric, international job markets, and intercultural communication alongside job application training. Workshops on sustainability are also now being held. Petra Droste has noticed that “this matter is becoming increasingly important. More and more companies are asking themselves how they can implement sustainability within their work processes.”

One aspect that is particularly important to the Career Center: The team wants to provide advice, give you tips, accompany the transition to working, but not patronize. Petra Droste explains this approach: “In our consultations, we provide help so that people can help themselves. We are happy to show people where what information can be found but we do not search for and put together the information for those needing advice. That is really important, as some people who were cared for and looked after at home have the expectation that everything will be done for them at the university or on the way to a career. We cannot and do not want to do that.”

Transitioning to Online Consultations was No Problem

When asked about the restrictions stemming from the corona pandemic, Petra Droste answers with energetic shaking of her head. “We were able to switch out workshops to an online format very quickly. That worked well because we had been working on digitalization intensely for many years already - transitioning was no problem for us.” And the participants, who logged in from all across Germany during this time, were very appreciative. Demands for the courses remained stable, even during the most critical pandemic periods. This experience made the Career Center even more flexible. “We - that means all lecturers who offer courses - are always alert,” underscores Petra Droste. “We need a feeling for how society is changing.”

And which changes has she noticed with regard to the graduates? Are they different today than they were years ago? Petra Droste takes a moment to think and chooses her words carefully. Maybe it’s more difficult to tolerate the speed and constant availability today, she believes. In the working world 4.0, you need resilience, thus the skill of being able to overcome difficult situations without developing psychological problems. However, the younger generation also has many skills that most people did not have in the past: Marketing themselves, for example. On the other hand, this generation finds it more difficult to go against the grain.

Petra Droste has worked hard over the past 20 years. Her energy - her stubbornness as she calls it - helped her immensely. She gets this energy from her hobbies. Alongside gardening, she enjoys hiking in her free time. “I also like cooking and eating,” she states. She is a person of pleasure. And there is truly nothing better than her two cats.

The Career Center

The Career Center is a joint endeavor of the University of Bremen and Bremen-Bremerhaven Job Center. Students who wish to prepare for their career start whilst studying, graduates, and scientific assistants on their path to a professional career receive support from the Career Center. The Career Center services are only aimed at students, graduates, and scientific assistants at the University of Bremen. The center is located next to the theater entryway under the Mensa cafeteria.

The head of the Career Center, Petra Droste, in front of the Mensa.
As the head of the Career Center, Petra Droste has had to work hard over the past 20 years.