Every first Monday of the month we post an interview with a TopFem member or TopFem alumna. Kayleigh van der Burg is Board Member Acquisition of the 2016-2017 Board.
Who are you?
My name is Kayleigh van der Burg, I am 26 years old and in the TopFem Board 2016-2017 it is my responsibility to take care of the acquisition and recruitment activities. After I finished high school I was very eager to go to university and live on my own. I moved to Leiden where I started my first Bachelor in Law and after three years also a Bachelor in History.
Currently, I am in the second and final year of the Research-Master Political Culture and National Identities, which I combine with a 6-month internship at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. In the weekends I work at my part-time job in The Mauritshuis museum, and in my free time I am a frequent runner and love to visit family and friends.
How did you discover TopFem?
Last year I participated in the Leiden Leadership Programme (LLP); an honours-programme for master students of Leiden University. In this one-year programme I learned a lot about different leadership styles, group dynamics and various important skills like negotiating, active listening and mediating. But I especially learned about myself, about my personality and behavior, my strengths and weaknesses, and how I can develop and use these characteristics.
Soon after I finished the LLP I decided that I was ready for another challenge where I could both work on my self-development and connect with other ambitious people. It was in this search for new challenges that I found out about the TopFem foundation and its ambitious goals and members.
How do you experience TopFem?
Although I haven’t done the Leadership or Mentor & Network Programme myself, in my view both TopFem-programmes are an essential addition to the regular bachelor and master education. The focus on social skills, a mentor who will help and guide you during the programme (and maybe even longer) and the opportunity to extend and broaden your professional network, are not things professors can teach you but things you have to experience yourself. TopFem offers all ambitious students and young professionals a platform to take on this challenge to develop themselves and their career paths.
What is one characteristic that you believe every female leader should possess?
If you want to be a leader you need to possess two basic characteristics. First of all you need to have a vision: you have to believe that change is possible and worthwhile, and to be able to convey that message to others in a way that has meaning. It is not enough to be a specialist within your own field of expertise, you have to see the bigger picture of the organization and understand your role in it. Secondly, as a leader you need to possess exceptional communication skills. You have to be able to connect with different kinds of people in a way that all of them can understand you. And lastly, you need to be ambitious and determined to reach your own goals.
Any advice to other young female students and professionals?
I just mentioned the importance of setting your own goals and thinking about your next step. As an addition I would like to advise you to make these thoughts and goals explicit. Write down where you would see yourself in five or ten years, and what you would need to reach these goals. Because this can be quite a hard and sometimes even confusing task, never keep these thoughts for yourself but try to share them in both your personal and professional sphere. The Mentor & Network Programme TopFem offers, could also be very useful to determine your big next step.
What – in your opinion – needs to be on everyone’s curriculum vitae?
In my opinion your CV needs to show that you are ambitious and that you have an idea about your future career path. Therefore you don’t have to write down everything you did, but only the activities which are relevant for the function or organization you are addressing to. Your CV needs to have a certain structure, so that the reader can easily obtain a clear picture of you as a person, your professional potential and most important: your enthusiasm for this specific vacancy.
What are your plans for the future?
During my internships in the public sector I discovered that it satisfies me to work for a greater purpose than just one company or person. The involvement in important social issues gives me a feeling of contributing to a bigger cause and in helping shape the future of our society. So after I have written my master-thesis, I will apply for the various traineeships the governments offers. Although these traineeships are very popular, it will be my goal to make it to the final round and start my career as a policy officer in The Hague.