For this edition of Centraal Station I speak with Sanne Koenen. As a child, she dreamed of a job as a lawyer. During her master's degree in criminal law she started at a law firm, but noticed that this did not suit her. She has changed her course and by looking critically at herself she has ended up in a position that does suit her.


For this edition of Centraal Station I speak with Sanne Koenen. As a child, she dreamed of a job as a lawyer. During her master’s degree in criminal law she started at a law firm, but noticed that this did not suit her. She has changed her course and by looking critically at herself she has ended up in a position that does suit her.


“As a child I already had a very clear picture of my future: I will become a criminal lawyer in Amsterdam. I had a strong urge for justice and wanted to fight for the innocent,”. “While writing my thesis, I started working as a legal assistant at a law firm in Amsterdam. In practice, I experienced what the legal profession really meant. During your studies you learn the theory, but you hardly get to know the practice.” Only as a student did she discover in practice what the work meant for her: it was not about justice, but about the interests of the client, according to Sanne.

“I must now admit that I was somewhat naive”, she says, laughing, “but I had the dream of becoming a lawyer so young that it had become a kind of tunnel vision. At one point I was told to prepare a case where I just couldn’t look at it objectively. At that moment I realized that this work does not really suit me at all.”

Dare to ask yourself critical questions

A dream that becomes reality and then falls short, how do you deal with this? Sanne decided to take the time to look critically at herself. “What had actually involved me so much in law? What do I find interesting? What am I good at? What did I like to do as a child?”. According to Sanne, it was not only the urge for justice, but also the linguistic part of the law: discussing and communicating a message. “I also liked the Dutch language at school, and of course, the language is also important in law. Then I came to the conclusion that communication has always played a major role.”

“I then started working as a marketing intern at an international commercial company. I am still grateful that they gave me a chance without experience in that field. They could just as well have put a marketing student in that position. At university you learn to think analytically and you can apply that to different areas, but an internship will tell you whether something really suits you. For me, that was communication and marketing.” Eventually she was allowed to stay there as a Junior Brandmanager and she fulfilled this position for more than 3 years.


However, Sanne noticed that she could not find the social part in a commercial organisation, something she did find within law. So she started looking for a position within a government organisation. “I landed a job as project leader regarding communication, and I ended up at a project organisation that stimulates science and technology in primary education. This organisation gave me the freedom, independence and opportunity to develop further in the field of communication.” Sanne discovered that besides communication, she also liked design and design.

When the project was coming to an end, the organisation suggested that she do an extra job on a freelance basis. “I had never thought about that before, but I thought it would be a nice challenge.” Sanne took on the job and then started working as a freelancer. There was a lot of demand for it, but not a lot of people were doing something like that, according to Sanne. “It was nice that I could do everything myself: marketing, content and design. It did stagnate in many of the same jobs, she admits. “I wasn’t learning new things anymore, it was a lot of the same. If you’ve only been working for eight years, this awareness is crucial, especially if you know that you’ll have to go on for another 40 years.”


“As a freelancer, I was flown in every time, but on a strategic level I wasn’t actually involved at all.” Then, during one of her freelance assignments, she came across a vacancy as a communication advisor with design qualities. So after 2 years, she decided to quit her job as a freelancer and started working for this company. The switch from law to communication and design was a good one. “I really wanted the opportunity to have creative freedom. Here I get the opportunity not only to further develop design, but also to be challenged strategically.”

She also sees the value of participating in a large organisation. “You learn from working together and there always is a lot going on. Everyone needs something from each other and with each other”. As a freelancer she often worked alone and independently. Funny, according to Sanne. “As a lawyer, you also often work alone, you are often not allowed to consult or discuss (confidentiality obligation). “But you achieve more with each other”.


Sannes emphasizes that she never regretted studying law. “I loved my law studies and learned a lot from them. But in practice you only find out what something really means. You have to experience it.” She also indicates that it’s better to do something that fits you well, because then you can hold on longer. “When you’re young, people often give you the chance to make a learning curve. You can always do something else and you don’t need to know exactly, but be critical to see find out is good, what suits you.


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